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Finalising the modelling component using Mathematica® with Dr Moin Salam

Steve Coventry, PhD student is working on a project focused on studying the factors affecting the dispersal of fungal pathogens using Ascochyta blight of chickpeas as a model, CRC60003: Ascochyta Wind Tunnel . In July 2009 Steve travelled to Western Australia (WA) to work directly with modelling expert and co-supervisor Dr Moin Salam, Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia.


While in WA Steve worked on further development of his computer based simulation that can predict the spread of Ascochyta blight of chickpeas. Steve’s model is based on the already published AnthracnoseTracer model of lupins which has been adapted to suit Ascochyta blight of chickpeas. Through various laboratory and field studies Steve was able to extract epidemiological and biological information about the dispersal of ascochyta blight of chickpeas. This experimental and field data was then directly applied to the model as parameters. These parameters assisted the model in the prediction of the spread of ascochyta blight of chickpeas in the field environment.


Steve worked very closely with Moin in WA which enabled him to gain greater understanding of the program Mathematica®. Steve finalised the calibration component of the model using 2007 field data and supplemented this with information gathered recently from the wind tunnel experiments conducted at the University of Adelaide.


After finalising the calibration Steve and Moin ran the model with 2008 weather data to see how closely the model predicted the field observations. Mean standard deviation (MSD) statistics were used to compare the model prediction and field observations on a whole field level and on sections of the field site. Finally, sensitivity analysis was performed on the parameters showing which parameters would affect the model prediction the greatest when altered.


While in WA Steve also presented to the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia’s Plant Pathology Department. The presentation brought about a lot of interest in the project and the applications of the model. Steve also met CRCNPB PhD student David Savage, who will use the model developed as part of his study, Ascochyta in WA regarding project CRC60076: Spore Modelling. Both Steve and David benefitted from discussions regarding David’s project and ideas regarding his future work.


The first hand knowledge Steve gained in using the program Mathematica® was important as it added to his previous knowledge of the program. The use of MSD and other advanced excel skills taught to Steve by Moin will be invaluable to Steve’s future career as a pathologist. Much progress was made in the two weeks spent in WA.


This trip was extremely beneficial for Steve’s career, in particular for developing his understanding of the modelling concepts and allowing him to utilise the laboratory and field data that was gathered for the model.


When: July 2009
Location: Perth, Western Australia

PhD candidate, Steve Coventry travelled to Western Australia to work with Dr Moin Salam to further develop his computer based simulation that can predict the spread of Ascochyta blight of chickpeas.