PhD Joseph Pollacco
I am a senior vadose zone hydrological scientist, modeller, and software developer with more than 22 years of experience performing research in a variety of international laboratories. I started as a postdoc at the University of New Brunswick in the Faculty of Forestry & Environment in Canada, where I developed a reliable, semi-empirical, porosity-based pedotransfer function, which computes soil moisture at field capacity and permanent wilting point. These pedotransfer functions are still being applied internationally.
I then went to Europe, where I held a contract engineer researcher position at the École Nationale des Travaux Publics de l’État, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat at l’Environnement, France, where I expanded my knowledge by writing a report on Elaboration of a global system to evaluate the transfer of contaminants in stormwater infiltration basin constructed in glacio-fluvial deposits in urban areas.
I then held a position as an assistant research scientist in the prestigious Vadose Zone Research Group at the Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering, Texas A&M University, USA. In this position I derived novel methods for reducing the non-uniqueness of the soil hydraulic parameters inverted from surface soil moisture and evapotranspiration retrieved by remote sensing, employing soil-vegetation-atmosphere transfer models.
I next held a position as a research scientist at the National Taiwan University, Taiwan, where I developed my computer skills by developing novel user-friendly conceptual rainfall-runoff models within a multi-objective framework.
I currently work for a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, where my principal role in the Soils and Landscape team is to synergise soils and hydrology. This has led to the development of Smap-Hydro, a soil hydrological database, which provides 3D hydraulic parameters to a wide range of land surface hydrological models and agricultural models, such as the one used for precision agriculture.
Deriving accurate spatial hydraulic parameters from traditional laboratory methods is expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, in collaboration with the University of Granada in Spain, École National des Travaux Public de l’État (Lyon), and CNRS (Strasbourg) in France, we are developing novel methods to derive hydraulic properties using inexpensive/faster methods computed solely from the principles of soil physics. The hydraulic parameters can now be derived using a wide range of methods, which combine data derived from an automatic infiltrometer, cost-effective particle size distribution, time series observations, and laboratory methods by using the open-source SoilWater-ToolBox scientific software which I developed, and which includes a novel physically based hydrological model, HyPix. The challenge we propose solutions to is to derive unique hydraulic parameters that can be physically interpreted.