Fengwei Hung Research Feature: Climate Adaptation and Resilience

My name is Fengwei Hung, and I am a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Notre Dame. My overcharging research goal is to facilitate climate adaptation and enhance the city’s resilience to extreme weather, such as floods and heatwaves. I earned my doctorate in Geography and Environmental Engineering from Johns Hopkins University, concentrating on urban stormwater and green infrastructure. Previously, I explored farmers’ adaptation to climate change impacts on water resources management in the Colorado River Basin and environmental flow allocations in data-limited river basins. In my current work, I investigate water depletion in transboundary aquifers using remote sensing data.

Who you are – What do you call yourself?

I wear many hats in investigating the multiple aspects of water and human interactions. When I study how the water flows, I am a hydrologist looking to improve our understanding of the water system. However, the new knowledge may or may not be readily applied to engineering practices. It requires an engineer to translate the latest science into practical uses. In this case, I am an environmental engineer who bridges the gaps between scientific findings to engineering design and operations. In most situations, an improvement can be achieved simply by changing how we operate and manage resources to increase system efficiency. For example, water scarcity is partly attributed to our wasteful water use. There can be economical, institutional, or perceptional barriers that cause inefficient use of water resources. An example is the “use it or lose it” mentality, which results in a cost externality in groundwater management. The solution lies in the policy design. As a Β policy analyst, I apply mathematical models to design operation policies and management programs that remove barriers to implementation. My dissertation on stormwater management with green infrastructure allows me to play three roles in one problem. Water resources and climate change research are essentially studies of complex and adaptive systems. The solutions to such problems require the integration of science, technology, and management. I am glad to contribute my skills and experience in these exciting fields.

What is your favorite part of research?

My favorite part of research is the brainstorming and idea generation stage. I always feel excited when I have a new problem because it represents an opportunity to improve the environment, society, or both. Water scarcity, flooding, and climate adaptation are not new, but novel technologies and ideas can potentially change the way we live and consume resources. With the help of the internet and computers, technology has advanced at an unprecedented rate; however, environmental improvement remains slow in the race. I see a need to bridge technology development and water and environmental studies. More importantly, we must change our thinking of the natural systems and how we manage them. Various ideas have been proposed to combat climate change and environmental degradation, such as sustainable development and climate resilience. However, the implementation remains challenging due to social inertia and economic realities. Thus, my research is to facilitate a smooth transition to a sustainable future, and I fully enjoy the process of generating innovative solutions for various environmental problems.

What and who inspired you to be a researcher?

It is my curiosity that drives me into research and my aspiration to be a scientist. However, I would not have gone this far without the help of many people. The first person I would like to mention is my doctoral adviser, Dr. Benjamin Hobbs. Whenever I encountered problems and had difficulty coming up with solutions, he would provide feedback by asking questions or sharing his experience to guide me in exploring new directions. He is amazing at asking interesting and important questions that keep you thinking and excited about research. Moreover, he is a great teacher and presenter. He can explain complex ideas with simple and realistic examples. For example, in his energy policy and modeling class, he will show you real-world case studies that can be solved or explained by simple mathematical models. It was a wonderful experience working with him on my doctoral research, and the experience definitely strengthened my determination to be a researcher and educator.

Give us an elevator pitch of your last paper.

When facing uncertainty, should we invest now or later? Is it worth it to invest in learning to reduce uncertainty? Stormwater management practices (SMPs), such as rain gardens and green roofs, can be expansive, and their effectiveness in controlling water pollution at the city scale is highly uncertain due to the heterogeneity in SMP designs, watershed characteristics, and storm patterns. Adaptive management enables cities to implement adaptively and conduct active experimentation to improve planning. This paper proposes a mathematical formulation for managing risks of not achieving management goals, testing various assumptions about learning, and calculating the economic value of adaptive management. The method is applied in Philadelphia, PA, as a case study to demonstrate the calculation.  

* Hung, F., et al. “A Modeling Framework for Assessing the Value of Learning in Dynamic Adaptive Planning Application to Green Infrastructure Investment Evaluation.” Water Resources Research: e2021WR031622.

What is your favorite conference?

AGU, EWRI, and INFORMS are the three conferences I attend regularly. I enjoy AGU the most for its wide breadth of earth science topics and the opportunities to meet new and old friends. At AGU conferences, there are many events for meeting with folks in various fields, but the most rewarding experience is going to the poster sections. Most researchers I met at the poster sessions are friendly and genuinely interested in sharing their research and discussing related research topics. Additionally, I like to meet people attending the same sessions during the coffee break to exchange ideas and contact information which helps me expand my professional network.Β 

What do you do when you are not at your desk working?

When I am not working, I enjoy sports and outdoor activities. I play basketball and ping-pong regularly. Running in parks and trails are part of my weekly routine. During the weekend, I can be found hiking, fishing, camping, and snowboarding in winter.

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