Two Funded Ph.D. Assistantships in Agent-Based and/or Land-Use Change Modeling

The Laboratory for Human-Environment Interactions Analysis and Modeling (HEIMA), in the Department of Geography at the University of Alabama, is recruiting two full-time doctoral students to begin in fall semester 2021. The students will join an interdisciplinary team working to support simulation modeling for one of the two projects described below. Funding support will include tuition waiver, stipend, and some conference travel. Priority will be given to students with a Master’s degree. Proficiency with GIS is required. Previous programming experience is preferred, but no specific programming language is required. Experience working with remote sensing imagery and data processing is desirable. Prospective students must be self-motivated and have a willingness to work in an interdisciplinary research environment.

  1. Making the hidden visible: Accelerated land-use change and degradation caused by narco-trafficking in and around Central America’s protected areas.” This project uses narco-trafficking in the Central American Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC) as a case study for how to render illicit activity spatially and temporally explicit – in other words, make the hidden visible. A novel combination of remote-sensing multi-temporal-data fusion, counterfactual land change modeling, and synthesis of criminal activity datasets is used to characterize and predict the impact of narco-traffickers on land-use change in and around protected areas across the MBC. The prospective student will develop a land-use change simulation model to estimate the amount of land-use change caused by illicit versus conventional economic activities. The model developed will be applicable to land-use change modeling more broadly, and the student will learn innovative computational experiment methods. This three-year project is supported by NASA’s Land Cover Land Use Change (LCLUC).
  2. Illicit drug trafficking networks: Behavioral responses to interdiction.” This project is developing a scenario testing environment that tightly integrates a GIS front end with a simulation modeling and data analytics backend. The testing environment will enable the quantification of narco-traffickers’ spatial and operational adaptive responses across the spectrum of interdiction scenarios, from which predictive ‘behavioral profiles’ will be derived, catalyzing a shift from reactive to anticipatory medium-to long-term counterdrug interdiction strategies. The prospective student will further develop an existing agent-based model of an illicit supply network, and explore innovative methods of coupling simulation models with spatial optimization model and Geographic Information System (GIS). This four-year project is supported by the National Science Foundation’s program Disrupting Illicit Supply Networks.

If interested, please contact Dr. Nicholas Magliocca ( with your CV, transcripts (unofficial is acceptable), writing sample (e.g., thesis), and any other material you would like to be considered. Full applications to the graduate program are due February 15, 2021. However, contacting Dr. Magliocca well in advance is strongly encouraged.