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Geoscientist Online

Introduction to Environmental Modeling

Gray Environmental modelingWhile being described as an introduction, this book is pitched at upper-level undergraduates and master’s-level graduates in the field of environmental modelling. It is aimed at readers with limited modelling experience, but with an understanding of mathematics (in particular calculus and differential equations) and environmental scenarios. 

It is written in the form of a textbook (it is based on university courses) with questions placed throughout, which are designed to allow the reader time to reflect on the concepts described as they are covered. More detailed questions at the end of each chapter provide an overview of the material. The aim of the summary questions is to promote debate in group discussions, which would work well in tutorial settings, where the non-unique nature of the answers could be explored in depth. These may not work so well for individual readers, and the lack of solutions to either the summary questions, or the other “in-text” questions, could be a drawback for self-learners. The solutions are available online, but access is limited to lecturers who might wish to adopt the book for a particular course. In this respect the book would be an excellent set textbook for a university modelling course, particularly as additional extra material is also provided online.

With the above in mind, the book is extremely useful in gaining an understanding of environmental modelling. It is well written and logically structured, with each chapter building on the previous. The introductory chapter sets out the expectations and limitations of the book clearly, giving it context in the larger environmental modelling field. This section also provides examples of poor modelling practice, before introducing better alternatives. The book then proceeds through the fundamentals of environmental modelling, from conceptualisation through derivatives and integral theorems, to the conservation of mass and momentum. It finishes with some specific modelling examples, such as flow in porous media and groundwater systems. Figures and flow diagrams are used throughout to effectively explain complicated mathematical problems.

This could be a very dense tome on what could be a relatively dry subject, but the authors succeed in making it accessible and engaging, with interesting anecdotes and footnotes. More difficult concepts are explained through analogies, which even with an American slant can be appreciated by all. The authors’ creative side also comes through, showing that environmental modelling requires some artistic flair, as well as an understanding of the mathematical equations and processes.

Reviewed by Fiona Todd

INTRODUCTION TO ENVIRONMENTAL MODELING by William G. Gray & Genetha A. Gray, 2017. Published by: Cambridge University Press 435pp. ISBN: 9781107571693 List Price: £44.99 W: