An enduring challenge

The natural environment provides an enduring context for our everyday lives. Whether we build some product that is designed to endure whatever nature has to offer, or we have to endure it ourselves, knowledge is our best bet to maintain the upper hand. In the lab, we always used as our battle cry “Nature’s fighting us, we must be close!”.  Well, that is what this place is about.

Context Modeling for Land, Aquatic, and Atmospheric Environments
The research featured the following novel findings and approaches

  1. Spectral decomposition approach to model semi-Markov terrain features.
  2. Terrain elevation correlation approach applied to geospatial regions.
  3. Pattern-based stochastic approach to model sample spaces.
  4. Use of maximum entropy to model distributions with very concise formulations.
  5. Depth-corrected wave height model applied to various bodies of water.
  6. Diffusion model of oxidation and corrosion applying uncertainty quantification.
  7. Semantic organization of models using SWEET ontology.
  8. Semantic web server for model search and interaction.
  9. A logic-based domain specific language for formal specific and model generation.
  10. Phrase-based matching of requirements to context models.

We find that applying an ontological classification strategy to stochastic models of the environment provides a simple, efficient while comprehensive approach while a workflow-driven semantic web provides services.


I  want to see how far we can stretch concepts such as the Semantic Web, a knowledge network that is more organized than the ad hoc network than we are currently dealing with. The rationale for the concept of the Semantic Web is to categorize and classify knowledge so as to minimize misinterpretation and ambiguity among concepts. Earth sciences is a great place to start, as it includes a wide range of topics, but also contains a lot of conflicting knowledge.

Context/Earth is essentially a Semantic Web project, where we organize interactive environmental models (of land,ocean,atmosphere) according to an ontology. We worked with the people at NASA JPL, and incorporated their SWEET ontology (Semantic Web for Earth and Environmental Technology) into a semantic web server which we call the Dynamic Context Server (DCS).

One instance of the DCS hosted on a cloud server here:
Cloud DCS instance

The name derives from the fact that a context model is a model of the surrounding environment which one can use to develop systems or analyze data.

This is all open-sourced code and we use this blog to keep a running commentary on how the project is progressing now that the original development phase ended.

The bottom-line is that this kind of knowledge repository is going to transform the way that we use and apply environmental and earth science information in the future. Climate science is not the only game in town when it comes to the environment. The earth is a dynamic system and the natural resources and fossil fuel reserves also play a big role, and understanding how we can leverage what the earth provides is a good path to follow.

The question that I pose is: Can this knowledge be deconflicted and disambiguated so that the truth can emerge?

The hope is that semantic knowledge will help resolve the uncertainty and ambiguity from various sources of information.


15 thoughts on “An enduring challenge

  1. Hi WHT,

    I am going to plow through the papers to try to get a handle on how to use this website. A simple set of examples would be helpful. Does the software need to be downloaded onto my PC in order to use the entroplet server?

    At this point it looks like without a degree in computer science or a PhD in Engineering, Physics or Chemistry, it might be difficult for some to access this excellent web resource. If I can figure it out I will try to create a simple set of instructions so others can make use of it as well.

    Dennis Coyne


    • DC,
      Nothing needs to be downloaded if you just want to use the server. If you want your own personal server, it will take some doing as I have all the source code in a GitHub repository.


      • WHT,

        I am using Windows 8 (64bit) and IE 10.09 and when I try the DCS I get error messages for either the table or plot. Data kind doesn’t exist. Throw error? I assume data should be days? What should the margin be? For the red queen models I am using 700 in margin. Sorry for the dumb questions I have no idea how to use the DCS, I would love to learn though!



      • DC, You have to pick at least one of the radio buttons.
        The margins and duration are ignored for now. I would concentrate on Red Queen 2 model.

        Not much more to learn on this interface because it is mainly a graphical data exploration tool.


      • Hi WHT,

        I have sent you some e-mails, would you prefer I communicate through this blog?

        I have determined that Internet Explorer Version 10.0.9200.16688 does not play well with the DCS. It works fine with fire fox.

        The red queen 2 model starts at what date, about 1981?

        If we assume no decrease in EUR per well through Dec 2014 (Rune Likvern’s assumption) and also assume the present 12 month average rate of addition of producing wells of about 150/month (1800 wells per year), what would the model look like?

        Or to compare with my model though Dec 2014 add 151,152,153,…,165,166 producing wells for Aug 2013 to Dec 2014. I have adjusted my scenario for TRR to compare and get 990 kb/d in Dec 2014 and a Cumulative of 1.2 BBO (1953 to 2014).

        It would be interesting to see the code behind the scenario. That way, with your permission, I could play around with various scenarios. I could also help you write up a simple guide for using the DCS, if you wish. I need to get a better handle on how it works.

        If you are interested in seeing my spreadsheet for my Bakken scenarios, let me know.

        Dennis Coyne


      • DC, Do you have a GitHub account? If you can get an account, then I can add you to the list and you can browse through the source code, and modify if you wish.
        Go to and sign up

        In the meantime, I will modify the input to allow a “well addition rate” so that we can do some what-if analyses.

        As it is, at the current date the addition drops to zero. I did this to give an idea of how fast the decline is.

        BTW, Keep commenting here. The DCS server has a Places/Connents menu item that shows the most recent comments as an RSS feed. Below that menu item is a link to the blog.


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    • I am not sure if you also need the password for the github account or if you just assign a password which can be changed. I will send the password by e-mail, or if you set it just send it to me.


  2. Hi Paul,

    I am having trouble accessing the Oil Conundrum. Is there a link somewhere?

    The link at context earth and the google docs links are not working for me.

    Dennis Coyne


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