Envisioning and building a sustainable future requires policies that harmonize very complex and little known systems that interact at many scales and in many different ways. A new science of sustainability must recognize and respect this complexity.
My research starts with the words and the grammar of interacting natural/human systems, concentrating on the ecology, the economics and the management of ecosystem services. My mission is to identify questions that are at the same time relevant and answerable. Such questions, in the hands of decision makers, will help us all plan our future.
Position: Ikerbasque Research Professor
Main Research Field: Ecoinformatics - Ecosystem Services and Decision Support Systems
Ferdinando Villa holds a Ph.D. in theoretical Ecology and had a long parallel career as a scientific software designer and engineer. After working in many fields of Ecology, from theoretical island biogeography to spatially-explicit decision analysis, he discovered the joys and pains of interdisciplinary research during a 14-year career in ecological economics at the universities of Maryland and Vermont. He still finds it a challenge (and a responsibility) to maintain scientific depth unaltered in face of the greatly increased breadth. He has since expanded the focus of his research to the interface of policy, ecology and economics, concentrating on artificial intelligence approaches to assist environmental decision making and natural system assessment and valuation.
Dr. Villa best known project is ARIES (Artificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services: http://www.ariesonline.org), which is producing a next-generation web application meant to make environmental decisions easier and more effective. The ARIES project builds on a partnership of international experts, NGOs, and academics, and pairs user and expert knowledge with advanced artificial intelligence to construct a model of a case study, making sure that no relevant data or knowledge is overlooked.
Dr. Villa's collaborations extend worldwide and include the Long Term Ecosystem Research (LTER) network and the SEAMLESS (System for Environmental and Agricultural Modelling; Linking European Science and Society) project, financed by the EU. His research on high-performance computer simulation and mathematical modeling applied to community and ecosystem ecology earned him collaborations with UNESCO, the European Union, the Italian Ministry of the Environment and several international organizations such as the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) in Fiji. He has collaborated with international institutions and governments on environmental assessment methods, and he still manages to sneak in some research in basic ecology, protected areas planning, and related fields. He is the author or coauthor of 120+ scientific publications and a number of major open source software packages. He has been the recipient of several million USD in research grants from the US National Science Foundation, the European Union, UNEP-WCMC and other institutions and NGOs, to contribute to the science of coupled natural/human systems and develop tools for decision makers that integrate the best science with IT-assisted decision tools.
A web-accessible knowledge base for the integrated analysis and valuation
of Ecosystem Services. $780,377. National Science Foundation, 2000-2003. (Principal
Biodiversity and Ecosystem Informatics (BDEI) - Towards an Operational Semantics
of Biological Diversity: Integrating Structure and Function in a Web-accessible
Knowledge Base.". $95,680. National Science Foundation, 2001-2003 (Principal
Information Technology Research (ITR): SEEK: Enabling the Science Environment
for Ecological Knowledge. National Science Foundation. (Main program: UNM,
$12,500,000 Pi: William Michener). Subcontract to University of Vermont: $464,277,
2002-2007 (Principal Investigator of sub-contract, co-principal investigator
in main project).
System for Environmental and Agricultural Modelling: Linking European Science
and Society (SEAMLESS). European Union, €12,500,000. Subcontract to UVM:
€158,000. 2005-2009 (Principal investigator of sub-contract, co-principal
investigator in main project).
Biological Databases and Informatics: Project ARIES (ARtificial Intelligence
for Ecosystem Services): an integrated Digital Collaboratory to support the
economic valuation of ecosystem services. National Science Foundation. $927,000.
United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)-WCMC. 2009. Assessing flows
of Ecosystem Services from mountaintops to ocean. $80,000. Principal Investigator.
Natural Environment Research Council, UK. 2011. Food security at the forest-agriculture
interface: A complex systems analysis of ecosystem services trade-offs and
tipping points (with Southampton University). ESPA/NERC.
SELECTED PUBLICATIONS (total 121)
F.Villa, O. Rossi, F. Sartore (1992): ``Understanding the role of chronic
environmental disturbance in the context of island biogeographic theory.''
Environmental Management, 16: 653-666.
F. Villa (1992): ``New computer architectures as tools for ecological thought.''
Trends in Ecology and Evolution 7: 179-183
F.Villa, M.Ceroni, A. Mazza (1996): ``A GIS-based method for multi-objective
evaluation of park vegetation.''. Landscape and Urban Planning, 35(4): 203-212.
Voinov, A.A., Costanza, R., Wainger, L.A., Boumans, R.M.J., Villa, F., Maxwell,
T., Voinov, H. (1999): ``Integrated ecological economic modeling of watersheds.''.
Environmental Modelling and Software, 14: 473-491.
Villa, F., Costanza, R (2000).: ``Design of multi-paradigm integrating modeling
tools for ecological research''. Environmental Modelling and Software 15:
Villa, F. (2001). Integrating Modelling Architecture: a declarative framework
for multi-scale, multi-paradigm ecological modelling. Ecological Modelling,
Villa, F., Tunesi, L., Agardy, T. 2002. Optimal zoning of marine protected
areas through spatial multiple criteria analysis: the case of the Asinara
Island National Marine Reserve of Italy. Conservation Biology, 16(2): 515-526.
Costanza, R., Voinov, A., Boumans, R., Maxwell, T., Villa, F., Wainger,
L., Voinov, H. 2002. Integrated ecological economic modeling of the Patuxent
River Watershed, Maryland. Ecological Monographs, 72(2): 203-231.
Villa, F., McLeod, H. 2002. Frameworks for the calculation of synthetic
environmental vulnerability indicators for environmental planning and decision-making.
Environmental Management, 29(3): 335-348.
Villa, F., Wilson, M.A., DeGroot, R., Farber, S., Costanza, R., Boumans,
R.M.J. 2002. Design of an integrated knowledge base to support ecosystem services
valuation. Ecological Economics 41, 445-456.
Boumans, R.M.J., Costanza, R., Villa, F. et al. 2002. Modeling the dynamics
of the integrated earth system and the value of global ecosystem services
using the GUMBO model. Ecological Economics 41, 529-560.
Villa, F. 2007. A semantic framework and software design to enable the transparent
integration, reorganization and discovery of natural systems knowledge. Journal
of Intelligent Information Systems 29(1): 79-96.
Villa, F., Ceroni, M., Krivov, S. 2007. Intelligent databases enable transparent
and sound economic valuation of ecosystem services. Environmental Management
Madin, J., Bowers, S., Schildhauer, M., Krivov, S., Ludaescher, B., Pennington,
D., Villa, F. 2007.An ontology for Describing and Synthesizing Ecological
Observation Data. Ecological Informatics 2: 279-296.
Rizzoli, A.E., Donatelli, M., Athanasiadis, I.N, Villa, F., Huber, D. 2008.
Semantic links in integrated modelling frameworks. Mathematics and Computers
in Simulation 78: 412-423.
Pennington, D., Villa, F., Athanasiadis, I., Madin, J., Schildhauer, M.,
Bowers, S., Krivov, S. 2008. Indirectly-Driven Knowledge Modeling in Ecology.
International Journal of Metadata, Semantics and Ontologies. 3: 210-225.
Villa, F., Athanasiadis, I.N. Rizzoli, A.E. 2009. Modelling with knowledge:
a review of emerging semantic approaches to environmental modelling. Environmental
Modelling and Software 24: 577-587.
Villa, F., Semantically-driven meta-modelling: automating model construction
in an environmental decision support system for the assessment of ecosystem
services flow. 2009. In: Information Technology in Environmental Engineering,
I.N. Athanasiadis, et al., Editors. 2009, Springer: New York, NY. p. 23-36.
Johnson, G.W., Bagstad, K., Snapp, R., Villa, F. 2010. Service Path Attribution
Networks (SPANs): Spatially Quantifying the Flow of Ecosystem Services from
Landscapes to People. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 6016: 238-253.
Villa, F. 2010. Bridging scales and paradigms in Natural Systems Modelling.
Metadata and Semantic Research. Communications in Computer and Information
Science 108: 1-7.
Johnson, G.W., Bagstad, K., Snapp, R., Villa, F. 2011. Service Path Attribution
Networks (SPANs): A Network Flow approach to Ecosystem Service Assessment.
To appear in International Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Information
Villa, F., Bagstad, K., Johnson, G.W., Voigt, B. 2011. Scientific instruments
for climate change adaptation: estimating and optimizing the efficiency of
ecosystem services provision. Economia Ambiental y Recursos Naturales.
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