Marcus Spiegel ’17
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Modeling Agricultural Expansion in Zambia to Predict and Minimize Tradeoffs
This summer, I began working on a project that uses multi-objective modeling techniques to seek scenarios for agricultural development in Zambia that simultaneously achieve production targets and minimize carbon, biodiversity, and economic cost constraints. We hope that our model can be used to identify key areas for land conversion and infrastructure development within Zambia. I had the opportunity to travel to Zambia to gain an understanding of the nation’s dominant smallholder agriculture as well as to work with environmental sensors that have been installed to collect meteorological data that is crucial to our crop modelling. Once I returned to Princeton, I implemented a new algorithm into the model to refine the process for allocating crops to plots of land and explored more robust metrics for predicting the ecological costs of land conversion. Through my research, I gained new insight into the challenges faced by smallholder farmers in Africa’s savanna environment and learned new statistical techniques that allow us to assess the potential ecological consequences of hypothetical scenarios. I plan to continue working on this project through my junior year and embark on a field season next summer to investigate practical applications of the model, which will eventually lead to my senior thesis.
Biodiversity and Conservation
Caylor Ecohydrology Lab, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ and Zambia
Kelly Caylor, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering