Member spotlight: Luana Stefanon, The University of Padova Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering (ICEA)

I am a passionate researcher who has worked at the ICEA Department, the University of Padova (Italy). My research experience is characterized by the use of multiple approaches (i.e., laboratory experiments, mathematical modelling and field surveys) to investigate the interactions between morphodynamics and hydrodynamics in coastal lagoon environments.

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Everglades, Florida.

I have completed my PhD under the supervision of Prof. Luigi D’Alpaos, Dr. Luca Carniello and Prof. Andrea D’Alpaos. My PhD project focused on the study of tidal network ontogeny within a complex physical model, which was designed to reproduce a typical back barrier lagoon subject to tide. In the first phase of the project, I adapted and applied the geomorphological model of Rinaldo et al. (WRR1999) to investigate the main morphological features of my synthetic networks and make a comparison with those of actual tidal networks (Stefanon et al., CSR2010). In the second phase, the successful resemblance of the laboratory-generated networks to the actual counterparts encouraged me to study how the synthetic networks adapt to the changes in relative mean sea level (Stefanon et al., GRL2012). Furthermore, this project allowed me to start a new collaboration with the research team led by Dr. Giovanni Coco (the University of Auckland), who numerically simulated my laboratory experiments using Delft3D (Zhou et al., JGR2014).

During my PhD, I also cultivated my interests in the geomorphology of tidal environments by investigating the morphological evolution of the Venice lagoon in light of anthropogenic interventions and climate change. More in detail, I adapted and applied the 2D finite element hydrodynamic model developed by the ICEA Department to five past morphological configurations of the lagoon, in order to highlight the modifications in the hydrodynamic behaviour induced by anthropic interventions, such as the construction of inlet jetties and the excavation of big navigable channels.

Moreover, I have been involved in several consulting activities regarding applied hydraulics engineering problems in both national and international contexts, which were commissioned by water-related public institutions and industries. These challenging projects gave me the opportunity to apply the theoretical research breakthroughs and instruments developed by the ICEA research team to study and manage real-life social needs, as well as to appraise the interdisciplinary linkages between hydraulics and other sciences. For example, I have investigated the correlations between the changes in the hydrodynamic flow field and the reduction in seagrass epiphyte populations observed at the Venice lagoon inlets after the construction of MO.S.E. structures (i.e., the movable barriers designed to prevent the city of Venice from floods). In this project, I collaborated with Prof. Andrea Defina to set up the 2D hydrodynamic model of the ante and post operam configurations of the inlets, which were then validated by means of data purposely collected in the field.

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Field survey campaign in the Cau Hai lagoon (central Vietnam).

My research experience also includes the use of the combined 1D-2D hydrodynamic model developed by the ICEA Department to analyse the flood propagation in several rivers of the Veneto region (Italy) and the mitigation induced by specific interventions (e.g., bank-side reservoir, new and existing dams), with the purpose of supporting the decision making of local water authorities about flood risk management.

Recently, the desire of strengthening my technical and scientific abilities through multi-cultural experiences brought me to settle in Australia, where I am looking for challenging job opportunities in the fields of coastal geoscience and engineering, with a particular focus on mathematical modelling.