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U.Va.'s Bay Game/Analytics Announced as One of IBM's World Community Grid Research Projects

September 7, 2010 — University of Virginia Bay Game/Analytics, a massive computer-generated simulation of the complex interrelations of human behavior and ecosystem processes in the Chesapeake Bay, is now part of the IBM-sponsored World Community Grid, IBM announced today.

U.Va. Bay Game/Analytics models the complex interrelationships among the 16.7 million people who live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the watershed itself – the largest, most diverse estuary in the United States, embracing six states and the District of Columbia. This project will enable unprecedented testing of innovative policies and actions for watershed conservation.

It is an outgrowth of the less computer-intensive original U.Va. Bay Game, an interactive computer game used by players to see how their decisions affect the watershed.

The simulation of an ecosystem as massive and dynamic as the Chesapeake Bay's requires massive computing power. The World Community Grid, which harnesses the computing resources of 1.5 million personal computers in a voluntary worldwide network – equivalent to one of the world's fastest supercomputers – facilitates this.

The processing power of the World Community Grid is provided by networking the personal computers of volunteers around the world, whose computers perform computations for scientists when the machines would otherwise be underutilized.

U.Va.'s project is one of three new World Community Grid research projects. Each of the projects aims, in various ways, to develop techniques to produce cleaner and safer water, an increasingly scarce commodity worldwide.

To accelerate the pace, lower the expense and increase the precision of their research projects, scientists, including those at U.Va., will use the IBM-supported World Community Grid to perform online simulations, crunch numbers and pose hypothetical scenarios.

U.Va. Bay Game/Analytics is designed and built by Gerard Learmonth, a U.Va. faculty member with joint appointments in Systems and Information Engineering and Public Health Sciences.

"The U.Va. World Community Grid project will be an unprecedented demonstration of the potential of large-scale simulations of complex systems for innovative solutions," said Thomas C. Skalak, U.Va. vice president for research. "In this project, Gerry Learmonth will take the modeling of human behavior and ecosystem processes to a level of detail not possible in the original U.Va. Bay Game. By modeling the interactions among each of the 16.7 million people who live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the ecosystem processes in the watershed, Learmonth will build an important laboratory for testing the impact of novel policies and actions on watershed health."

That virtual laboratory will simulate and analyze the results of choices made by the sometimes-competing interests of fishermen, farmers, real estate developers, power plant designers, conservationists, forestry experts and urban planners. Better understanding the potential outcomes of complex, intersecting decisions can help society manage the watershed more effectively.
"Through this collaboration, the University of Virginia and World Community Grid are bringing new resources to bear to improve the future of the Chesapeake Bay," said Philippe Cousteau, co-founder of Azure Worldwide, an environmental education organization that has partnered with the University on the U.Va. Bay Game project. "Responsible and effective stewardship of complex watersheds is a huge undertaking that must balance the needs of each unique environment with the needs of the communities that depend on them for survival. I'm confident that this partnership will help provide the tools we need to meet this challenge head-on."

IBM donated the server hardware, software, technical services and expertise to build the infrastructure for World Community Grid and provides free hosting, maintenance and support.
"I can think of few endeavors more important than making sure people across the globe have ready access to clean water," said Stanley S. Litow, IBM's vice president of corporate citizenship & corporate affairs and president of IBM's Foundation. "I would even suggest that it's a basic human right, and a hallmark of sophisticated and compassionate societies everywhere. That's why IBM is so incredibly proud to help scientists harness the resources of World Community Grid to make strides in this vital arena."
Individuals can donate time on their computers for these and many other humanitarian projects by registering on and installing a free, unobtrusive and secure software program on their personal computers running either Linux, Microsoft Windows or Mac OS. When idle or between keystrokes on a lightweight task, the PCs request data from World Community Grid's server, which runs Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing software, built and distributed by the University of California, Berkeley and supported by the National Science Foundation.

The original U.Va. Bay Game, sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research, was created with the input and knowledge of 11 departments in eight of the University's academic units, including the School of Engineering and Applied Science, McIntire School of Commerce, Department of Environmental Sciences in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, School of Architecture, School of Law, Darden School of Business, Curry School of Education and the School of Medicine.

For the U.Va. Bay Game/Analytics project, Learmonth will work with colleagues from the School of Engineering and the U.Va. Bay Game team.

This project – the U.Va. Bay Game and the development of simulations for other watersheds, beginning with the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia, along with regional user consortia and distinctive assessment methods – are all components of a pan-University initiative in global watershed simulation facilitated by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

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