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How Flossing Relates to Modeling


Between 2004 and 2009, the LANDFIRE project developed state-and-transition models for all major Ecological Systems in the United States using the Vegetation Dynamics Development Tool (VDDT). To complete this effort, LANDFIRE staff hosted modeling workshops, web conferences and individual meetings across the country, engaged more than 700 experts in developing and reviewing models, taught experts and managers how to model with VDDT, and facilitated the creation of over 2,000 models quantifying pre-settlement reference conditions.

An undertaking of this type invariably has highs and lows, and provides an opportunity to learn about the model building and model review process. Following are ten lessons we learned -- some the hard way -- over that time period.

 10- Be flexible when modeling: hold workshops, meet one-on-one, invite the gang to web-conference, get out the old-school flip charts. Whatever works, works. 

9- It's well and good to learn by doing, but when collaborating, remember that YOU called the meeting and can take over the metaphorical steering wheel when needed.

8- When modeling, engage a broad spectrum of experts -- they'll understand what’s up and can create robust models. And, it's worth the inevitable give-and-take among the participants.

7- Know what you're modeling. That may sounds obvious, but don't kid yourself. Terminology is tricky. 

6- Perform quality control on your models every step of the way. Automate when you can. Step on every step.

5- When modeling, don't start from scratch. Take the easy route and modify existing models. 

4- Documenting the work is like flossing: stay on top of your modeling health by tracking everything. 

3- Stick to your purpose. When you're modeling, know what to keep in and what to leave out. 

2- Models simplify reality. Yes, really! Be realistic, keep it simple and don't count the boxes. 

1- Scratching your head regarding natural systems? The various LANDFIRE teams have built models for every ecosystem across the United States.

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