Meet the SEGS Lab Team Members

  • Core Team
  • Undergraduates
  • Graduate Students
  • post docs
  • Faculty
  • Affiliates

SEGS Lab Core Team

SEGS Lab Undergraduates

SEGS Lab Graduate Students

SEGS Lab post docs

SEGS Lab Faculty

SEGS Lab Affiliates

Dr. Asim Zia's research, teaching and outreach activities focus on advancing the sustainability and resilience of integrated socio-environmental systems. He has led NSF, USDA and McArthur foundation funded Team Science projects aimed at developing computational models of Social Ecological Systems, Complex Adaptive Systems and Coupled Natural and Human Systems. Foresight generated from these computational models is used widely to enable early warnings of systemic risks, design early actions and anticipatory policies, configure governance systems and implement adaptive management. Asim Zia is serving as a Professor of Public Policy and Computer Science in the Department of Community Development and Applied Economics, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Computer Science, at the University of Vermont (UVM). He is Director of the Institute for Environmental Diplomacy and Security (IEDS) and a founding Co-Director of the Social Ecological Gaming and Simulation (SEGS) lab at the UVM.
Christopher Koliba is the Edwin O. Stene Distinguished Professor of Public Administration, Policy & Governance at the University of Kansas School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) and Professor Emeritus, at the University of Vermont. He possesses a Ph.D. from the Interdisciplinary Social Science Program an MPA from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and a BS in Finance from the Whitman School of Business at Syracuse University. Prior to joining the SPAA faculty in 2023, he served as Professor in the Community Development and Applied Economics Department at the University of Vermont where he served as the Director or Co-Director of the Master of Public Administration (MPA) Program for many years. In 2020 he established UVM’s first Office of Engagement to serve as the “front door” to the university and incubator of community-university partnerships. Chris has had substantial research administration leadership as well, serving as the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Social Ecological Gaming and Simulation (SEGS) Lab, Associate Director of Vermont EPSCoR, and a fellow at the Gund Institute for Environment.
Chris enjoys teaching courses pertaining to public policy and public affairs, public administration, organizational theory and behavior, sustainable and resilient communities, systems analysis and strategic management, and the intersection of science and society. He has advised and supported countless students completing their doctoral dissertations, master’s thesis, and undergraduate research thesis.
He is married, father to three children and one grandchild. He likes to paint, hike, paddle, meditate and listen to world music.
Dr. Scott Merrill is a Research Assistant Professor in the Plant and Soil Science Department and Managing Director of the SEGS lab. He is a systems ecologist with research spanning a wide range of both natural ecosystems and social-ecological systems. Projects include examining dynamics of change within pest-crop agroecosystems including aspects of climate change, examining ways to nudge human behavior to help protect the health of our livestock herds, and looking at factors motivating behavior that affects water quality in the Lake Champlain watershed. In the SEGS lab, he uses experimental gaming as a novel technique for collecting data to examine decision making in social-ecological systems. An important goal of this work is the creation of applicable and predictive models to inform best management practices.
Dr. Trisha Shrum is a behavioral and environmental economist focused on using transdisciplinary theory, collaborations, and methodologies to improve our understanding of the drivers of decision-making, especially for decisions that relate to climate change and natural resources. Her academic background in ecology and evolutionary biology, environmental science, economics, and policy, as well as her professional work in government and non-governmental organizations, provides a broad base of knowledge and experience that is vital for understanding complex environmental problems.
Dr. Nick Cheney is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science, and a member of the Vermont Complex Systems Center and Director of the UVM Neurobotics Lab. His research is in machine learning and artificial intelligence, with specialties is artificial neural networks and robotics. In the SEGS lab, he uses tools from machine learning and data science to help analyze human behavior and decision making, while also developing automated decision making systems to more systematically interrogate and understand the optimal decision making processes in a given scenario.
Steven Exler is the Technologist for the Vermont EPSCoR group. His work includes application design and development as well as staff support. He holds a M.S. degree in Computer Systems Management from the University of Maryland.
Maegan Beckage is a undergraduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is double majoring in computer science and physics, with the hopes to use these skills for interdisciplinary research projects. Maegan is interested in applying field data to solving real world problems that threaten our planet's health. She also serves as vice president of the society of advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in science (SACNAS) and as a writer for the Gist magazine. Maegan grew up in Essex Vermont and enjoys hiking in national parks across the country.
Alex Friedrichsen is a graduate student at the University of Vermont at the Complex Systems Center. He is on track to complete my Master's in Data Science and Complex Systems in Spring 2023. He graduated with bachelor's degree in Data Science in the spring of 2022 through the Honors College at UVM while taking accelerated master's classes. His research in the SEGS lab involves precision agriculture and gaming software development. Some of his interests include game theory, music, agent-based models, evolutionary computation, philosophy of mind and chaos theory! He enjoys both technical and holistic learning experiences. He is a huge proponent of habits and routine to promote daily flexiblity through self-automation. He loves to read about self-improvement, behavioral economics, theory versus action, and fantasy! I try to optimize and strategize everything.
Richmond Silvanus Baye is a PhD candidate at the University of Vermont and a member of the Public Management Research Association and the Transboundary Water in Cooperation Network. He currently leads the behavioral component of a USDA|NIFA funded project, which focuses on understanding how to address epidemic outbreaks in the agriculture industry, particularly the adoption of preventive measures by livestock farmers. This work aims to complement food policy in the US Farm Bill by addressing potential issues with government indemnity and promoting farm biosecurity as a means to reduce both private and public costs.
Richmond has a broad research interest and is keen on applying surveys, experimental designs, econometric approaches, and machine learning tools to agricultural issues, food safety and security, water resources management, climate change, cities, and renewable energy transition. He has participated in capacity building activities related to statistical and machine learning applications in various research domains.
Before starting his PhD, he worked as a researcher at the German Institute of Development and Sustainability in Bonn. His focus there was on creating a globally harmonized database of cities' climate actions, commitments, and pathways to sustainability. Richmond was born and raised in Ghana. He holds a Masters in Environmental and Food Economics from the University of Milan, Italy, and a Bachelors in Economics from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.
Ollin D. Langle-Chimal is a Ph.D. student in Complex Systems and Data Science. Before joining UVM he obtained a BSc in Physics (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) and a MSc in Data Science (Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México). He is interested in data-driven policies and the usage of new technologies such as edge computing and distributed artificial intelligence for sustainable development of low and middle income countries which has led him to work as a data scientist for the Mexican Ministry of Social Development, the Inter-American Bank of Development and the World Bank.
Eric M. Clark, Ph.D is a data scientist and applied mathematician who is interested in applying advances in machine learning and computation towards solving real-world, interdisciplinary problems. He is currently holding a research faculty position within the UVM Department of Plant and Soil Science, and is a collaborator on many ongoing projects within the SEGS Lab. His research interests include (but are not limited to) finance, healthcare technology, agent based modeling, behavioral risk quantification, experimental game development, computational social science, natural language processing, machine learning, and complex systems.
Dr. Gabriela Bucini is a post-doctoral research fellow in the Plant and Soil Science Department at the University of Vermont (UVM). Her research is focused on developing agent-based models depicting the hoofstock industries (e.g., dairy) including the integration of experimental gaming data into these agent-based models. She is involved in a broader project that seeks to reduce the impact of potential emergent diseases on heard health (PI Dr. Julie Smith, Department of Animal Sciences, UVM). Gabriela’s Ph.D. is in ecosystem ecology and she has worked on projects including tree cover mapping and modeling in African savannas, temporal and spatial dynamics of pine savannas in the Everglades National Park, Florida and local downscaling of General Circulation Models (GCMs) to project climate across the Northeast.
Dr. Rachel Schattman is an Assistant Professor of Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Maine. The overarching goal of her work is support agricultural resilience in a changing climate while simultaneously protecting natural resources. In pursuit of this goal, she works with specialty crop producers and agricultural advisors to identify and address production challenges, specifically through the lens of climate change adaptation. This approach is grounded in complementary traditions of agroecology and participatory action research (PAR).
Dr. Brendan Fisher is an Associate Professor in the Rubinstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and is a fellow at the Gund Institute. He studies human behavior, both in observational and experimental ways. The broad general question of his research is, Why do humans behave in often unsustainable ways, and how can we create policies, structures and interventions to move individually motivated behavior towards more sustainable outcomes? An new area of research includes the ways in which exposure to nature or natural environments affects cognition, stress, and pro sociality.
As a global change ecosystem ecologist and biogeochemist, Dr. Carol Adair uses theory, experimentation, and quantitative methods to understand ecosystem responses to natural and anthropogenic environmental change. Understanding and predicting the response of ecosystems to environmental changes is crucial for sustaining and managing important ecosystems. She is fascinated by how and why ecosystem properties and processes respond to global changes and how these responses may feed back to amplify or diminish these changes. Because predicting and managing the effects of such changes depends on understanding and accurately depicting ecosystem processes, she combines experimental, synthetic and quantitative approaches to develop models and test hypotheses about what drives fundamental ecosystem processes like microbial respiration.
Dr. Stephanie Hurley is Assistant Professor in the Plant and Soil Science Department at the University of Vermont. Her research and teaching spans disciplines within the fields of landscape architecture, ecological design, restoration, and planning. She takes a holistic approach to landscape design, recognizing the inherent diversity of landscapes and practicing the art of place-making, while aiming to facilitate healthy and sustainable societal and ecological interactions through design. She directs a landscape design computer lab within Plant and Soil Science where our research focus is the creation and evaluation of a series of photosimulations (landscape visualizations) of climate change best management practices for agricultural landscapes in the Northeastern U.S.
Dr. Chris Jones is a health economist with 15 years of healthcare technology and financial data analytics experience in both the public and private sectors. His work has focused on using data to facilitate the delivery of precision medicine, while at the same time safeguarding information from fraud and misuse. Prior to founding the Global Health Economics Unit of the Vermont Center for Clinical and Translational Science, Chris was director of global health economics for CSL Behring, Inc (AUX = CSLB) with health economics oversight across global brands and across therapy areas. This followed 3 years of international government and private sector consulting on data analytics in the U.S., U.K., Belgium and Luxembourg. In 2007, he completed post-doctoral training at Johns Hopkins University, with a focus on patient-based health technology assessment. From 2002-2006, Chris worked for the British Collaborating Centre on Mental Health, co-authoring six British national guidelines. His doctoral thesis at Oxford University was the first study to analyze the U.K. in-vitro fertilization records from a cost-effectiveness perspective, an initiative that received the Bertarelli Foundation Award from Switzerland. The main findings of this work were presented to Parliament in the House of Commons, and as a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. Chris received his BSc with honors from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He also holds a masters in Human Biology and doctorate in Health Economics, both from Christ Church, Oxford University. Dr. Jones has lectured at the invitation of London School of Economics, Heldelberg, Duke-NUS, and Johns Hopkins University. He has taught full courses in advanced biology at Oxford University and health economics at the University of Vermont.
Emma Spett is a Ph.D. student in Sustainable Development Policy, Economics, and Governance. Prior to starting her doctoral studies, she completed a MS from UVM in Community Development and Applied Economics, and a BA from New York University in Environmental Policy. Emma studies resilience in social-ecological systems, and has carried out research on the management of transboundary watersheds and community economic development.
John Harlow is an Assistant Research Professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University. His research includes scenario construction for The Global KAITEKI Center, user experience research on virtual reality environments in undergraduate biology courses as an Invited Action Lab Scholar, and consulting with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded project Neighborhood Justice / Cool Kids. John was the project manager for Boston’s Betablocks smart city action research project, co-designed the prioritization workshop that produced the first draft of Phoenix's 2050 transportation plan, and was the Conference Director of the 2012 International Conference on Sustainability Science.
Dr. Rodrigo Soares is a postdoctoral associate in the Plant and Soil Science Department who brings 15 years of experience as a leading practitioner in the communication field and 7 years of applied research in risk and crisis communication. His work has analyzed disease outbreaks and pandemics - such as the Zika virus in Brazil and COVID19 - through a message design perspective. He also tested the adequacy of crisis communication theories in explaining the failures of institutions facing repeated crises, expanding the understanding of post-crisis learning. His research provides both theoretical advancements and practical applications to the field of risk and crisis communication.
Gabe Kontrovitz is a game developer working in the SEGS lab. After graduating from UVM, he spent his earlier career in commercial operations, primarily in web development and educational sofware, implementing solutions in environments ranging from Microsoft applications scripting and Flash to LAMP stacks and iOS. Now back at UVM and in the SEGS lab, he is happy to put technology to use for the benefit of the environment and people's relationship with it by applying the Unity game engine to create immersive experiences based on geographical data. His other interests include the use of game technology to create novel experiences and visual aesthetics, 2D and 3D digital art, physical fitness, and spoken languages.
Halimeh is a passionate, highly driven Ph.D. student at the University of Vermont, specializing in sustainable development policy economics and governance. With a diverse educational background, she holds a bachelor's degree in architecture and a master's degree in Smart Cities; her research focuses on sustainable agriculture and the integration of advanced technologies. She is actively involved in a National Science Foundation-funded project on precision agriculture and responsible innovation, with a focus on trust games, specifically farmers' responses to information and recommendations provided by human experts versus AI agents. This research aims to increase trust in AI and its applications in the agricultural sector. Additionally, Halimeh is involved in designing a web app for precision agriculture, leveraging advanced technologies to optimize farming practices and resource management. As part of her research area, she is particularly interested in topics such as smart resilient landscapes, the role of AI, sensors technologies, and games to nudge sustainable behaviors, AI-driven decision support tools and precision fertilization techniques to enhance sustainability, maximize yields, and drive profitability in agriculture.
Kylene Young is an undergraduate at UVM majoring in Animal Science with a double minor of Zoology and Community Development and Entrepreneurship. She is new to the SEGS lab but is a part of the CIROH research team. Her focus is the survey portion of the project.
Eli Smith is an undergraduate in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences at UVM. He’s pursuing a major in Computer Science and enjoys applying his computing knowledge in the lab. He currently has an interest in embedded software and network communication. Eli serves as a Senator on the Student Government Association and as an athlete for the Nordic Ski Club.
Julie Smith, DVM, PhD, is a research associate professor in the Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences. She is a specialist in preventive animal health with emphasis on dairy and other livestock production systems. She has led inter-disciplinary projects on biosecurity implementation, including recent collaborations with the SEGS lab. She has engaged undergraduates in expanding their knowledge of Animal Welfare, Calf Biology and Management, and (ABCs of) Biosecurity. She also has conducted trainings for Extension educators, livestock producers, and community members on the risks posed by a range of animal diseases, whether they exist within or outside of the United States or pose a risk to both animal and human health. In all cases, she emphasizes the importance of awareness and prevention.
Scott Turnbull is a software engineer on staff creating integrated solutions for complex systems. Scott is active in research into applications and impacts of precision agriculture, modeling of national food supply with regards to Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases, and various aspects of the newly formed Water Institute. Previous research was with Vermont EPSCoR in the Basin Resilience to Extreme Events and the Research on Adaptation to Climate Change.
Sam Gusick is currently an undergraduate research assistant for the SEGS Lab, and a current Senior at UVM studying Computer Science. Sam also serves as the president of the Game Development Club at UVM and the treasurer of UVM Viridescent A Cappella. He has also done extensive work with the ARC (Academic Research Commercialization) Program at UVM.
Tung-Lin Liu is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Vermont’s Food Systems Graduate Program. He earned his master’s degree in Computational Social Science at George Mason University. His doctoral dissertation applies complexity theory and data to examine the evolution of crop and dietary diversity from farm to plate. His objective is to support decision-making to improve environmental and human health using food biodiversity. Outside of his research, Tung enjoys exploring Vermont and teaching people to cook and learn about food.
Ian Melvin is a recent graduate of Champlain College with a degree in Game Programming and a Minor in Mathematics. Thanks to his background in game development, Ian works with the SEGS lab to develop serious games/simulations which serve as the tools to test how users respond to the potential threat of flooding and flood warnings. Ian also works as a contractor at Faycrest Studios, an indie game company.
Gian Cercena is a driven and enthusiastic individual currently enrolled in the Data Science program at the University of Vermont. As a dedicated member of the Honors College, Gian is actively engaged in research for his Honors Thesis within the SEGS Lab, focusing on the vital task of reducing disease transmission carried by feed trucks. Gian holds the positions of President in the Statistics and Data Science club, as well as Vice President of the CS Crew. Gian's past contributions include working on a web app tailored to support farmers in effectively mapping and managing their properties. Additionally, Gian helped develop an experimental game centered around disease spread between farms.
Molly Myers (she/they) is a dedicated researcher with expertise in community development, applied economics, and human geography. Currently working on her M.S. in Community Development and Applied Economics and holding a B.A. with Honors in Geography and Geospatial Technologies from the University of Vermont, Molly has excelled academically. As a Graduate Research Assistant, she is collaborating on the CIROH project, related to water resources prediction, risk perception, and communication-based behavior. Molly's research interests include social relations in rural communities, housing affordability, disaster preparedness, and rural development. Her Honors Thesis with Distinction explored social relationships between primary and secondary homeowners in her rural hometown in Northern Michigan. Recognized for her achievements, Molly has received honors, awards, and scholarships, including the Peter Young Award for Excellence in Geospatial Analysis. Through presentations and panel discussions, she has shared her research findings and experiences with others. Molly is dedicated to making a positive impact in the field of applied economics and geography through her commitment to community development in her role as a Graduate Research Assistant on the CIROH project.
Ben's research focuses are on motivations of sustainable agricultural practices using AI-driven information technology and monetary incentives, also known as Payment for Ecosystem Services. The impact of this research extends beyond the study locations of Vermont, Virginia, and South Dakota, with global implications in developing empirically based sustainable policy and innovations. Of particular interest are understanding dimensions of equity and knowledge systems in algorithmic governance related to the water-soil-carbon nexus through a variety of methodological approaches.