The article highlights the increased use of highly sophisticated computer modeling by biologists.
Sears and a colleague from Arizona State University are using biophysical computer models to try to explain why certain lizards in central New Mexico living at lower elevations grow more slowly than lizards higher up, even though conventional wisdom holds that the cooler climate at high elevations should retard physiological growth.
From the article:
“Sears started by creating a realistic simulation of the lizard’s desert habitat, which required a visit to sand dunes in central New Mexico to obtain fine-scale temperature measurements. He and his colleagues then wrote a computer program that could specify how hot each 0.5-meter-square spot would be at different times of the day, depending on where the sun was. It’s a computationally intense simulation, taking nearly 24 hours to factor in all the shadowing for a 100-squaremeter plot with a bumpy, complex landscape—the vegetation coverage incorporated into the model was provided by aerial photos.”
The full article is available online on the Science website.