Civil and Environmental Engineering associate professor Oceana Francis, with a joint appointment in Sea Grant College Program, is embarking on a groundbreaking research project focused on a region little known to many, and quite different from her Hawaiʻi home: the Arctic. Francis, in conjunction with Ocean and Resources Engineering assistant professor Deniz Gedikli, received a nearly $800,000 National Science Foundation grant to design a mathematical model that will better predict interactions between maritime vessels and the Arctic’s thinning ice.
As a result of climate change and global warming, maritime activity in the region is only anticipated to increase due to new waterways created by melting ice. Francis and Gedikli’s research is expected to provide guidance on how to conduct such activities in a way that is safe and sustainable for both humans and the environment.
Francis is no stranger to the Arctic, having lived there for 16 years, earning degrees from the University of Alaska’s two major campuses as well as working as a licensed civil engineer throughout the State of Alaska on numerous engineering projects. She is a passionate researcher, with specializations including circulation and transport in nearshore regions and oceans; wave hydrodynamics; sea-level rise; and sea ice affecting oceanic processes.
Francis takes a thoughtful and holistic approach to her research, and this project is no exception. “Building trust and forming relationships with industries and communities are vital to doing research. Listen to their needs. Include them from the pre-planning phase through the implementation of the final phase and help them with post-project management. Research should not only enhance academic excellence but provide a tool that industries and communities can use.”
For her, the work is critical and invaluable. “The University of Hawaii at Mānoa is one of the top R1 Universities in the nation. We must protect research at universities, at all costs, so that we can continue new developments that enhance our society and continue creating a vital workforce that enables communities and society.”
Francis currently oversees a team of nine graduate assistants working in various capacities for her research projects and is expected to solicit more student help as this new project ramps up.