Evolving connectionist systems for adaptive decision support with application in ecological data modelling
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Ecological modelling problems have characteristics both featured in other modelling fields and specific ones, hence, methods developed and tested in other research areas may not be suitable for modelling ecological problems or may perform poorly when used on ecological data. This thesis identifies issues associated with the techniques typically used for solving ecological problems and develops new generic methods for decision support, especially suitable for ecological data modelling, which are characterised by: (1) adaptive learning, (2) knowledge discovery and (3) accurate prediction. These new methods have been successfully applied to challenging real world ecological problems. Despite the fact that the number of possible applications of computational intelligence methods in ecology is vast, this thesis primarily concentrates on two problems: (1) species establishment prediction and (2) environmental monitoring. Our review of recent papers suggests that multi-layer perceptron networks trained using the backpropagation algorithm are most widely used of all artificial neural networks for forecasting pest insect invasions. While the multi-layer perceptron networks are appropriate for modelling complex nonlinear relationships, they have rather limited exploratory capabilities and are difficult to adapt to dynamically changing data. In this thesis an approach that addresses these limitations is proposed. We found that environmental monitoring applications could benefit from having an intelligent taste recognition system possibly embedded in an autonomous robot. Hence, this thesis reviews the current knowledge on taste recognition and proposes a biologically inspired artificial model of taste recognition based on biologically plausible spiking neurons. The model is dynamic and is capable of learning new tastants as they become available. Furthermore, the model builds a knowledge base that can be extracted during or after the learning process in form of IF-THEN fuzzy rules. It also comprises a layer that simulates the influence of taste receptor cells on the activity of their adjacent cells. These features increase the biological relevance of the model compared to other current taste recognition models. The proposed model was implemented in software on a single personal computer and in hardware on an Altera FPGA chip. Both implementations were applied to two real-world taste datasets.In addition, for the first time the applicability of transductive reasoning for forecasting the establishment potential of pest insects into new locations was investigated. For this purpose four types of predictive models, built using inductive and transductive reasoning, were used for predicting the distributions of three pest insects. The models were evaluated in terms of their predictive accuracy and their ability to discover patterns in the modelling data. The results obtained indicate that evolving connectionist systems can be successfully used for building predictive distribution models and environmental monitoring systems. The features available in the proposed dynamic systems, such as on-line learning and knowledge discovery, are needed to improve our knowledge of the species distributions. This work laid down the foundation for a number of interesting future projects in the field of ecological modelling, robotics, pervasive computing and pattern recognition that can be undertaken separately or in sequence.