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CSDMS 2023: Patterns and Processes Across Scales


The CSDMS 2023 Annual Meeting will be broad in scope, bringing together CSDMS members to present new scientific insights in the modeling of surface dynamics and the impact of time and process scales, new advances in cyber-infrastructure, examples on coupling models, how social and ecological models can inform management, and more. New this year are the Electronic Publications (Epubs); Jupyter notebooks that contain e.g. a scientific hypotheses description, a numerical solution, and some findings that are investigated by numerical algorithms or model, see also: Form:Annualmeeting2023#NEW:_Electronic_publications_(Epubs). The meeting will further include:

  • State-of-the art keynote presentations in earth-surface dynamics
  • Hands-on clinics related to community models, tools and approaches
  • Transformative software products and approaches designed to be accessible, easy to use, and relevant
  • Breakout sessions
  • Poster and Epubs Sessions


Click here to download the final meeting agenda.

Keynote presentations

Thorsten Becker
UT Austin
Subduction dynamics and surface-deep mantle interactions Subduction zones are ever-evolving over a wide range of spatio-temporal scales, and there are a range of interactions between deep mantle flow and surface tectonics which are of relevance for processes from the megathrust cycle to the long-term evolution of the Earth. I review studies that seek to understand a number of the involved processes with a focus on the role of sediments and rheology for subduction rates and deep mantle structure, as well as the thermo-mechanical state of the mantle wedge.
Michelle DiBenedetto
University of Washington
Buoyant particles in environmental flows: challenges in modelling microplastic transport Plastic pollution is a ubiquitous issue impacting the health of marine ecosystems worldwide. Yet, critical knowledge gaps surrounding the fate and transport of plastic once it enters the ocean impede remediation and prevention efforts. Predicting transport is difficult for any particle in the ocean, but microplastics present a particular challenge because their size and density fall outside the regimes of traditionally studied environmental particles such as low-density bubbles and high-density sediment. In this talk I will discuss recent work addressing these challenges with both modelling and experiments.
Panel Discussion
AI in Earth Surface Research - Challenges and Opportunities --
Todd Ehlers
University of Glasgow, Scotland
How Plants Shape Mountains Earth surface processes are modulated by fascinating interactions between climate, tectonics, and biota. These interactions are manifested over diverse temporal and spatial scales ranging from seconds to millions of years, and microns to thousands of kilometers, respectively. Investigations into Earth surface shaping by biota have gained growing attention over the last decades and are a research frontier. In this lecture, I present an integration of new observational and numerical modeling research on the influence of vegetation type and cover on the erosion of mountains. I do this through an investigation of millennial timescale catchment denudation rates measured along the extreme climate and ecologic gradient of the western margin of South America.
Christie Hegermiller
Sofar Ocean
How industry develops and manages scientific code Increasing physical complexity, spatial resolution, and technical coupling of numerical models for various earth systems require increasing computational resources, efficient code bases and tools for analysis, and community codevelopment. In these arenas, climate technology industries have leapfrogged academic and government science, particularly with regards to adoption of open community code and collaborative development and maintenance. In this talk, I will discuss industry coding practices I learned to bring into my workflow for efficient and rapid development, easier maintenance, collaboration and learning, and reproducibility.
Joe Hughes
Extension of the Basic Model Interface for tight coupling of MODFLOW to other model components. The Basic Model Interface (BMI) has been extended to allow tighter coupling of model components than is available in the BMI standard. To enable tighter coupling between models, we have developed the eXtended Model Interface (XMI) which extends the BMI functionality and enables coupling within the non-linear Picard iteration loop. The XMI subdivides the BMI update function into multiple functions. This subdivision allows data from other model components to affect matrix coefficients during each MODFLOW non-linear Picard iteration. Additional functions to subdivide the update function include prepare_timestep, do_timestep, finalize_timestep, prepare_solve, solve, and finalize_solve.</br>We have developed a hypothetical model application that simulates characteristics common to hydrologic conditions in a large part of the Netherlands. The application tightly couples MODFLOW and MetaSWAP using a shared control volume approach and XMI. MetaSWAP is meta-model that simulates the unsaturated zone using a quasi steady-state formulation based on Richards’ equation. The coupling procedure consists of the following steps. After every solution of the groundwater heads within the non-linear Picard iteration loop, MetaSWAP determines the unsaturated zone flux and primary storage coefficients while ensuring mass balance for the shared control volume. Both variables (groundwater recharge and storage coefficients) are then communicated to MODFLOW and this sequence is repeated until the MODFLOW convergence criteria are met for a time step. The hypothetical model application demonstrates that MetaSWAP makes it possible to simulate the unsaturated zone in more detail than possible with the MODFLOW Unsaturated Zone Flow (UZF) Package and simulate soil moisture-based groundwater irrigation.
Laurel Larsen
University of California, Berkeley
Mending the broken heart: How opening and stitching together social and ecological models of California’s Delta region can transform the trajectory of the state’s water management The California Delta, where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers come together before flowing into the San Francisco Bay, functions as the heart of California. It is here that water originating from distal parts of the state mixes and is pumped to other far-flung regions, sustaining life, economies, cultures, and one of the biggest agricultural industries in the nation. However, for decades, water allocation planning has been steeped in controversy and legal gridlock, posing challenges for adaptation to rapidly changing climatic conditions, including increasing frequency and severity of droughts and floods and long-term changes in water availability. In other major estuaries such as the Chesapeake Bay and Florida Everglades, stakeholder-engaged, open-science modeling to evaluate multifaceted tradeoffs associated with water management decisions has created inroads through controversy and gridlock. Similar approaches, applied to specific challenges such as Chinook salmon management and localized wetland restoration in the Delta, have likewise promoted adaptive behaviors. In this talk, I highlight lessons learned from those examples and discuss how the Delta science community is incorporating those lessons into a larger-scale vision of “One Delta, one science, one modeling framework.” Fundamental to this vision are commonly held best practices, including widespread adoption of FAIR principles for model, metadata, and data dissemination, common cyberinfrastructure resources, and human resources to support outreach to communities not formerly represented in the use of models and implementation of best practices.
Jorge Lorenzo-Trueba
Montclair State University
Modeling barrier islands and fluvial-deltas across time scales: Insights from a moving-boundary approach There are few regions of the Earth that change more rapidly and consistently than the coastal zone. Despite this transience and its susceptibility to hazards, the coast continues to attract humans and development. Additionally, coastal deposits can hold important information about environmental changes in Earth's history, such as variations in relative sea level, sediment supply, or tectonics. Accordingly, deeper knowledge of the formative and destructive processes operating at the shore is of both scientific interest and societal importance. In this presentation, I will introduce a moving-boundary framework aimed to advance our quantitative understanding of the key processes that drive the evolution of low-lying coastal landscapes such as barrier islands, fluvial deltas, and continental shelves. I will also provide examples of how this mathematical framework can be applied at both field and laboratory scales.
Raleigh Martin
NSF Program Updates --
Paola Passalacqua
The University of Texas at Austin
Opening of the CSMDS 2023 annual meeting Opening of the CSDMS 2023 annual meeting
Alexander Robel
Georgia Institute of Technology
Predictability of future sea level rise assessed with a novel stochastic ice sheet model A range of Earth surface processes may drive rapid ice sheet retreat in the future, contributing to equally rapid global sea level rise. Though the pace of discovering these new feedback processes has accelerated in the past decade, predictions of future evolution of ice sheets are still subject to considerable uncertainty, originating from unknown future carbon emissions, and poorly understood ice sheet processes. In this talk, I explain why sea level rise projections past the next few decades are so uncertain, and how we are developing new stochastic ice sheet modeling methods to reduce uncertainty in projections, and the limits of uncertainty reduction. I also discuss the ongoing debate over whether uncertainty is important to consider at all in developing sea level projections that are usable by coastal planners.
Virginia Ruiz-Villanueva
University of Lausanne
Modelling instream large wood dynamics in rivers When a tree falls into a river becomes instream large wood and promotes fundamental changes in river hydraulics and morphology, playing a relevant role in river ecology. By interacting with the flow and sediment, the instream large wood (i.e., downed trees, trunks, root wads and branches) contributes to maintaining the river's physical and ecological integrity. However, large quantities of wood can be transported and deposited during floods, enhancing the adverse effects of flooding at critical sections like bridges. Accurate predictions of large wood dynamics in terms of fluxes, depositional patterns, trajectories, and travel distance, still need to be improved, and observations remain scarce. Only recently, numerical models can help to this end.</br>In contrast to other fluvial components such as fluid flow and sediment, for which numerical models have been extensively developed and applied over decades, numerical modelling of wood transport is still in its infancy. In this talk, I will describe the most recent advances and challenges related to the numerical modelling of instream large wood transport in rivers, focusing on the numerical model Iber-Wood. Iber-Wood is a two-dimensional computational fluid dynamics model that couples a Eulerian approach for hydrodynamics and sediment transport to a discrete element (i.e., Lagrangian) approach for wood elements. The model has been widely validated using flume and field observations and applied to several case studies and has been proven to accurately reproduce wood trajectories, patterns of wood deposition, and impacts of wood accumulations during floods.
ESPIn 2023 Student presentations
ESPIn 2023 summer student presentations --
Silke Tas
Boston University
Modelling chenier dynamics in the context of mangrove-mud coasts: A challenge across spatial and temporal scales Cheniers are ridges consisting of coarse-grained sediments, resting on top of muddy sediment. Along these muddy coastlines, cheniers provide shelter against wave attack, mitigating erosion or even enhancing accretion. As such, cheniers play an important role in the dynamics of the entire coastal landscape. This research focused on cheniers along mangrove-mud coasts. Therefore, chenier dynamics needed to be understood at the temporal and spatial scales of the mangrove vegetation as well. We developed a hybrid modelling approach, combining the strengths of complex process-based modelling (Delft3D), which allowed us to model the mixed-sediment dynamics at small temporal and spatial scales, with the strengths of a highly idealized profile model, providing low computational efforts for larger temporal and spatial scales.
Chris Tasich
Vanderbilt University
Equilibrium elevation of the lower Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta The natural elevation of the vast, flat landscape of the lower Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) remains remarkably stable despite persistent relative sea level rise (rSLR). This stability stems from the tight coupling of the land and tides through a robust negative feedback induced by periodic flooding with sediment-rich water. As water levels increase, the inundation depth and duration also increase resulting in more sediment deposition. This has a stabilizing effect and largely negates the initial increase in water level such that the elevation surface appears unchanged. We refer to this stable elevation as the equilibrium elevation.</br></br></br>Here, we investigate the strength of the inundation feedback and the resulting equilibrium elevation. We identify three main controls on this feedback - (1) annual rate of rSLR, (2) mean tidal range (TR), and (3) mean suspended sediment concentration (SSC). We explore the realistic parameter space of each using a simple, zero-dimensional mass balance model. Specifically, we ask (1) what equilibrium elevations are feasible, (2) how these equilibrium elevations compare to tides (e.g., relative to mean sea level (MSL) or mean high water (MHW)), and (3) how equilibrium elevation impacts the duration (hydroperiod) and intensity (depth) of a typical inundation cycle. Results show an incredibly robust feedback for most conditions with the notable exception of low SSCs (< 0.1 g/L). This low, yet realistic value of SSC represents a tipping point at which the equilibrium elevation drops precipitously. At higher rates of rSLR (> 8mm/yr) and lower TR (< 2 m) the equilibrium elevation results in complete drowning of the platform.
Kyle Wright
University of Texas at Austin; TWDB
Apples to apples: Comparing the transport patterns of a wide variety of materials within a unified reduced-complexity modeling framework Coastal systems are an environmental sink for a wide range of materials of scientific interest, including sediments, nutrients, plastics, oils, seeds, and wood, to name only a few. Due to differences in material properties such as buoyancy, each of these materials are liable to have characteristic transport pathways which differ from the mean flow and each other, hydraulically “sorting” these materials in space. However, it remains difficult to quantify these differences in transport, due in part to the use of disparate models and approaches for each respective material. In this talk, I will advance a novel modeling framework for simulating the patterns of transport for a wide range of fluvially-transported materials using a single unified reduced-complexity approach, allowing us to compare and quantify differences in transport between materials. Using a hydrodynamic model coupled with the stochastic Lagrangian particle-routing model “dorado,” we are able to simulate at the process-level how local differences in material buoyancy lead to emergent changes in partitioning and nourishment in river deltaic systems. I will show some of the insights we have learned regarding the tendency for materials to be autogenically sorted in space, as well as progress we have made bridging between the process-level framework used in dorado and more physics-based approaches based on transport theory.


Richard Barnes
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
Using GPUs to Solve Science Problems Faster GPUs can make models, simulations, machine learning, and data analysis much faster, but how? And when? In this clinic we'll discuss whether you should use a GPU for your work, whether you should buy one, which one to buy, and how to use one effectively. We'll also get hands-on and speed up a landscape evolution model together. This clinic should be of interest both to folks who would like to speed up their code with minimal effort as well as folks who are interested in the nitty gritty of pushing computational boundaries.
Jed Brown
University of Colorado, Boulder
Building solvers for sustainable performance Developers of solvers for PDE-based models and other computationally intensive tasks are confronted with myriad complexity, from science requirements to algorithms and data structures to GPU programming models. We will share a fresh approach that has delivered order of magnitude speedups in computational mechanics workloads, minimizing incidental complexity while offering transparency and extensibility. In doing so, we'll examine the PETSc and libCEED libraries, validate performance models, and discuss sustainable architecture for community development. We'll also check out Enzyme, an LLVM-based automatic differentiation tool that can be used with legacy code and multi-language projects to provide adjoint (gradient) capabilities.
Randall LeVeque
University of Washington
Finite Volume Methods for Surface Dynamics Modeling Many problems of interest to CSDMS members involve solving systems of conservation laws or balance laws for water wave propagation and inundation, erosion and sediment transport, landscape evolution, or for the flow of overland floods, glaciers, lava, or groundwater. It is often natural to solve these partial differential equations numerically with finite volume methods, in which the domain of interest is divided in finite grid cells and the quantities of interest within each grid cell are updated every time step due to fluxes across the cell boundaries and/or processes within the cell. I will give a brief introduction to some of the general theory of finite volume methods and considerations that affect their accuracy and numerical stability, with illustrations from some of the applications mentioned above.
Sebastien Lenard
INSTAAR, CU, Boulder
How to Route Flow in a Landscape with Landlab? In this clinic, we will use flow routing in models to determine various earth surface processes such as river incision and others. Landlab has several flow routing components that address multiflow-routing, depression-filling and the diversity of grid types. We'll see how to design a landscape evolution model with relatively rapid flow routing execution time on large grids.
Simon Mudd
University of Edinburgh
LSDtopotools In this clinic I will give an overview of lsdtopotools so that, by the end of the session, you will be able to run and visualise topographic analyses using lsdtopotools and lsdviztools. I will show how to start an lsdtopotools session in google colab in under 4 minutes, and will also give a brief overview for more advanced users of how to use our docker container if you want access to local files. I will then use jupyter notebooks to give example analyses including simple data fetching and hillshading, basin selection, simple topographic metrics and channel extraction. Depending on the audience I will show examples of a) channel steepness analysis for applications in tectonic geomorphology b) calculation of inferred erosion rates based on detrital CRN concentrations c) terrace and valley extraction d) channel-hillslope coupling. In addition I will show our simple visualisation scripts that allow you to generate publication-ready images. All you need prior to the session is a google account that allows you to access colab, and an opentopography account so you can obtain an API key. The latter is not required but will make the session more fun as you can use data from anywhere rather than example datasets. If you are not an advanced user please do not read the next sentence, as you don’t need it and it is nerdy compu-jargon that will put you off the session. If you are an advanced user and wish to try the docker container you should install the docker client for your operating system and use the command “docker pull lsdtopotools/lsdtt_pytools_docker” when you have access to a fast internet connection.
John Naliboff
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
Coupling models of lithospheric deformation and surface processes with the Advanced Solver for Problems in Earth's Convection and Tectonics (ASPECT) It is well established that coupling and strong feedbacks may occur between solid Earth deformation and surface processes across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. As both systems on their own encapsulate highly complex and nonlinear processes, fully-coupled simulations require advanced numerical techniques and a flexible platform to explore a multitude of scenarios. Here, we will demonstrate how the Advanced Solver for Problems in Earth's Convection and Tectonics (ASPECT) can be coupled with FastScape to examine feedbacks between lithospheric deformation and landscape evolution. The clinic will cover the fundamental equations being solved, how to design coupled simulations in ASPECT, and examples of coupled continental extension and landscape evolution.
Ethan Pierce
University of Colorado, Boulder
Introduction to Landlab This clinic provides a brief tutorial introduction to the theory and implementation of Landlab for landscape evolution modeling. Topics include grid representation, working with data fields, and using Landlab components to create new integrated models. This clinic is intended for beginners with little to no experience using the Landlab library. Prior experience with Python programming is helpful but not necessary.
Mark Piper
What can CSDMS do for you? A clinic on CSDMS Products and Services The CSDMS Integration Facility develops and maintains a suite of products and services with the goal of supporting research in the Earth and planetary surface processes community. This includes products such as Landlab, the Basic Model Interface, Data Components, the Model Repository, EKT Labs, and ESPIn. Examples of services include the Help Desk, Office Hours, RSEaaS, and the OpenEarthscape JupyterHub.</br></br>One problem, though, is that if the community doesn't know about these products and services, then they don't get used—and, like the Old Gods in Neil Gaiman's "American Gods", they fade into obscurity. Let's break the cycle! Please join us for this clinic where we will present information about all of the products and services offered by CSDMS, and explain how they can help you accelerate your research. The clinic format will consist of a lecture (what are these products and services?), interactive exercises (how do these things work?), and listening (how can CSDMS provide better products and services?). Attendees will leave with knowledge of what CSDMS can do for them, which they can bring back to their home institutions and apply to their research and share with their colleagues.
Matthew Rossi
University of Colorado, Boulder
Integrating Agent-Based Models into Landlab via pyNetLogo Agent-Based Models (ABMs) can provide important insights into the nonlinear dynamics that emerge from the interactions of individual agents. While ABMs are commonly used in the social and ecological sciences, this rules-based modeling approach has not been widely adopted in the Surface Dynamics Modeling community. In this clinic, I will show how to build mixed models that utilize ABMs for some processes (e.g., forest dynamics and soil production) and numerical solutions to partial differential equations for other processes (e.g., hillside sediment transport). Specifically, I will introduce participants to pyNetLogo, a library that enables coupling between NetLogo ABMs and Python-based Landlab components. While active developers in either the NetLogo or Landlab communities will find this clinic useful, experience in both programming languages is not needed.
Rich Signell
Emerging open-source Python-based infrastructure for scalable, data-proximate analysis and visualization of model output This clinic will introduce and demonstrate use of a powerful, flexible approach being used by the Pangeo community for working with large model output which works effectively on a range of computing systems including local machines, HPC facilities and the Cloud. Xarray is used for working with CF-compliant model output, Dask for parallelization, and Holoviz for interactive visualization in the browser. Rechunking data to improve performance for a variety of analysis use cases will also be covered.
Moira Zellner
Northeastern University A participatory modeling platform to reshape how we collaborate for climate and social impact. Participatory modeling (PM) is a collaborative approach to formalize shared representations of a problem and design and test solutions through a joint modeling process. PM is well-suited for addressing complex social and environmental problems like climate change, social and economic injustice, and sustainable resource management. This workshop will introduce and test a prototype version of, a new PM platform developed at Northeastern University. is a simple digital environment that enables groups to collaboratively understand real world problems and create novel solutions. Stakeholders interact through this digital representation with input from other stakeholders, then iteratively revise and test solutions until diverse needs are addressed. provides quick simulation results for data-driven proof of concepts that are ready to be presented, designed, and implemented in the real world, giving everyone in a team the power to share their unique perspective and build the world they want to live in together.

Interested in providing a clinic during the next annual meeting? Contact CSDMS@Colorado.EDU.


Who is registered as of 04/24/2024?

Conference Lodging

The CSDMS-supported hotel block is now sold out! You will now need to make your own reservation and pay for your own lodging (conference hotels where shuttle service will be provided are Boulder Marriott, 2660 Canyon Blvd, Boulder, CO 80302 and Millennium Harvest House Boulder, 1345 28th St, Boulder, CO 80302).

For those that have attended the Earth Surface Processes Institute (ESPIn) the week before the meeting, you will stay at the Millennium Harvest House Boulder, 1345 28th St, Boulder, CO 80302. ‎

Poster guidelines

The poster boards are configured for up to 4' wide by 6' tall (portrait orientation) posters (121 cm wide by 182 cm tall). Anything larger than these dimensions will reduce the space of your colleagues so please be respectfull of these poster dimensions.

NEW: Electronic publications (Epubs)

We're excited to announce that we have a new category of submissions for this year's annual meeting: Electronic publications or Epubs. Epubs are Jupyter notebooks that contain a scientific problem description and some findings that are investigated by numerical algorithms or models, that walks the reader through the science by executing the algorithms or models. The Epubs will be reviewed and can be part of a poster or oral presentation or separately submitted. Draft guidelines on what the notebook should include will soon be finalized but can already be found here.

Travel Scholarships

Applications due by February 10, 2023
This year CSDMS is offering a limited number of travel scholarships for graduate students, post-docs, early career faculty, and faculty from minority-serving institutions to attend the CSDMS annual meeting. A number of these scholarships will be offered for the purpose of increasing participation of underrepresented students. To be eligible, applicants need to meet the following requirements:

  • Attend the whole meeting (May 16-18, 2023) in Boulder, Colorado
  • Submit an abstract for and provide a poster presentation at the meeting (this requirement may be waived under limited conditions, i.e. 1st year graduate student that has not started their research, etc.)
  • Submit a letter of motivation that states why you wish to participate in the meeting and explain how/if your participation would enhance diversity in the field of surface dynamics modeling.

The CSDMS travel scholarships will cover:

  • Registration costs (to be reimbursed after attending the meeting)
  • Travel (for US participants airfare and local transport, for international participants up to $1500 of transportation costs will be reimbursed)
  • Per diem to help reimburse the cost of meals from 16-18 May 2023 not offered in the conference schedule
  • Lodging in the conference hotel for the evenings of May 15th, 16th and 17th.

Please submit your letter of motivation and contact information to by February 10th, 2023. Applicants will be notified of the decision by February 17th.

Transportation to and from Boulder

We encourage all who are able, to take advantage of public transportation or ride-share services between the Denver International Airport and Boulder.

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land, on which we will hold our meeting in Boulder, Colorado, is part of the land within the Traditional Territories of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute peoples. Further, we acknowledge that 48 contemporary tribal nations are historically tied to the lands that make up the state of Colorado. For more information, see the official CU-Boulder Acknowledgement.

Code of Conduct

CSDMS is committed to fostering a professional, respectful, and inclusive environment at the annual meeting, such that all participants can participate to the fullest in a welcoming, respectful, inclusive, and collaborative environment that is free of harassment and discrimination. CSDMS expects all participants and staff to comply with this code of conduct, as outlined at CSDMS code of conduct.

Important dates

  • January 20: Application deadline Syvitski Student Modeler Award 2023
  • February 10: Application deadline travel scholarships
  • April 1: Abstract submission deadline
  • April 1: Meeting registration deadline
  • May 16-18: CSDMS annual meeting
  • May 19: CSDMS Executive committee meeting (by invitation only)
  • May 19: CSDMS Steering committee meeting (by invitation only)

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