Christian Vincenot's Homepage

Research Topics


As visible through my academic cursus, I enjoy studying science in an holistic manner. In computer science, I am more specifically interested in Networking & Security, Operating Systems Design, and Embedded Systems. More recently, I have been wishing to study more applied aspects of computer science. I have been interested for a very long time in ecology and environmental science. Considering the lack of research bridging informatics and these sciences (unlike health sciences with bioinformatics for example), I decided to focus on this lack during my PhD.

System Dynamics - Individual-Based Hybrid Modelling and Ecology

"Every modeling discipline depends on unique underlying assumptions; that is, each modeling method is itself based on a model of how modeling should be done."

- Donella H. Meadows and Jenny M. Robinson

Ecological Modeling is quite unpopular and distrusted in the science of Ecology, especially among field specialists. A reason advanced for this would be that this technical discipline is widely misunderstood and generally misused as underlined by many specialists (Scheffer and Beets 1994, Grimm 1999, Lorenz 2009). Although I agree with this observation, I also advance another reason. In my point of view, the main issue encountered by ecological modeling nowadays is due to the inappropriateness of the modeling solutions available, and more generally, to a wrong line of reasoning. Models are meant to be simplified representations of reality, which make the analysis of complex phenomena understandable and tractable by a human mind. Modeling paradigms are frameworks, which provide the user with basic building blocks and rules to “model” reality. As such, they should be semantically flexible and powerful enough to express in an intuitive and natural way the essence of system components and relations existing in the systems studied. This does not seem to be happening nowadays in ecology, as the description of real systems in models is too strongly impacted by the paradigm used. The too infrequent use of spatially-explicit models to model ecological issues with obvious spatial dimensions, the tendency to aggregate individual behaviors, or the reliance on convenient but dubious assumptions are only a few recurrent examples of this state of fact. It seems mandatory to reevaluate what ecological modeling should be with regards to the type of systems encountered in this discipline.

In the last years, I have been suggesting jointly with fellow researchers in Naples and Utrecht the idea that, instead of creating yet-another modeling framework/language, a fusion between two existing paradigms - System Dynamics (SD) and Individual-Based Modelling (IBM) - could be a potential solution to many of the issues encountered in ecological simulations. After tackling the technical matters, we have been developing a conceptual framework featuring building blocks (therein called reference cases) that could serve to reproduce the nature, structure and functionning of complex real-life dynamic systems like ecosystems. In parallel, we are working on several models designed to simulate issues encountered in various domains of Ecology (and neighboring sciences) in a manner which was not accessible so far with traditional techniques.

A description of the SD-IB Hybrid Modelling framework can be found in the EcoMod publication. For a more detailed development of this ongoing research, please refer to my PhD thesis. Short summaries of the thesis content are also available in English and (broken) Japanese.

Applied Ecology and Conservation

The Ryukyu Flying fox. (Photo credits: Anja Collazo)

I have engaged since 2012 in research in applied ecology and conservation biology. I have focused on Pteropus fruit bats (so-called "flying foxes") and have done most of my work on the Ryukyu flying fox Pteropus dasymallus in the Yaeyama archipelago, Japan. On this front, my research follows three separate aims:

  1. Identify and contribute to solve conflicts between farmers and flying foxes
  2. Understand the metapopulation structure of island populations based on genetics
  3. Grasp the spatial behavior of flying foxes within islands

Research on the first topic initially started as a side-project, in which I undertook to assess the level of awareness of the public towards the Ryukyu flying fox. Understanding how this cryptic species is perceived also became one of the object of this work. During this first study, I was informed of damage done by P. dasymallus in orchards. Research on this front lead me to uncover long-lasting ongoing conflicts between farmers and the Ryukyu flying fox, and to report for the first time on the systematic killing of this threatened species. Moreover, further unsuspected threats could be identified during this work.

Beside this socio-ecological component, I had the chance to start two concurrent projects aiming at better understanding inter-island connectivity between insular populations of P. dasymallus. This has been motivated mainly by the observation that we currently know nothing about the capacity of populations to interact and to support each other (e.g. in terms of gene flow).

The spatial activity of P. dasymallus remains unknown due to the difficulty in observing the movements of individuals. Under a generous funding from Pro Natura Japan and more recently the Nippon Life Insurance Company, I have been performing GPS tracking on this species to elucidate in particular its roosting and foraging habits.