Collaboratively shaping management solutions for control of emerging infectious disease using Tangible Landscape
Emerging infectious diseases ravaging natural systems present unique management challenges due to the complex pathogen life cycles, the frequently remote geography of infected wildland systems, and overlapping jurisdictional extents, making it difficult to build needed consensus in collective action solutions. Advances in spatiotemporal disease models within geographic information systems (GIS) have improved our ability to predict the rate and distribution of pathogen spread. However disconnects between key stakeholders (including researchers, managers and the public) have undermined their use in directing detection, quarantine, or eradication efforts. We explore methods to bridge informational disconnects using technologies that allow stakeholders to directly interact with models without prior specialized training, and reduce the degree of abstraction needed to visualize conditions and results. We evaluate the performance of Tangible Landscape, an open source collaborative tool coupling a physical 3D model with geospatial modeling, in a case study of the control and management of the emerging forest disease sudden oak death. We asked whether 1) a tangible modeling environment facilitate the active participation of local decision makers and resource managers in the modeling process, and 2) given a budgeted set of disease management treatments, could stakeholders individually and in groups develop “successful” disease control scenarios on-the-fly?
Preliminary results indicate that idealized role players representing researchers, forest managers and landowners required several instances of locating their allotment of management treatments in the physical model before they could effect a change in infection outcomes without exceeding budgets. After calibrating their actions, players evaluated trade-offs and relocated treatment locations based on near-real-time model feedbacks, and engaged in triage strategies to protect areas of interest. Players worked together, and produced different outcomes as group than as individuals. The tangible environment represents an alternative to more abstract 2 and 3D computer visualization, and freed participants to explore risk and fail in realistic scenarios without consequence. Stakeholders learned from each other, suggesting that tangible analytics may effectively inform policy-makers of adaptive interventions which fit both societal and natural conditions in target systems. The case study demonstrates how novel geospatial modeling and visualization techniques can build the buy-in needed to respond to landscape epidemics.