News & Events


Thanks for taking interest in what’s happening at WRRC. Check this section often for recent announcements, scholarship opportunities, and other important news.

2020 WRRC Student Awards: Congratulations to Prakit Saingam and Ahmed Afifi
Prakit Saingam, Recipient of the 2020 L. Stephen Lau Scholarship

I am very grateful to receive the 2020 L. Stephen Lau Water Research endowed scholarship. The scholarship will significantly help to support my PhD study at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa dealing with enterococci and the effect on humans, water monitoring, and the management of water quality.

My educational background began in Bangkok, Thailand. I have been fascinated by the diversity of microbes and their useful applications. In college, I majored in biotechnology and benefitted from experiencing the various disciplines of microbiology. For my graduate studies (Master’s and PhD), I chose to pursue environmental microbiology following my inspiration to apply the knowledge of microbiology to help sustain a clean environment and protect the public health. My research interest is the microbiological quality of waters based on direct pathogen detection. I would like to pursue a career as a researcher and contribute to the field of water quality monitoring.


Ahmed Afifi, Recipient of the 2020 Doak and Richard Cox Award

Ahmed Afifi, the first recipient of the prestigious Doak and Richard Cox Award, is conducting research using novel approaches to forecast evapotranspiration and rainfall for the benefit of Hawai’i’s farmers and thereby protecting our precious water resources. The real-time decisions on irrigation scheduling are primarily made based on the agricultural water demand (which strongly depends on evapotranspiration) and rainfall predictions. Hence, accurate forecasting of evapotranspiration and rainfall plays a key role in optimal irrigation scheduling and efficient management of water resources. The benefits of this project are (1) scheduling irrigation to optimize crop water use efficiency, (2) reducing farmers’ cost for water and labor, and (3) increasing net returns by enhancing crop yields and quality.

This summer, Ahmed will receive an MS degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, and will enter the PhD program in Fall 2020. He has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering from the American University in Cairo (AUC) and a master’s degree in environmental law from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law (DU). His passion for water resources emerged while he was an intern with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) focusing on regional water conflicts. His goal is to “further develop water resources forecasting and management plans that would initiate cooperation rather than fuel conflicts.”

Endowment Honors First WRRC Director

Richard H. Cox established the Doak and Richard Cox Award through the Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (UHM). His generous monetary gift funded an endowment in honor of his late brother, Doak C. Cox, who is credited with founding WRRC and appointed its first Director from 1964 to 1970.

The brothers grew up in Kaua’i where their life-long respect for Hawai’i’s ‘āina (the land) was nurtured and encouraged. Their father’s employment as an engineer at Kaua’i’s McBryde Sugar Company inspired their interest in Hawai’i’s water supply and how to preserve and protect the island’s natural resources. They are among an integral group of Hawai’i professionals who understand and have been proactive addressing the water-related needs unique to Hawai’i.

Doak C. Cox earned his Master of Science degree in geology from Harvard University in 1941, and after a World War II interruption, was finally awarded his Ph.D. in 1965. After his years with the US Geological Survey from 1941 to 1945, he returned to Hawaii to work at the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association (HSPA) as a geophysicist from 1946 to 1960 where he focused on water development and research dealing with water and geology.

His association with UHM began in 1960 as a professor of geology. Under his leadership at WRRC, he helped to develop the Center’s long-term goals and research agenda, assembled a multi-disciplined core group of researchers to tackle projects such as the development of monitoring wells in the Pearl Harbor Aquifer, use of radio sounding to explore the islands’ groundwater, and the behavior of pesticides with percolating water.

Among his additional accomplishments during his distinguished career at UHM, Doak was instrumental in creating the Environmental Center (EC) and was appointed its first director from 1970 to 1985. He also established the UH Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics (HIG) and founded the Tsunami Research Program at HIG. He served on many state task forces including as the tsunami advisor for the Hawai’i Civil Defense Division, and as a member of the Hawai’i Commission of Water Resource Management (CWRM) and the State Earthquake Advisory Board. In 2002, he was presented with the prestigious lifetime achievement award from the Hawai’i Academy of Sciences for his contributions to science and education.

Richard H. Cox followed in his father’s engineering profession and received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in civil engineering from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). After working from 1942 to 1946 as the Rocket Range Supervisor at Caltech, Richard returned to Hawai’i where he was employed at McBryde Sugar Company and then Alexander & Baldwin (A&B). He rose to the position of vice president at A&B, with the land department, and retired after 40 years. He was the chair and commissioner for the CWRM from 1987 to 1990, and a member with the Hawai’i professional societies American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

A humble benefactor and a firm believer in education, he has provided many opportunities for young scholars to excel in their chosen fields at Caltech, UHM, and the East-West Center.

Richard is a supportive advocate for the Center’s mission, and has been a part of the external advisory committee for the future of WRRC since Dr. L. Stephen Lau replaced his brother as the director in 1971. With his continued interest in the Center, he has attended many WRRC seminars and workshops, and has proven to be a constant source of support during UHMs reorganization efforts.

The Center is grateful and honored to receive this endowment to carry on the mission Doak began as director-to promote the understanding of critical water resource management and policy issues through science-based research, public education, and community outreach; and Richard’s passion to support our young scientists. With the help of this donation, WRRC will continue to provide seminars and workshops, and opportunities for students, the future leaders in water and environmental research.

Jumpstarting Hawai’i’s Economy-One Cesspool at a Time July 2020


Faced with the economic downturn of the local economy with the coronavirus pandemic, it is imperative that Hawai’i reflects on the past to turn the current situation to our advantage with win-win solutions. We have the opportunity to create and promote jobs that benefit Hawai’i’s water quality and economy on the whole, not just tourism.

One of the solutions to stabilize the economy and create jobs would also protect the public health, environment, and Hawai’i’s waters. We propose to jumpstart the cesspool conversion process by creating 400 shovel-ready projects across the state. The goal is to replace 100 of the worst cesspools in the top priority areas in O’ahu, Maui, Kaua’i, and the island of Hawai’i. This would make an impact towards fulfilling the cesspool conversion mandate to update over 88,000 cesspools in Hawai’i by 2050, and perhaps alleviate future Environmental Protection Agency penalties.

This proposal encompassed months of brainstorming to address urgent needs and long-term goals, with input and expertise from Stuart Coleman (Executive Director and Co-Founder of the non-profit Wastewater Alternatives & Innovations [WAI]), Elizabeth Benyshek (WAI), Roger Babcock (University of Hawai’i at Mānoa [UHM]), Rachel Solemsaas (HCC), Michael Mezzacapo (UHM), and Thomas Giambelluca (UHM). Contributions were also made by Sea Grant College Program (UHM), UH Community Colleges, and the Wastewater Branch of the Hawai’i State Department of Health.

Fire and Rain: The Legacy of Hurricane Lane in Hawai’i
July 2020


Congratulations to WRRC Director Tom Giambellica and colleagues who published “Fire and Rain: The Legacy of Hurricane Lane in Hawai’i

Photo caption: Hurricane Lane brought heavy rain and strong winds that caused severe flooding in Wailuku River, Hawai’i, and wildfires on Maui. (Photo credits: Crystal Richard, top photo [August 2018]; Maui Fire Dept., bottom photo [2018])

View SOEST press release: Join WRRC/Sea Grant Outreach Specialist Michael Mezzacapo for a Voice of the Sea watch party and live Q&A session June 10, 2020 at 12pm HST.

On Wednesday, June 10 at noon you have the opportunity to watch the latest Voice of the Sea episode and chat online with algae, cesspool, and water quality experts from UH and Wastewater Alternatives & Innovations to learn how invasive algae are being used to detect cesspool contamination.

During this fun and interactive YouTube Watch Party and Live Chat, UH Mānoa’s Dr. Celia Smith and Bri Ornelas, Michael Mezzacapo with Hawai’i Sea Grant and the UH Water Resources Research Center, and Stuart Coleman with Wastewater Alternatives and Innovations will be available to answer your questions after the episode. This is great for all ages, so please share the information with your students and colleagues!

Watch the trailer, click here. For more information about the episode, click here. JOIN the watch party by clicking here. WRRC Seminar Series

Spring 2020 Seminar Series has been cancelled due to the COVID-19.

2020 Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to Dr. Sayed Bateni
May 2020

Congratulations to WRRC/CEE faculty member Sayed Bateni! He received the prestigious and distinguished Fulbright award to Qatar. More than 900 U.S. college and university faculty and administrators are awarded Fulbright awards annually.

This award will be applied to his research: Modeling Heat Waves in Qatar by Merging Remotely Sensed and in-situ Hydrologic Data within Machine Learning Approaches. Qatar is one of the fastest warming areas of the world. Over the past three decades, the air temperature increase in Qatar has accelerated. This air temperature rise is partly due to the rapidly warming shallow sea water in the North of Qatar. The high humidity from the sea water in the north prevents evaporation, making the air warming problem even worse, ultimately causing environmental and weather-related fatalities in Qatar. Heat waves also have negative economic impacts such as damaging agricultural products, depletion of water resources, etc. It is evident that the heat waves in Qatar have a significant impact on its health issues, energy consumption, agriculture, tourism, and economy. This study predicts heat waves duration and intensity in Qatar by merging remotely sensed land surface temperature (LST) and meteorological data within machine learning approaches.

Watershed Management
April 2020

Congratulations to Leah Bremer and colleagues who published “Who are We Measuring and Modeling for? Supporting Multilevel Decision-Making in Watershed Management” in the journal Water Resources Research.

Watershed management for a variety of benefits, including sustaining and enhancing clean and ample water supplies, is becoming more common worldwide. To achieve these ends, watershed management programs need the support of hydrologic data and models that are tailored to decision making contexts and user needs. We interviewed a wide range of participants in water management programs in Brazil and found five key areas where modeling and monitoring can support these programs: (1) inspire action and support, (2) inform investment decisions, (3) engage with potential participants, (4) prioritize location and types of activities at regional to national scales, and (5) evaluate program success.

Link to article: Blog about article: Roger Babcock 2020 Recipient of a University of Hawai’i Board of Regents Medal for Excellence in Teaching

Congratulations to WRRC/CEE faculty member Dr. Roger Babcock! He received the distinguished 2020 Board of Regents Medal for Excellence in Teaching from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. He was selected as one of 13 out of nearly 300 campus-wide nominations.

This prestigious award recognizes faculty members for their leadership, subject mastery and scholarship, teaching effectiveness and creativity and personal values that benefit students.


2020 Lau Scholarship Competition – Now Closed

The purpose of the scholarship is to further knowledge of Hawai’i’s natural waters by providing financial assistance that may be used for anything related to costs of attendance or research.

Learn More
Download Application  Parts of Hawai’i Seeing Decrease in Relative Humidity
February 11, 2020 Environmental Impacts of  Megafires
January 2020

WRRC adjunct faculty, Professor Tomo’omi Kumagai is a Biogeoscientist with The University of Tokyo. Recently, he participated in a two-part international NHK production (with Japan and France) on the “megafires” currently threatening the world. Part 1 focuses on the mechanisms of these fires. Part 2 concentrates on the environmental impacts and explores strategies to stop the fires.

As an expert on rainforests, Professor Kumagai was asked to share his views (in Part 2) on the effects of these devastating fires, specifically in the Amazon, which is accelerating global warming and leading to a climate change crisis.

The following is a link to the NHK World-Japan Documentary page, where the videos can be viewed. See videos: Megafires: Engulfing forests and cities, Part 1 (January 24, 2020) and Megafires: Engulfing forests and cities, Part 2 (January 25, 2020).

UH Team Receives Grant to Support Innovations in Irrigation
December 2019

A team at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa has been awarded a $900,000 grant by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through a program that supports the conservation of private lands through funding projects centered in technology and innovation. The Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program awarded a total of $12.5 million in 2019 to 19 different projects addressing areas including water quantity, urban agriculture, pollinator habitat, and accelerating the pace and scale of conservation adoption. The goal of CIG is to foster innovation providing solutions to the most pressing issues facing farmers today, using science to support agricultural conservation and sustainability.

WRRC and Hawai’i Sea Grant announce a special lecture: “Linking nearshore nitrogen chemistry to terrestrial environments using groundwater modeling and invasive seaweeds.” 

Speakers: Celia Smith Ph.D. (Professor, UH Mānoa Botany Department) and Robert Whittier, Environmental Health Specialist with the Hawai’i Department of Health. The lecture will be held on December 3, 2019, from 11:00am-noon in HIG #210.


Congratulations to Dr. Niels Grobbe Winner of the Prestigious “Innovation Award” for Geophysics

Dr. Niels Grobbe was honored as the first place recipient of the “Innovation Award,” presented at the Fifth International Conference on Engineering Geophysics (ICEG 2019, a collaboration with the Society of Exploration Geophysicists [SEG]), held in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, October 21-24, 2019. His contribution entitled ‘Seismoelectric Surface Wave Analysis for Characterization of Formation Properties, Using Dispersive Relative Spectral Amplitudes’ was selected as the winning contribution after a highly competitive evaluation procedure, which included a 4-page extended conference abstract, a white paper, letters of recommendation, a 45 minutes presentation, and a 40 minutes Q&A.

As the first place winner, Dr. Grobbe was awarded $10,000.

Dr. Grobbe is an Assistant Researcher in hydrogeophysics and applied geophysics at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, and holds a joint position with the Water Resources Research Center and the Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology. Dr. Grobbe would like to thank his colleague, Dr. Sjoerd de Ridder from the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, for collaborating with him on this exciting innovation.

Photos can be seen on:
Linkedin: Thomas Giambelluca quoted in Honolulu Star-Advertiser Thomas Giambelluca, director of the University of Hawaii’s Water Resources Research Center, said research shows that temperature in Hawaii has been increasing over the past 100 years, and this year, since about May, temperatures have been extreme, with many records broken. (Friday, October 18, 2019)
download at: Dr. Thomas Giambelluca Joins WRRC as Director

The WRRC ohana is proud to announce the appointment of Dr. Thomas W. Giambelluca as its new Director, effective August 1, 2019. Tom succeeds Interim Director Darren T. Lerner, and together they have worked to make the leadership transition as seamless as possible. Tom has an impressive resume of research and accomplishments dealing with the challenge of global environmental change. With an academic background in geography and experience in a variety of leadership positions (most recently, the Associate Director of Social Science Research Institute) and research topics (such as climate variability, interaction between the atmosphere and land surface, and ecosystems), he is uniquely qualified to lead the Center as it moves forward to expand its research capabilities.

Summer 2019 WRRC Faculty Tenure and Promotions
Congratulations to Dr. Marek Kirs and Dr. Sayed Bateni who have achieved tenure and promotion appointments.
Marek Kirs, promotion to Associate Researcher – WRRC
Sayed Bateni, promotion to Associate Professor – WRRC and College of Engineering Get Hands-on Hydrogeophysical Field Experience on Oʻahu  

This program aims to identify and quantify groundwater flow and its distribution in the old stream valley at Makapu’u on the island of O’ahu. Participants will be trained in a wide variety of multi-geophysical methods, including ambient noise seismics, nodal-based, true 3D electrical resistivity tomography, and self-potential.

The course covers the entire geophysical workflow, including data acquisition planning, data collection in the field, data processing, imaging, and hydrogeological interpretations. Special emphasis is on the integration of hydrogeophysical data and hydrologic modeling – a skill that is transferable to the reservoir scale in exploration geophysics. Participants will become familiar with the challenges and solutions for data acquisition and imaging in basaltic environments.

Varied Dates: June 2-22, 2019
Course Fee: $226
Course Info: Please contact Niels Grobbe:
or call 808-956-5857 for more information. Register Now:
Registration Info: Please contact Alan Hunley,
or call 808-956-3411 for more information.

WRRC is pleased to welcome our newest faculty member, Michael Mezzacapo. He has a joint position with WRRC and the University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant. As a Water Resources Outreach Specialist, Michael will play a critical role serving as a statewide and regional liaison to government organizations, resource managers, NGOs, community groups, and decision-makers to provide state-of-the-art research information, technology and tools. He will also work in partnership with university staff and stakeholders to develop programs to provide education and collaborative outreach to address pressing water resource challenges across the Pacific region.

Previously, Michael was the 2017-2018 Michigan Sea Grant Fellow at the International Joint Commission in Windsor, Ontario (Canada), where he assisted with public health research, science communications, and contributed to technical reports addressing transboundary water quality between the United States and Canada. Michael holds a Bachelor’s degree from Widener University in Health Science and a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from Green Mountain College.

In his spare time, you can find him hiking, gardening, cooking and traveling with his partner Ashley. He is also a licensed helicopter pilot and hopes to complete his glider certification in the future.

Please join us in congratulating Michael on his appointment and welcoming him to our WRRC Ohana!

Congratulations to Dr. Roger Babcock, Water Resources Research Center and Civil and Environmental Engineering professor, who was awarded the prestigious 2019 Engineer of the Year by the Hawaii Society of Professional Engineers. See featured article in Wiliki O Hawaii, February 2019.

Request for Proposals

Full Proposals due Friday, April 26, 2019 on eProjects for the 2020-2022 Grant Program for Hawai’i and American Samoa. REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS ARE NOW CLOSED


WRRC Researcher Sayed Bateni wins $980K USDA grant

Water Resources Research Center’s Dr. Sayed Bateni has received a major award from the US Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Innovation Grants program.