S-B4 Innovations in Modeling and Big Data

There are many conceptual and mathematical models that scientists, economists, engineers, and others use to describe the world around us. If people and ecosystems have sufficient and reliable access to food, energy, and water then many other aspects of life can flourish. This session discusses the data and models that describe and project the criticality of the FEW nexus. How do we use different modeling approaches (macro vs. micro, socioeconomic vs. biophysical) that provide different viewpoints? What models and data do we need for different timescales in which we need to take action? These questions and more explore existing FEW modeling, data, and findings and indicate future needs for increased FEW sustainability and resilience.

Moderator: Marilu Hastings, Vice President, Sustainability Program, Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation


  • Mary Glackin, Senior Vice President of Public-Private Partnerships, The Weather Company
  • Nils Johnson, Research Scholar, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
  • Carey King, Assistant Director, Energy Institute, University of Texas at Austin
  • Quanyan Zhu, Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, New York University

Marilu Hastings leads all of the the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s strategic grant making programs. Current programs include clean energy, shale sustainability, water, and sustainability education. She has a 25 year career specializing in the interaction of science, public policy, and philanthropic investment. Prior to moving to the foundation, Marilu held leadership positions from 1996 to 2008 at the Houston Advanced Research Center

Dr. Carey W. King performs interdisciplinary research related to how energy systems interact within the economy and environment as well as how our policy and social systems can make decisions and tradeoffs among these often competing factors. The past performance of our energy systems is no guarantee of future returns, yet we must understand the development of past energy systems. Dr. King’s research goals center on rigorous interpretations of the past to determine the most probable future energy pathways. 512-471-468 careyking@mail.utexas.edu careyking.com @CareyWKing

Quanyan Zhu’s work focuses on network models that provide a formal representation of interdependency relationships among different food-energy water (FEW) systems, allowing quantitative methods for impacts and resilient infrastructure design. These models capture relationships and pathways through which indirect impacts of disruptions ripple through society and economies. Meta-network models are given, capturing physical, cyber and human interconnections in individual infrastructures and across multiple critical infrastructures. Effects on outcomes of prototypical disastrous events are assessed. (646-997-3371; quanyan.zhu@nyu.edu)

Nils Johnson’s main research interest is modeling of transitions to new energy technologies. In particular, he is interested in combining techno-economic analysis, optimization tools, and geographic information systems (GIS) to explore how energy technologies might develop in real geographic regions. He also applies integrated assessment modeling to explore how the global energy system might change over the next century given different scenarios of the future. He is currently the scientific coordinator of a new project at IIASA to develop global modeling tools for assessing synergistic solutions for the sustainable management of water, energy, and land resources.

Mary Glackin oversees The Weather Company’s relationships with members of the weather enterprise, including government agencies, academia and other private sector weather providers. Glackin has had a long and distinguished career in public service, including a five-year tenure as deputy undersecretary of Commerce for NOAA operations. She was responsible for the day-to-day management of operations for oceanic and atmospheric services, research, and coastal and marine stewardship.