SUBJECT: Ph.D. Proposal Presentation
BY: Zackery Morris
TIME: Wednesday, April 25, 2018, 2:00 p.m.
PLACE: MRDC Building, 3515
TITLE: Improving Industrial Networks through Biologically-Inspired Urban-Industrial Ecosystems
COMMITTEE: Dr. Bert Bras, Chair (ME)
Dr. Marc Weissburg (Biology)
Dr. John Crittenden (CE)
Dr. Julie Linsey (ME)
Dr. Cassandra Telenko (ME)
Dr. Astrid Layton (Texas A&M)


Biologically-Inspired Design is a growing field that has many applications. While this is normally used for individual products or materials, applied at a systems level, the inspiration can stem from the structure and makeup of ecosystems. Over the last few decades, ecologists have developed Ecological Network Analysis (ENA) to better understand ecosystems, and both industrial and urban systems have been analyzed using ENA. The industrial and urban systems can be represented in a similar fashion to natural ecosystems in that they are a network of connections with producers (prey) and consumers (predators). Specifically, Eco-Industrial Parks (EIPs) that look to mimic the cyclic nature of food webs have been analyzed using ENA showing that these networks can still be improved significantly before they reach the levels of observed natural food webs. Similarly, urban networks (such as water and energy networks) have been looked at with ENA at a high level with insight gained about trophic levels in a city and how they compare with food webs. However, the industrial and urban networks have been analyzed at different scales and in separate systems. Applying ENA to these networks is still in its infancy, and as such, there is a great potential to further the analysis to include a greater number of metrics that have not been applied previously. Thus far, this has only been used to analyze existing networks, but the ENA method could be adapted into a way to design industrial and urban networks thus truly becoming Biologically-Inspired Design, likely increasing the sustainability measured by reduced resource consumption and increased resiliency.
This proposal lays out a plan to further the use of ENA for industrial and urban networks. This will be done in three ways. First, additional metrics from ENA will be included in the analysis that have not previously been explored. In addition, more human created networks will be added to create an even larger dataset of networks that have been analyzed with this method. Second, the industrial networks will be combined and analyzed with the urban networks. Finally, it will be tested if the sustainability of these networks is increased by using ecological principles as the main criteria for designing said networks.