Hi Unreal Engine Simulation team Alban, Sebastien and Victor
I am interested in using UE4 for Wildlife Conservation - specifically ecosystem-plant-animal interaction simulation for ecosystem monitoring and deeper understanding of interactions and effects of e.g. climate change.
I am thinking along the lines of spatially, temporally and nutritionally / energetically explicit Agent-based modelling. Plant types and animal types are needed as agents very much like AI entities in UE4, but that have to be parameterised with real-world parameters:
e.g. physiological parameter of metabolic rates, pregnancy status, birth events and young animal growth, and animal mortality parameters (e.g. linked to episodic events, disease/predators, lack of energy/key nutrient intake). They would have energy use values for different activities, daily energy needs and key nutrient needs and intake rates (which are plant-agent-part dependent and impacted by season and climate trends).
Predator animals would have their own parameters and behaviours, with prey providing the energy / key nutrients.
Animals would also have various biological urges and behaviour ranges (motility, aggression, predator avoidance or prey-seeking, mating, care and defence of offspring, need for shelter or water for thermo-regulation).
The plants would have their own parameter like water-use rates, growth rates (size), plant parts with values for digestibility and toxicity to herbivores, a way to enact parameter changes (eg height, impacts on growth rate when herbivores eat them, or from floods or fire, and their natural senescence patterns.
And and simulation should include all these interacting with the real-world environment characteristics of climate and geolocation such as rainfall patterns, daylight hours, temperatures, FIRE (a whole thing on its own).
Landscapes would be realistic based on actual digital terrain models, and plant distribution would depend on terrain, elevation, soil types(re soil characteristics to hold water deliver water & nutrients to plants) and aspect (re sun hours). Also ability so simulate flooding in lake and riparian (river) systems. Ideally data to inform and update the landscape and climate (eg daily weekly or monthly) should come from free GIS information provides - especially Google Earth Engine.
Important feature of this simulation process would be monitoring (output) of above parameters via sending data to in-simulation or external data analysis programs, and generating summary infographics etc. One could have ability for the “player” to Possess any AI entity to go along for the ride or tweak attributes to learn more. and ability to be an observer entity moving alongside an individual animal of choice.
If we really went Big-Picture, the impacts and effects of human activities and infrastructure could be added to the ecosystem simulation (e.g. increasing development encroaching on land, poaching, disturbance, canalisation of river courses etc).
This is a HUGE ask - would it ever be doable? The issue of reasonable simulation of plants (numerically huge) may be one of biggest challenges. Realisitc graphic representation would be nice but could (should, I guess) be simplified for performance gains,
It would be a godsend to assist / test ecological understanding e.g. of emergent features of interacting ecosystem parts, and to help decision-making in taking needed actions in natural area and endangered species management, and would also assist in Citizen and next-generation wildlife management staff education globally. Any suggestions on how to develop such an amazing tool?