[PAST EVENT] Mary Silber, Professor of Statistics, The University of Chicago
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Professor Silber is an applied mathematician who currently contributes to the Computational and Applied Mathematics Initiative (CAMI) at the University of Chicago. She also serves on the Advisory Board to COACh, an organization assisting in the success and impact of women scientists and engineers through innovative programs and strategies.
Her lecture is titled, "Pattern formation in the drylands: vegetation patterns captured by satellite images and by mathematical models.?
Abstract: A beautiful example of spontaneous pattern formation appears in the distribution of vegetation in some dry-land environments. Examples from Africa, Australia and the Americas reveal that vegetation, at a community scale, may spontaneously form into stripe-like bands, alternating with striking regularity with bands of bare soil, in response to aridity stress. A typical length scale for such patterns is 100 m; they are readily surveyed by modern satellites (and explored from your armchair in Google maps). These ecosystems represent some of Earth?s most vulnerable under threats of desertification, and some ecologists have suggested that the patterns, so easily monitored by satellites, may have potential as early warning signs of ecosystem collapse. I will describe efforts based in simple mathematical models, inspired by decades of physics research on pattern formation, to understand the morphology of the patterns. I will also describe efforts at analyzing the patterns via the satellite images, which, in some cases, we can accurately align with the aerial survey photographs from the 1950s to investigate details of the pattern evolution.