Participating Faculty & Research Components

2017 Cohort

Click each faculty member’s name for more detailed information about their student’s component of the Tempisque project.

Participating Faculty

Principal Investigator: Dr. Rachata Muneepeerakul

Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Phone: 352-392-1864 ext. 227

Expertise: Dr. Muneepeerakul has worked on a variety of topics ranging from biodiversity patterns to analysis of urban economies, and from ecohydrology to modeling coupled natural-human systems. His common research theme is developing simple mathematical models and analytical tools to obtain insights into complex systems. In recent years, a large part of his work has focused on modeling coupled natural-human systems, and it is this line of research and expertise that he will be bringing to this project.

Goals of the Research Component: The goals of my research component in this project are: (1) Development of stylized meaningful models of the Tempisque River watershed system, broadly defined to include biophysical and social aspects; (2) Systematic definition and quantification of the system’s resilience, derived at least partially from the stylized models; and (3) Productive exchange and integration between this type of model and analysis of social, cultural, and legal aspects of the system.

Question 1: How should a watershed be appropriately assessed for its resilience as hidden tradeoffs associated with resilience against different types of disturbances?

Question 2: How might one incorporate certain social, cultural, and legal aspects of the system into a mathematical model?

Methods: To achieve the goals and address the questions above, methods will be drawn from a number of disciplines, namely theories of dynamical systems, stochastic processes, games, and complex networks.

Interdisciplinary Connections: The models to be developed in this component are meant to integrate in a succinct way the interaction between hydrology, ecology, climate, and social dynamics (w/ Muñoz-Carpena, Kiker, Angeline, Waylen, Garcia). These models will also serve as a platform for discussion and analysis of culture, laws, and policies (w/ Johnson and Ankersen). As such, the student tasked with this research component will be interacting with and learning from faculty members and his/her cohort with all of these diverse disciplinary backgrounds.

Dr. Christine Angelini

Assistant Professor, Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment, Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences
Phone: 352-294-7815

Expertise: Dr. Christine Angelini is an experimental ecologist and restoration engineer whose research focuses on elucidating mechanisms that control patterns in biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and resilience. Her research links field experiments, large-scale correlational surveys and simple mechanistic models to identify factors that control community assembly, biogeochemical processes, and ecosystem resistance and recovery from climate stress across temporal and spatial scales. Dr. Angelini works closely with environmental managers, engineers, and conservation agencies to translate her research findings to inform restoration design and management. She leads a vibrant, collaborative, and productive lab groups that works primarily in wetland ecosystems.

Goals of the Wetland Ecology and Restoration Component: Invasive species, land use change, hydrological manipulations, and climate change all play major roles in driving ecological changes in the Palo Verde wetland, with cascading impacts on associated ecosystem functions, resilience and the local economy. The goal of this research effort is therefore to advance understanding of mechanisms driving variation in wetland community change and use this information to direct wetland restoration design. In particular, this work seeks to answer these general questions:

Question 1: What factors have caused some regions of the Palo Verde wetland to be more vulnerable to species invasions, biodiversity loss, and reductions in key ecosystem functions than others?

Question 2: How resilient are plant and animal communities in the wetland to changes in precipitation and watershed discharge, and what are the mechanisms underlying this variation?

Question 3: How should wetland restoration be tailored across regions to facilitate recovery of native vegetation and associated fauna?

Methods: We will use field experiments, directed monitoring and mechanistic models to answer these questions. Our team will work in collaboration with local ecologists and restoration scientists to conduct this work to facilitate information exchange, co-produce science, and enable research findings to be considered in future management decisions.

Interdisciplinary Connections: Biodiversity modeling (w/ Muneepeerakul); land cover-watershed processes (w/ Munoz-Carpena); food web network shifts in response to climate change (w/ Johnson and Waylen).

Dr. Jeffrey C. Johnson

Professor, Department of Anthropology
Phone: 352-392-1020

Expertise: Dr. Jeffrey Johnson is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida, and an Adjunct Professor in the Institute for Software Research at Carnegie Melon University. He was a former Program Manager with the Army Research Office (IPA) where he started the basic science research program in the social sciences. He has been active in research projects concerning various aspects of fisheries management and policy, funded by Sea Grant and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for more than three decades. He has conducted extensive long-term research supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) comparing group dynamics of over-wintering crews at the American South Pole Station with crews at the Polish, Russian, Chinese, and Indian Antarctic Stations, using social network methods to model network evolution as it relates to emergent properties of groups. In addition, he is interested in network models of complex social and biological systems, particularly their coupling, and has been working on application of continuous-time Markov chain and exponential random graph models to the study of trophic dynamics in food webs. Other NSF-supported research involved the development of cultural ecological models among Inupiaq hunters and fishers in the Arctic.

Goals of the Social Science Component: To understand the role of stakeholder’s cultural ecological models in successful management of water resources in the Tempisque River basin.

Question 1: How does variation in stakeholder’s cultural ecological models affect timeliness of water-resource management responses?

Question 2: How does the social network among stakeholder groups impact ability to produce more effective water resource management in the Tempisque River basin?

Methods: We will build mental models of stakeholder’s beliefs and perceptions of the Tempisque River basin ecosystem and of how human behaviors in the basin effect ecosystem responses. These cultural ecological models (CEM) allow for greater understanding of the relationship between stakeholder’s ecological beliefs concerning ecosystem function and processes, and scientific understanding of the ecosystem. An understanding of CEMs will allow for a better understanding of how model consensus across stakeholders effects water-resource management response times, and how correspondence between CEMs and scientific ecological models impacts water-resources management decisions. Also, social-network analytical methods will be used to inform how political capital among stakeholders impacts water-resources management and policy.

Interdisciplinary Connections: CEM as it relates to hydrological processes and climate (w/ Munoz-Carpena, Waylan), CEM variation and decision making (w/ Kiker, Ankersen, Garcia), comparisons of stakeholder’s beliefs of ecosystem function and processes with scientific understandings (w/ Angelini, Munoz-Carpena, Muneepeerakul), stakeholder networks and decision making (w/Garcia).

Dr. Gregory Kiker

Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Phone: 352-392-1864 ext. 291

Expertise: Dr. Kiker has over 25 years of experience with simulation modeling of coupled human-natural systems including household decision-making, savanna ecology, deforestation, crop production and livestock/wildlife dynamics. His current research projects include environmental modeling, agent-based platforms, decision-support systems and practical linkages of risk analysis, adaptive management and multi-criteria decision analysis.

Goals of the Research Component: The goals of Dr. Kiker’s research component in this project are: (1) Develop linked hydrological and human-agent models of the Tempisque system, to explore biophysical and human interactions; (2) Explore how these models express system resilience, emergence, adaptation/pathologies under uncertain inputs and future scenarios; and (3) Work in a transdisciplinary fashion to expand dynamics of culture, belief and policy within this coupled socio-ecological system.

Question 1: What elements/design of agent-based modeling meaningfully express complex interactions within partially functional human/hydrological/ecological systems? What critical elements are missed when utilizing different spacio-temporal scales of agents?

Question 2: How are less easily quantifiable agent properties (culture, belief, ethics) critical to system resilience and emergent properties? Can local/regional/macro policies be designed to promote resilience in these partially effective systems?

Methods: In answering these research questions, simulation methods will be drawn from hydrology, cropping/food systems, computer science, network theory, legal studies, sociology and anthropology.

Interdisciplinary Connections: The java-based, object-oriented models integrate the interaction hydrology, ecology, climate, and social dynamics (w/ all faculty/Fellows). Students will interact with a diverse team to design and simulate agents at several temporal and spatial scales. Emergence and adaptation are critical trans-disciplinary elements that will be explored with our team.

Dr. Rafael Muñoz-Carpena

Professor, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Phone: 352-392-1864 ext. 287

Expertise: Dr. Muñoz-Carpena is an engineer specializing in environmental hydrology, with interest in data analysis and mechanistic computer modeling. Dr. Muñoz-Carpena’s lab has worked in the Tempisque River watershed in NW Costa Rica for the last 5 years, creating a state-of-the-art monitoring network with support from the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) in Palo Verde National Park. This network provides remote (cellular) access to 11 spatially distributed stations with 15-minute readings of 100+ sensors. Details on some of this work can be found in this 2-part blog.

Analysis and modeling tools have been applied to many complex problems where human and natural systems interact to produce unexpected and often critical outcomes. These techniques are applicable to many fields, in particular water-mediated complex systems where human behavioral drivers are often as important as biophysical drivers. Rafael believes true transdisciplinary work among engineers, scientists (social, physical and biological) and practitioners is critical to address many of today’s most pervasive and critical threats to humans and the environment.

Goals of the Environmental Hydrology Component: The overarching goal is to unravel the complex dynamics of a modified coupled human-natural system where water use integrates human and natural dimensions, in order to better guide sustainable water management. In this WIGF multidisciplinary project we will advance towards this goal with analysis of the interplay between biophysical responses and human decisions on water management in the Palo Verde wetland in the Tempisque River watershed. Some tentative research questions to be addressed in this work follow below.

Questions on the Hydrological Sub-system: How does water flow through the system, and how does watershed response affect downstream inflows to the wetland? How will climate change, and what will be its effect on timing, quantity and variability of rainfall, and ultimately on hydrology of the system? What is the short-term dynamic response of the Palo Verde wetland to water availability and management (flooding extent and duration, water depth)?

Questions on the Biological Sub-system: What is the relative importance of effects of external water management decisions (changes in river flow regimes, sedimentation rates and other water quality parameters) vs. local ecosystem management decisions (grazing, fire) in driving vegetative changes of the Palo Verde wetland? What are the various lag times in the natural system after key decisions were made and how do they relate to time lags in human decision-making and management? Are there ecological thresholds that generate alternate steady states?

Methods: We will build on existing modeling tools for systematic analysis of complex environmental problems, including state-of-the-art global sensitivity and uncertainty analysis, hypothesis testing for model goodness-of-fit, exploratory time-series (dynamic factor analysis), inverse modeling, and non-linear dynamics diagnostics for environmental time-series used in mechanistic and numerical model development.

Interdisciplinary Connections: Stochastic/dynamic modeling of environmental pollution effects (Muneepeerakul); mechanism design in water systems (García); wetland restoration and indicators (Angelini); environmental water law and policy (Ankersen); human decision response and cultural ecological models (Johnson); evaluation of ecological models (Kiker); weather/climate and hydrology (Waylen).

Dr. Peter Waylen

Professor, Department of Geography, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Phone: 352-294-7515

Expertise: Dr. Waylen is a hydroclimatologist interested in the nature, spatial distribution and causes of longer-term changes in environmental risk such as floods, drought, and heatwaves. Dr. Waylen has worked extensively on precipitation, climatology and hydrology of much of Latin America, and particularly Costa Rica. Central America represents an intriguing meeting of influences from the Caribbean, Pacific and North America as well as complex interactions between atmosphere, oceans and topography. He has published over 20 articles and chapters in books with colleagues and graduate students specifically on the subject of hydroclimatic variability in the southern isthmus and northern South America. Dr. Waylen also works in the southeastern US, and south and west Africa.

Goals of the Hydroclimatic Research: The Tempisque River basin receives water naturally from its own watershed on the Pacific flank of the Central American cordillera, and by human intervention (via interbasin water transfer) from the Arenal River basin on the Caribbean flank. The two flanks are known to have opposing responses to the same phase of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the major cause of climate variability in the region. The responses are further modified by sea-surface temperatures in the sub-tropical North Atlantic. The goal of this research is to improve our understanding of long-term variability of precipitation inputs to the combined systems, and impacts of land-use change on watershed processes and water available for runoff.

Question 1: What are the nature, timing and spatial extents of the various responses to ENSO across both (Tempisque and Arenal) river basins? In theory the distinct cordilleras (Guanacaste and Tilarán) provide spatial delineation, however there exists a transition zone. Further complexity is added by the presence of a topographic gap in the generally north-south cordilleras running from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. At the latitude of the Tempisque, topography runs orthogonal to dominant seasonal wind direction, and the gap along the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border aligns with the seasonally and regionally important Caribbean Low Level Jet (CLLJ).

Question 2: Given the size and topographic complexity of the study area, current climate-change scenarios cannot adequately represent likely changes in local precipitation. However, having identified more macro-scale indicators of local hydroclimatic variables (such as sea-surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific & sub-tropical North Atlantic, and strength of the CLLJ), can these features be identified in outputs of future scenarios and translated into likely changes in regional hydroclimatology?

Methods: We will use the wealth of historic and current hydroclimatological data from the study area, together with secondary data sources of macro-scale climate indicators, to identify major drivers of climate variability and model their nature and spatial distribution, and their influence across the combined system. Indicators of these drivers will then be identified in regional climate-change scenarios, and probabilistic estimates of important hydroclimatic variables will be made.

Interdisciplinary Connections: Hydrology-hydropower generation and release of water (w/ Muñoz-Carpena, Kiker, Muneepeerakul); land cover-watershed processes (w/ Muñoz-Carpena, Kiker, Muneepeerakul); connections between climate variability and agricultural runoff (w/ Muñoz-Carpena, Kiker, Muneepeerakul, Angelini).

Collaborating Faculty

These faculty are on the project team but are not major advisors to a Fellow

Thomas T. Ankersen, J.D.

Legal Skills Professor & Director, Conservation Clinic & Costa Rica Program, University of Florida Levin College of Law
Phone: 352-273-0835

Expertise: Legal Skills Professor Thomas Ankersen directs the University of Florida Conservation Clinic, the experiential learning arm of the Environmental and Land Use Law Program of the College of Law. He also directs the College’s Costa Rica program entitled “Sustainable Development: Law, Policy & Professional Practice,” now in its 19th year. Ankersen has published extensively on Latin American environmental law and policy, and contributed to law reform projects in the region. In the Tempisque Basin, he and his Costa Rica Program students have investigated international and domestic policy implications of reintroducing cattle as a restoration approach in Palo Verde National Park, a wetland of international significance, and examined trade implications of preferential treatment of sustainably grown rice plantations as a nutrient uptake method under the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Ankersen and his students have also addressed the legal framework for submerged lands and fisheries in the Gulf of Nicoya, where the Tempisque River discharges.

Goals of the Environmental Law and Policy Component: Both international and domestic law and policy contribute to the Tempisque River basin’s current and future socio-ecological status. Informed by best available science and best practices, this legal and policy framework can be adjusted to contribute to sustainable development and socio-ecological resilience of the basin. The goal of this component is to integrate best available science with scenario analyses contributed by the team into concrete proposals for a resilient governance framework in the Tempisque River basin at all relevant jurisdictional scales.

Question 1: How can watershed science be incorporated into an adaptive science-to-policy feedback loop that results in a governance framework for the Tempisque River watershed centered on basin resiliency?

Question 2: How can best-policy practices in watershed management and climate resiliency be contextualized to a water-induced system, and applied in Costa Rica and the Tempisque River basin?

Methods:We will work with the project team to adapt and apply scenario analysis as a tool to integrate science and policy across the disciplinary strengths of the faculty-student Fellow team. We will survey, analyze, contextualize and adapt best practices from other water-subsidized basins to inform policy design and development in the basin. We will utilize stakeholder analysis, key informant interviews and other survey techniques to understand socio-political drivers that influence governance of the basin.

Interdisciplinary Connections: Adaptive governance and resiliency indicators (w/ project team); watershed-scale policy analysis (w/ project team); science-policy integration & scenario analysis (w/project team).

Dr. Alfredo Garcia

Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering, College of Engineering
Phone: 352-294-7708