Dr. Rafael Muñoz-Carpena

Surface, Vadose Zone, Groundwater Hydrology, Environmental Modeling

Fellow, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers

Rafael Muñoz-Carpena is what you might call one of the new hydrologists. In addition to traditional hydrology, studying how water moves through the environment, he incorporates ecological factors, such as the impact of water use on plants, animals, and the local environment, and uses computer modeling to quantify effects and create mathematically based management tools.

Management of Florida's water resources requires what Muñoz-Carpena describes as a "systems approach," which takes into account all the relevant factors when considering land and water use issues, rather than looking at development in isolation. Impacts of hydrological changes by humans can be measured in the environment. Each natural area of Florida -- wetlands, prairies, dune communities, rivers, etc. -- can be characterized by valuable ecosystem components or VEC. In each one of these natural habitats, there are specific indicator species that can tell us how healthy the habitat is. Among the VECs for a specific habitat, there could be an insect, a bird, a plant, or some other species. By observing the changes in the populations of these creatures, positive and negative impacts can be assessed.

In discussing water resources, Muñoz-Carpena refers to the gap between what we think we have and what we really have. In Florida, water seems to be everywhere, but that water is part of a natural system that is at risk in many areas of the state because of intense development. Muñoz-Carpena cites the "preference for local sources" directive from state government as one hopeful sign that Florida will take positive steps toward sustainable development by insisting that development can only proceed when the water resources to support that development are locally available. This can prevent decisions from being made that have local benefits at the cost of distant environments.

As part of his work, Muñoz-Carpena conducts formal analyses of the variability or uncertainty in his mathematical models. This can involve using high performance computers to run the models many thousands of times. For his own work and that of his many students, Muñoz-Carpena insists on a strong scientific basis and an attitude of scientific inquiry. He stresses that he is not a scientist whose focus is how nature works; he is an engineer who wants to know what we can do with the knowledge the scientist reveals.

Research

Teaching

  • ABE3212C: Land and Water Resources Engineering
  • ABE6254: Simulation of Ag Watershed Systems
  • ABE6265: Vadose Zone Water & Solute Transport Modeling

Rafael Muñoz-Carpena - Professor