Stevens Institute of Technology Leads Amazon River System Research Program in Brazil

Stevens Co-Hosts 2013 Pan-American Advanced Studies Institute (PASI) to Advance Knowledge of Worldwide Coastal Ecosystems


Hoboken, N.J. – A group of 65 multinational and multidisciplinary graduate students in ocean engineering, oceanography, ocean modeling, geology, hydrodynamics and related fields – including two from Stevens – advanced scientific knowledge of the environmental conditions of coastal regions during a two-week intensive research and field work program on the coast of Brazil.

The master’s, doctoral and post-doc students, who represented 24 universities in 11 countries, were part of the Pan-American Advanced Studies Institutes (PASI) Program, a research initiative supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) which ran from July 28, 2013 to Aug. 9, 2013. Stevens led the 2013 PASI program in collaboration with 11 partner universities from the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

“The program marked the very first time that a multi-disciplinary group of scientists and students from across the Americas have come together to share ideas on Amazon River-related research and education,” said Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science at Stevens and co-organizer of the 2013 PASI Program. “It represented an extraordinary opportunity to learn about the ocean conditions in the region, which is extremely unique given its location near the equator, and the dramatic influence of the Amazon River.”

Entitled “Toward a Sustained Operational River-to-Shelf Observation & Prediction System for the Amazon,” the program was based out of Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), which is located near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on the Atlantic Ocean coast in one of the largest and most complex coastal regions in the world.

During the program, students attended lectures and workshops about the complex physics and ecosystem of the Amazon fluvial-coast-shelf region, including hydrodynamics and sediment transport, geology and coastal geomorphology, ocean modeling and simulation, the Amazon coastal ecosystem, ocean engineering, and ocean and weather sensor development and operation.

They also collected data and conducted field work along the Brazilian continental shelf, both on board of Alpha Crucis, a fully-equipped research vessel from University of Sao Paulo Oceanographic Institute (IOUSP) and from the land.

“Through the PASI program, I had the fantastic opportunity to study and discuss a broad range of research on the Amazon River, guided by the very scientists who had conducted the research,” said Anna Wargula, a Ph.D. student in physical oceanography at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “Another highlight was working with an international, multidisciplinary crowd of truly passionate students, including geochemists and biologists. The program was a useful exercise not simply in learning about a unique hydrodynamic system, but also valuable practice in communicating and collaborating across scientific disciplines.”

“I learned about the Amazon River system and the coupling of the river and the adjacent shelf, and I found a research avenue that I would really like to explore,” said Erika Meerhof, a Ph.D. student at Universidad de Concepción, Chile. “The field work experience was great, especially the opportunity to work aboard the research vessel, and I also appreciated connecting with researchers and colleagues that work in this area from many countries.”

“I have been studying the Amazon for more than 40 years and still I have a lot to learn,” said Dr. Alberto Figueiredo, UFF professor. “It is a very complex area of enormous driving forces and it is necessary to have a cooperative net of scientists and students in order to better understand the Amazon system. The PASI course was a great opportunity to introduce a variety of questions and ideas to be addressed on future cooperation.”

In addition, the program represented the first step in the development of a comprehensive, real-time observation and forecast system in Brazil. Stevens led the development of one such system, NYHOPS, for the New York Harbor, which was instrumental in forecasting and shaping the response to Hurricane Sandy as well as other extreme weather events. While similar systems are in place in many U.S. coastal regions and the Great Lakes, there is a scarcity of such systems in other parts of the world.

“Brazil and many other countries share U.S. concerns over coastal erosion and storm protection,” said Bruno. “Along with our partner universities, we ultimately hope to establish a sustained program which develops and utilizes an advanced system for Brazil which monitors the ocean and forecasts natural hazards.”

About Stevens Institute of Technology

Stevens Institute of TechnologyThe Innovation University®, is a premier, private research university situated in Hoboken, N.J. overlooking the Manhattan skyline. Founded in 1870, technological innovation has been the hallmark and legacy of Stevens’ education and research programs for more than 140 years. Within the university’s three schools and one college, more than 6,100 undergraduate and graduate students collaborate with more than 350 faculty members in an interdisciplinary, student-centric, entrepreneurial environment to advance the frontiers of science and leverage technology to confront global challenges. Stevens is home to three national research centers of excellence, as well as joint research programs focused on critical industries such as healthcare, energy, finance, defense, STEM education and coastal sustainability. The university is the fastest-rising college in the U.S. News & World Report ranking of the best national universities, and it is consistently ranked among the nation’s elite for return on investment for students, career services programs, and mid-career salaries of alumni. Stevens is in the midst of a 10-year strategic plan, The Future. Ours to Create., designed to further extend the Stevens legacy to create a forward-looking and far-reaching institution with global impact.