Water resource managers to benefit from engineer's German exchange

A civil engineer will return to Windsor in mid-December with a wealth of new expertise that will ultimately help Canadian resource managers better cope with potential water shortages caused by climate change.

Tirupati Bolisetti, an associate professor in civil and environmental engineering, was one of about a dozen faculty members from across the province selected to participate in the Ontario/Baden-Württemberg exchange program. Originally a program for students, it was expanded in 2011 to include faculty members and has Ontario professors hosted by universities throughout the German state of Baden-Württemberg for about three months at a time.

Dr. Bolisetti, whose areas of expertise include watershed modeling and climate change impact assessment, is working with his German hosts at the University of Stuttgart on developing better methods of calibrating computer models used to predict environmental trends which resource managers rely on to make decisions about water usage.

“We’re trying to understand the impacts of climate change, and in doing so, we need to make models that use recent trends to make predictions about the future,” explained Bolisetti, who left for Germany in late August.

“Models are like black boxes,” he added. “They’re very useful tools, but they have to be calibrated and validated for regional geographic conditions and climate variables. We have to make sure that what’s happening on the ground is being reproduced, and that can be a very complex process. And we have to make sure that we’re using efficient methods of calibration so that the models make reliable predictions.”

Bolisetti said he hopes to return to his lab in the Ed Lumley Centre for Engineering Innovation with improved expertise in the field of automated model calibration that can be shared with water resource managers here, eventually to reduce our vulnerability to the fluctuations in water resources brought about by climate change.

“It’s an honour to be selected for the program and an even greater experience to come here, learn about their research philosophy and use their facilities,” he said. “Their facilities are excellent, and they’re all very willing to share their knowledge and expertise.”

The OBW program has been hailed in Canada and in Germany as a “flagship” of academic internationalization, and brings together a consortium of 12 universities in Ontario and all nine research universities in Baden-Württemberg.

“Having one of our researchers selected to participate in this exclusive program speaks volumes about the quality of our faculty here,” said engineering dean Mehrdad Saif. “And I’m certain Dr. Bolisetti will return with a wealth of new information that he’ll be able to share with his colleagues and students.”