by Marc-Olivier Beausoleil
Biodiversity research is about trying to understand natural phenomena, which ultimately can help with better predictions of the impact of a change of an ecosystem or the evolution of the populations living in their environment. Simulations are immensely useful as they provide a tool for researchers to accelerate our understanding of biological phenomena. It can help in planning research, testing models, accelerate the way we can test hypotheses, offer pedagogical insights, and much more. In his book Elements of simulation (1984), Byron J. T. Morgan argues that getting long-term data on a particular topic could slow the decision that is taken. He adds that simulations can clearly help explore a vast portfolio of hypothesis in a quick manner such as forest management, epidemics, road congestion, etc. Thus simulations are an excellent addition to the toolkit of researchers that want to explore more questions than they can collect data on. Simulations have the advantage to make experimental design explicit and show the effects that a researcher is interested in determining, before conducting the study. The value here is that students could better understand the implication of one study design and the value it, without wasting resources with trial and error methods. Transporting the trial and errors in silico would accelerate students’ understanding of how they can better design their studies.