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California Institute of Technology


Colorful radar image of the Mississippi Delta

Science Team

The Delta-X team is an interdisciplinary one, including ecologists, radar scientists, hydrologists, geomorphologists, and more.

Marc Simard in the field

Marc Simard (Principal Investigator / PI)
Principal Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Website  |  Google Scholar  |  ResearchGate

Marc studies how vegetation structure varies and interacts with environmental (e.g. climate) and geophysical (e.g. rivers) variables. He is a member of the SWOT Science Team, planned for launch in 2022. The mission will revolutionize our understanding of hydrological and ecological processes in coastal regions.

Hobbies: playing hockey (on ice of course), salsa dancing, building wood sheds, traveling, hiking, organizing events

Headshot of Cathleen Jones

Cathleen Jones (Deputy PI)
Radar Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

Cathleen’s research focuses on applying radar remote sensing to identifying and understanding hazards that have significant social impact. In particular, she studies subsidence in deltas, a major cause of land loss. She loves Delta-X because it focuses on how to rebuild land to save the world’s deltas. Cathleen is the Applications Team Lead for the NISAR Science Team. She has a Ph.D. in Physics from the California Institute of Technology.

Hobbies: hiking, reading, quilting

Yang smiles in the center with rock formations in the distance behind her

Yang Zheng (Investigation Manager)
Signal Analysis Engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

Yang has supported scientists using airborne radar data in various roles, including UAVSAR processing lead and science coordinator, since 2009. She enjoys going on deployments and seeing the unique contributions of airborne data in understanding Earth processes. She obtained both B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Hobbies: traveling, music, anime, badminton

Sarah Flores kneeling next to her street painting of Mae Jemison's face

Sarah Flores (Data Manager)
Software Engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Art Gallery  |  Instagram

Sarah's work revolves around web development for various airborne Earth Science missions, including UAVSAR. With a background in coding and the arts, she enjoys building websites and web applications from the ground up, for scientists and the general public. Sarah has a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine.

Hobbies: street painting, weightlifting, hiking, movies

Delta Ecology: Biogeochemistry, Productivity, & Soil Accretion Co-Is

Headshot of Robert Twilley

Robert Twilley
Professor, Oceanography and Coastal Science, Louisiana State University (LSU)
Executive Director, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program
Website  |  ResearchGate

Robert has Ph.D. in systems ecology from the University of Florida. Post doc studies at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences (Horn Point Laboratory). His research focus includes mangrove systems ecology and coastal deltaic floodplains. He has been involved with developing the coastal design studio at LSU to build the concept of ‘ecosystem design.’

Hobbies: biking, boating, and spoiling grandkids

Edward Castaneda in the field

Edward Castañeda
Research Assistant Professor, Southeast Environmental Research Center, Institute of Water & Environment, Florida International University (FIU)
Website  |  FIU Institute

Edward has a Ph.D. in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His research focuses on nutrient biogeochemistry and ecosystem dynamics of coastal wetlands. Edward studies the effect of large-scale natural (hurricanes) and human (freshwater diversions) disturbances on carbon and nutrient dynamics and vegetation succession to understand trajectories of ecosystem structure and function.

Hobbies: running, playing soccer

Remote Sensing of Surface Currents Co-Investigators (Co-Is)

Tamlin Pavelsky canoeing on a lake

Tamlin Pavelsky
Associate Professor, Geological Sciences, UNC Chapel Hill
Website  |  Google Scholar

Tamlin has a B.A. from Middlebury College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from UCLA, all in Geography. He grew up in cabins outside of Fairbanks, Alaska with no electricity, running water, or phone. He studies large-scale patterns of surface water and snow using a combination of remote sensing, modeling, and fieldwork. Much of his work has focused on Arctic and boreal regions.

Hobbies: backpacking/canoeing/skiing, lindy hop dancing, baking

Ernesto Rodriguez in the field

Ernesto Rodríguez
Fellow, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Google Scholar  |  ResearchGate

Ernesto has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the Georgia Institute of Technology. At JPL, he has concentrated on remote sensing science using various radar techniques whose development he has led. He publishes in a variety of fields, from physics and remote sensing to oceanography and hydrology.

Sediment Transport in Deltas Co-Is

Liviu Giosan sitting at a computer desk

Liviu Giosan
Geoscientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)
Website  |  Google Scholar

Liviu studies human-climate-landscape interactions focusing on coasts and continental margins. Contributions: new type of river delta, fundamental sediment deficit for deltas, catastrophic effects of historic deforestation on coasts, hydroclimate as driver of ancient civilizations’ fate, and long term flood history of Mississippi River.

Hobbies: classical music, books, nature

Headshot of Michael Lamb wearing sunglasses

Michael Lamb
Professor of Geology, California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Michael Lamb graduated from the University of Minnesota with B.S. degrees in Geology and Geophysics. Lamb received a M.S. in Oceanography from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. He studies the dynamics of landscapes on Earth and other planets through the mechanics of erosion, transport and deposition of sediment. Active research includes the initiation of debris flows, the response of river deltas to sea-level rise, and ancient rivers on Mars. Lamb was awarded the Luna B. Leopold Award and the James B. Macelwane Medal by the American Geophysical Union.

Hobbies: overlanding, skiing, biking, gardening

Hydrology Modelling Co-Is

Headshot of Sergio Fagherazzi

Sergio Fagherazzi
Professor, Boston University (BU)
Website  |  ResearchGate

Sergio has a Ph.D. in Hydrodynamics from the University of Padua, Italy. His research focuses on coastal wetlands, trying to determine their fate in a period of accelerated sea level rise. He loves both modeling and fieldwork expeditions. During the years he was fortunate to work in wetlands in Virginia, Massachusetts, Florida, Louisiana, Washington State, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, and in Venice, Italy, where he grew up.

Hobbies: collecting antiques, visiting art museums

Headshot of Paola Passalacqua

Paola Passalacqua
Associate Professor, Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, University of Texas at Austin (UT)
Website  |  Instagram

Paola graduated summa cum laude from the University of Genoa, Italy, with a B.S. (2002) in Environmental Engineering, and received a M.S. (2005) and a Ph.D. (2009) in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include network analysis and dynamics of hydrologic and environmental transport on river networks and deltaic systems, lidar and satellite imagery analysis, multi-scale analysis of hydrological processes, and quantitative analysis and modeling of landscape forming processes.

Hobbies: messing up the kitchen, hiking obnoxious distances, swimming and running in a million degrees

Imaging Spectroscopy: Sediment & Carbon Transport Co-Is

Headshot of Cedric Fichot

Cédric Fichot
Assistant Professor, Boston University (BU)
Website  |  ResearchGate

Cédric is a marine scientist interested in the vulnerability of coastal biogeochemistry, water quality, and geomorphology to environmental change. His research is interdisciplinary and combines elements of aquatic optics, remote sensing, organic geochemistry and photochemistry into models that quantify regional and global changes in coastal biogeochemical processes and water quality, and aim to identify the underlying mechanisms driving observations of environmental change.

Hobbies: hiking, rowing, traveling, cooking

Headshot of David R. Thompson

David R. Thompson
Principal Research Technologist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Website  |  Google Scholar  |  ResearchGate

David is a Technical Group Lead in the Imaging Spectroscopy group at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He is Science Lead for NASA’s EMIT mission, and Investigation Scientist for the AVIRIS imaging spectrometers. His research focuses on data science and algorithmic aspects of remote imaging spectroscopy. He is recipient of the NASA Early Career Achievement Medal and the JPL Lew Allen Award.

Other Team Members

Headshot of John smiling

John Chapman
JPL Technologist
Discipline: Remote sensing algorithm development

Alexandra piloting a boat in the delta

Alexandra Christensen
NASA Postdoc
Advisor: Marc Simard
Discipline: Wetland hydrology & ecology

Headshot of Luca smiling

Luca Cortese
BU Ph.D. Student
Advisor: Sergio Fagherazzi
Discipline: Geomorphology

Julianne stands smiling in front of a tiny waterfall

Julianne Davis
UNC Chapel Hill Ph.D. Student
Advisor: Tamlin Pavelsky
Discipline: Remote sensing & sediment transport

Michael holds an anemometer instrument on a boat

Michael Denbina
JPL Signal Analysis Engineer
Discipline: Radar remote sensing

Wayana Dolan holding a large fish

Wayana Dolan
UNC Chapel Hill Ph.D. Student
Advisor: Tamlin Pavelsky
Discipline: Remote sensing & hydrology

Headshot of Carmine with a plain gray background

Carmine Donatelli
UT Austin & BU Postdoc
Advisor: Paola Passalacqua, Sergio Fagherazzi
Discipline: Coastal hydrodynamics & geomorphology

Bushra takes a selfie, wearing a wide-brimmed hat

Bushra Monowar Duti
UT Austin Ph.D. Student
Advisor: Paola Passalacqua
Discipline: Environmental & water resources engineering

Andy Fontenot in front of water and boats

Andy Fontenot
LSU Graduate Student
Advisor: Robert Twilley
Discipline: Coastal & ecological engineering

Headshot of Josh Harringmeyer on a boat

Josh Harringmeyer
BU Ph.D. Student
Advisor: Cédric Fichot
Discipline: Aquatic optics

Headshot of Daniel Jensen

Daniel Jensen
NASA Postdoc
Advisor: Marc Simard & David Thompson
Discipline: Geography

Ted Langhorst rowing a boat in a body of water

Ted Langhorst
UNC Ph.D. Student
Advisor: Tamlin Pavelsky
Discipline: Remote sensing & fluvial geomophology

John smiles with mouth open looking into the distance, with water and a mountain behind him

John Mallard
UNC Postdoc
Advisor: Tamlin Pavelsky
Discipline: Hydrology and remote sensing

Headshot of Justin Nghiem on a boat

Justin Nghiem
Caltech Graduate Student
Advisor: Michael Lamb
Discipline: Geomorphology

Talib Oliver Cabrera in front of the Bank of Argentina building

Talib Oliver Cabrera
JPL Postdoc
Advisor: Cathleen Jones
Discipline: Radar applications, focused on InSAR

Selfie of Eric smiling

Eric W. Prokocki
Assistant Professor of Marine and Environmental Geology
Department of Geosciences, Florida Atlantic University
Discipline: River-tidal morphodynamics & process sedimentology

Headshot of Andre Rovai with water in the background

Andre Rovai
Assistant Research Scientist
Advisor: Robert Twilley
Discipline: Coastal wetlands ecology

Headshot of Gerard Salter

Gerard Salter
Caltech Postdoc
Advisor: Michael Lamb
Discipline: Geomorphology

Headshot of Danielle Soileau

Danielle Soileau
LSU Research Assistant
Advisor: Robert Twilley
Discipline: Coastal wetlands ecology

Elena Solohin stands in front of a dock on a sunny day with boats behind her

Elena Solohin
FIU Postdoc
Advisor: Edward Castañeda
Discipline: Coastal wetlands ecology

Dongchen stares into the camera with a city in the background

Dongchen Wang
Caltech Postdoc
Advisor: Michael Lamb
Discipline: Civil & environmental engineering

Headshot of Matt Weiser with a city skyline in the background

Matt Weiser
BU Ph.D. Student
Advisor: Cédric Fichot
Discipline: Aquatic biogeochemistry

Brandon Wolff stands smiling in front of a forested area

Brandon Wolff
LSU Research Associate
Supervisor: Robert Twilley
Discipline: Applied coastal environmental science

Headshot of Kyle Wright with water in the background

Kyle Wright
UT Austin Ph.D. Student
Advisor: Paola Passalacqua
Discipline: Environmental & water resources engineering

Headshot of Xiaohe Zhange in an office

Xiaohe Zhang
BU Postdoc
Advisor: Sergio Fagherazzi
Discipline: Sediment transport & geomorphology