Motivation Master Thesis

by ustroetz

Today I will introduce the bigger topic of my Master Thesis. I will explain the motivation of my research and what the actually research problem is.

Who cares about it?

In the last year I worked for Ecotrust, a environmental Non-Profit organization in the Pacific Northwest of the US. One of the tools they work on is the Forest Planner. It is an online tool for forest management and scenario planning in Oregon and Washington. Essentially it is an optimization model for ecological forestry.  Optimization models require considering a variety of spatial features, including Harvest Costs, in order to maximize triple bottom line returns (check out the picture to get a reminder what that was). 

The models require a pre-generated dataset with the potential Harvest Costs for the entire landscape in order to iterate through millions of potential solutions and compare results in terms of an objective function. Since the composition and the structure of the forest systems are usually not available for an entire landscape, a model is required that calculates Harvest Costs solely based on Spatial Predictors. Spatial Predictors can be determined via Geographic Information Systems. Currently no existing study investigates the significance of Spatial Predictors on Timber Harvest Cost. Therefore it is also not known if the significance of Spatial Predictors on Harvest Cost is high enough to calculate Timber Harvest Costs solely based on Spatial Predictors. In this is actually what I am trying to answer with my thesis.

What is the actual question?

  1. First, I want to find out what the significance of Spatial Predictors on Timber Harvest Costs is?
  2. Then, I want to answer if it possible to calculate Timber Harvest Costs solely based on Spatial Predictors?

When I know the significance of Spatial Predictors on Harvest Costs is high enough to calculate the Costs based, solely on Spatial Predictors, I am able to create with GIS a Cost Surface for an entire region. This Cost Surface will be used than again in the Forest Planner in order to quickly iterate through millions of potential solutions and find the best answer on how we treat our forests.

In the next post I will go through my Methods and will explain how I find out what the significance of Spatial Predictors on Timber Harvest Costs is.

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