FYS 129 - Spring 2008

Agents and Orcs: Individual-based Simulations for Fun and Profit

This credit/no-credit course is designed for entering students at UTK who have some interest in computer simulation and how these methods may be applied in science and in numerous others areas of human endeavor. A central question in science is how the properties of the constituents of ensembles lead to the observed behavior of these ensembles. Examples include how the play of a game arises from the actons of the players (be this football, basketball, or chess), how the pattern of insect swarms arise from the flight of individual insects, how the scenes of battle in Lord of the Rings arise from the simulated behavior of many orcs, and how the behavior of the overall stock market arises from the prices of individual stocks bought and sold by many, many individuals or institutions. This course will introduce students to the field of agent-based modeling (also called individual-based modeling), often applied in building computer games, using an easily understood set of software called NetLogo. We will investigate the rules by which this software mimics interactions between individuals, and construct our own models for situations chosen by the class. No prior exposure to computer programming is expected. The goals include:

Meeting Location and Times

All class meetings will be held in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Computer Lab in Dabney/Buehler Hall 488. We will have ten meetings over the semester: January 15, 22, February 5, 12, 26, March 4, 11, 25, April 1, 8. All meetings will be from 2:10-3:25. The instructor will be available at other times for individual consultations about the course.

Participant responsibilities


We will be mostly using a freely-available tool, NetLogo that participants are encouraged to install on machines they have regular access to. This software is available for all standard operating systems.


The course instructor is Dr. Louis Gross, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics and Director of The Institute for Environmental Modeling at the University of Tennessee - Knoxville. Dr. Gross has been developing and applying individual-based models in application to environmental problems for many years, and is one of the founders of the field of computational ecology.


Introduction to Theory and Models pdf file
Basic Introduction to Agent-Based Models Powerpoint file


Instructor's Home Page (Includes links to various biology and math pages)
NetLogo Home Page
SimBio Home Page - Ecobeaker Home Page
Swarm Home Page
Repast Home Page at sourceforge.net
Massive Software Home Page
My brief summary of individual-based modeling in ecology
My brief summary of agent-based modeling in ethnobiology
Craig Reynolds Individual-based modeling page

Return to L. Gross Home Page
Last Modified: January 15, 2008