Asst. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Thomas Wahl

Current professional background

I currently work at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando, Florida, United States, as an Assistant Professor. I am based at the Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering Department, the National Center for Integrated Coastal Research (UCF Coastal), and I’m also a core member of the Sustainable Coastal Systems Cluster.

Field of research

My research is concentrated on the coast. It is a mixture between coastal engineering and coastal oceanography. We look at many different things which are related to the coast including storm surges, flood risk, and of course sea level rise. Florida is a good place for coastal research, not only because it is the sunshine state and has beautiful beaches, but also because it’s often referred to as ground zero for sea level rise impacts. The long coastline means that many people and assets are exposed to storm surges and flooding. The City of Miami experiences minor flooding up to 50 times per year, and sea level rise will lead to a further increase in flood risk. It’s therefore particularly important for institutions in the state of Florida, and other coastal regions around the world to try to understand how the ocean is changing and how we can adapt to it.

Purpose of your last research visit

In our field of research it is particularly important to establish and to maintain international collaborations because the ocean is something which is shared by all of humanity, and its health ultimately affects us all. Collaboration with my former colleagues in Siegen was a natural fit because we already have a close working relationship and we have previously worked on numerous joint publications together. During my most recent research visit to Siegen I was working together with Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jensen and Dr.-Ing. Arns on developing new techniques to analyse tidal and storm surge data, which we will write about in our next joint paper.

Relation to the University of Siegen and the local host

I grew up in Siegen, and  received my diploma and PhD at the University of Siegen. Over time we built a close working relationship, and I am very happy to be able to continue to cooperate with the growing research group at the Research Institute for Water and Environment. While my research is more focused on the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic, and theirs on the Baltic and North seas, the methods we develop and use are often transferable to different regions across the world.

Future projects and Activities

We were previously able to receive some money from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for students and postdocs from Siegen to come and work with me in Florida. Dr.-Ing. Arns and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jensen were both there for a couple of weeks, and we also had a PhD student, Marius Ulm, complete his Master’s thesis there. We are hoping to receive some more funding to allow some more students from Siegen to conduct coastal research with me in Orlando for a few weeks. We also have many ideas for further joint publications which we have been discussing for the past few weeks.

Impressions of Siegen

I still manage to come back to Siegen every now and again, and I have to say that it has much improved in comparison with previous years. I particularly like what has been done to the river Sieg in the city center, it looks so much nicer than before. This city will always be “home” to me.