This is a somewhat vague question which came up MSRI a few days ago: Suppose I have a family of curves over a one dimensional base, given in a computationally explicit way. For example, maybe I have a family F_t(x,y,z) of homogenous polynomials, whose coefficients are polynomials in t, and which cut out smooth curves for t \neq 0.

Is there an algorithmically practical way to write down the limit of this family in \overline{M}_g?