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Dominic Libera

Global Change Fellow Alumnus | Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering | North Carolina State University

Fall 2017 & 2016-2017 Global Change Fellow

Where are they now?

Dominic is a hydrologist at the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Statement of purpose:

I am interested in combining water quality models with climate forecasts for use in water management practices at the basin-wide scale. As a PhD student I am concerned with the roles that hydrological conditions of water bodies play in determining public and environmental risk.  In my future career I wish to focus on the area of research that combines climate and public health to examine how changing water quality translates to potential human health risks and more specifically how toxins and pathogens from runoff interact with fish and animals for human consumption.

Description of research:

My planned PhD research aligns with several themes outlined by the SCSC Science Plan and it also addresses several themes to help push the envelope of the science plan and start exploring new emerging issues and its relevance to climate change. Water quality modeling of total nitrogen in watersheds across the Southeastern United States is the main focus of my PhD research; nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant life and its instream concentrations greatly determines the health of the stream and lakes. Excess nitrogen causes algae blooms which contribute to reducing dissolved oxygen in streams which can cause fish kills. Using climate change to plan ahead and prevent these issues aligns with the ecological research and modeling in Theme 4 of the SCSC plan, studies like mine stress the need for more comprehensive monitoring programs for nutrients that indicate stream health. Bias-correction techniques built for mechanistic models using GCM forecasts is another main focus of my research which aligns with projects in Theme 3 that use climate projections for use in water quality management. Since I am using a mechanistic model that uses land-cover and land use elements I can adapt the current scope of the project for possible use in my third problem to see how land cover affects nutrient fluxes to align with Theme 2 of land use and land-cover change projections. The SCSC has released the Global Change Monitoring Portal which upon completion of this research can include estimations and predictions for nutrient fluxes. Using climate forcings, the mechanistic models coupled with the bias-correction techniques allows testing of how nutrients in basins react to climate change; this in turn provides a framework for building appropriate water quality management strategies that make basins more flexible to the seasonality of streamflow and constituent fluxes.

View a video developed by Dominic describing his research as a Global Change Fellow:

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