Abstract for: Teaching top-down modeling to bottom-up thinkers: A report from the initial phase of a collaborative watershed-modeling project

Conducting environmental research that is relevant to the needs of decision makers is an increasingly important goal for academic institutions. There is great potential to develop decision-relevant outputs by integrating process-based watershed models with local expertise in collaborative system dynamics models. This paper reports on a workshop held to teach process-based modelers working on an interdisciplinary regional modeling project about the potential for representing hydrologic and socioeconomic conditions using a system dynamics model. A revised version of the Idagon, a classic watershed system dynamics model, was employed to demonstrate to researchers how collaborative watershed modeling with stakeholders will be carried out. We collected information about technical modelers’ perceptions of system dynamics before and after the workshop. We found that even scientists who have a passing familiarity with system dynamics approaches benefited from a refresher training session and thoughtful discussion of the applications and limitations of system dynamics modeling. Process-based modelers’ most prevalent concern about collaborative modeling was related to how uncertainty can be captured and communicated. On the basis of questionnaire responses and group discussion during the system dynamics training, we make recommendations for future efforts to increase collaboration and mutual understanding among process-based (bottom-up) and system dynamics (top-down) modelers.