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ISWS Seminar | Water Models to Cope with an Uncertain Climate Future | Mike Fienen

Event Type
PRI's 2024 Distinguished Lecture Series
Illinois Room at the Illinois State Water Survey, 2204 Griffith Dr., Champaign, IL 61820-7463
wifi event
Apr 10, 2024   3:00 - 4:30 pm  
Mike Fienen, Research Hydrologist, USGS Upper Midwest Water Science Center, Madison, Wisconsin

The hydrologic cycle is complex. Water moves visibly on the surface, through clouds and precipitation, invisibly as groundwater, and in all compartments is impacted by the climate and human land and water use decisions. Responsible management of water resources depends on the ability to forecast behavior of water in a changing and uncertain future. Simulation models play a key role in this ability. But are we modeling effectively to support such forecasts? What is the future of environmental modeling? The future depends on three key concepts: integration, uncertainty, and decision support. The need for integration has been known for decades as modelers attempt to integrate processes across traditionally separate media such as groundwater and surface water, or water and ecosystems. The rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence also motivates integration of process-based models and data driven models. But models are never a crystal ball---we can never forecast the future with absolute certainty, so techniques to cope with uncertainty are critical to continue developing. And finally, the days of a model being documented in a paper or report and then forgotten about are over. We need techniques to breathe life into models so they can be explored and updated to reflect the ever-evolving state of knowledge and suite of decisions being based on them.

Mike Fienen, Ph.D., is a Research Hydrologist specializing in groundwater modeling, parameter estimation, statistical and probabilistic modeling, and uncertainty analysis at the USGS Upper Midwest Water Science Center in Madison, Wisconsin. A native of Minnesota, Mike earned a B.A. in Geology with a Russian Language minor from Macalester College in 1993. He then embarked on a consulting career where he conducted field investigations throughout the US and the Pacific Ocean and performed groundwater and air dispersion modeling studies. In 2000, Mike enrolled in the Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Hydrology program in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Stanford University, earning an M.S. degree in 2002 and a Ph.D. in 2006. Mike was a National Research Council postdoctoral research associate from 2006–2008 at the USGS in Wisconsin, converting to a Hydrologist position in 2008 and his current Research Hydrologist position in 2011. When not working on modeling projects, Mike can usually be found bicycling, playing music, traveling, cooking, or some combination of those pursuits.

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