Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Bionic Planet: Reversing Climate Change by Restoring Nature

May 22, 2024

In this episode, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Gilmore Pontius, Jr., a geography professor at Clark University specializing in geographic information science. Dr. Pontius shared his expertise in computer simulation models of deforestation and the impact of land change on humans.

Dr. Pontius discussed his journey into the field of geography, highlighting his passion for mathematics and maps. He emphasized the importance of simplicity in modeling and the need to eliminate distractions to focus on the essence of the problem.

The conversation delved into the complexities of land change modeling, addressing the challenges of uncertainty and the balance between simplicity and complexity in predictive models. Dr. Pontius emphasized the importance of transparency in modeling and the need to acknowledge and learn from mistakes in scientific research.

The discussion also touched on the evolution of methodologies in land change modeling, with Dr. Pontius advocating for a continuous learning process and adaptation based on new scientific insights. He highlighted the importance of open communication and collaboration in maximizing learning and addressing challenges in the field.

Overall, the episode provided valuable insights into the world of geographic information science, emphasizing the need for continuous improvement, transparency, and open dialogue in scientific research and modeling practices. Dr. Pontius's expertise and passion for the subject shone through, making for an engaging and enlightening conversation.


  • "I do this because I enjoy it. And I feel completely comfortable with saying that, because if you don't enjoy it, you're not going to dedicate time to it." - 00:04:52-00:05:02

  • "What good scientists do, they learn from their mistakes, and they admit them, and they say what their motivation was at the time, and then they clarify it and present something better." - 00:12:49-00:13:00

  • "I wanted to give an example to the research community because I see variation even among professors in their motivations." - 00:13:00-00:13:12

  • "We're not in the business of trying to say that we've solved all the problems. That's not what good scientists do." - 00:14:51-00:15:01

  • "I'm not willing to take on a student unless that student is willing to tell me when they think I'm wrong." - 00:29:23-00:29:33

  • "Mathematicians are always trying to eliminate distractions, get to the essence of something, and make it as simple and transparent as possible." - 00:48:07-00:48:17

  • "It's trivial to choose to look at something in such detail that it's impossible to predict accurately. Easy to do." - 00:50:07-00:50:18

  • "If we're doing the same thing we were doing 30 years ago, it means either 30 years ago we were so brilliant that we knew everything, or if we're doing the same thing we were doing 30 years ago, that means we haven't learned anything in 30 years." - 00:55:18-00:55:28

  • "Learning is not guaranteed. Just look around the world today. I mean, things can go backward." - 00:55:29-00:55:39

  • "Is capitalism or communism good or bad? It depends how it's implemented. Is religion good or bad? It depends how it's implemented." - 00:56:55-00:57:05