Prof. Bayani Cardenas
(he/him) (CV)
I study the broad topic of flow and transport dynamics of natural hydrologic systems. The scales of my research group’s investigations span from the interstitial space between grains to the entire planet. Our group uses a variety of approaches including conventional hydrologic and water quality monitoring, geophysical surveying, remote sensing, laboratory and field experiments, and mathematical modeling with high-performance computational models and novel theories. I am particularly motivated by fundamental problems crossing disciplines and that require drawing ideas and approaches from different fields.

I moved to the United States from the Philippines to pursue graduate studies and to expand my horizon. As a college student, I loved every facet of the geosciences and my passion for it grew with my deepening appreciation for nature, increasing awareness of environmental issues, and thirst for exploration. For my undergraduate capstone project, I mapped and studied ophiolites and their capping sedimentary sequence in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines. For my master’s thesis, I studied how the hydraulic properties of the streambed of a small creek in rural Nebraska affected surface water-groundwater interactions and streamflow depletion during groundwater extraction. My PhD dissertation primarily used computational simulations to investigate the mechanics of flow and transport through the terrestrial-aquatic interface referred to as hyporheic zones. As a graduate student, I taught introductory geology labs, an upper-level structural geology lab, and highly specialized hydrology classes including assisting with mathematical modeling exercises in graduate classes. I decided to specialize in hydrology because it simultaneously satisfied my curiosity and my yearning to do research that matters directly for people, particularly those with less access to life-sustaining water. I had also gotten enthralled by caves and karst landscapes and watersports near the end of college. Rocks + water + society = hydrogeology. It was a natural choice, and I have not looked back since.

My wife and I started raising a family early. Our son was born right after we finished our MS studies (two weeks after my wife defended her thesis). Five years later as a newly minted PhD and professor, our daughter was born. Time outside of work is mostly spent with the family. Whenever I can, I try to enjoy the rolling hills of Austin on my road or mountain bike or on hikes. I also give my mind a break from science and work through cooking. I have picked up scuba diving again and started applying my underwater skills in the study of coastal groundwater discharge and its connections with coastal ecology and biogeochemistry.

My goal is to train and uplift future leaders in hydrology and to answer the many open basic and applied scientific questions as long and as much as I can. Members of our team strive to push their personal boundaries and of hydrologic knowledge.

PhD Students

Cansu Demir

BS Environmental Engineering, Middle East Technical University
MS Environmental Engineering, Middle East Technical UniversityBesides its great importance for human use, groundwater is a crucial element of the Earth being a carrier of heat and dissolved matter and helping sustain and shape ecosystems. My broad research interest is groundwater-surface water interactions. Currently, my focus is on flow and transport in coastal regions where fresh groundwater meets with saline ocean water. I am investigating groundwater dynamics in coastal continuous permafrost in the Arctic where we expect substantial complexity in physical processes due to ice formation/melting, ice re-distribution, variable oceanic forces, and the unique coastal landscape. I use field methods, statistical tools, geo-information techniques, and modeling in my studies. My research interests converge on questions about groundwater-surface water interactions, nutrient cycling, and contaminant fate and transport across the land-ocean continuum. See Cansu’s website

Tyson McKinney

BS Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin
BS Geology, The University of Texas at Austin
MS Earth Science, University of California-Santa BarbaraAs the effects of climate change and the growth of the human population become more pronounced, so too will the importance of water resources. That, in a nutshell, is the driving force behind my pursuit of a Ph.D. in Hydrology. While I have an educational and research background in mechanical engineering and “hard rock” geology, my current focus is on better understanding groundwater flow and interactions between surface water and groundwater. Specifically, this past year I have been working on a model-based approach for estimating flood pulse-induced aerobic respiration in the hyporheic zones of river banks. I have had a somewhat meandering journey to this point, with stops in oil and gas regulation and high school teaching along the way. In my spare time I am an avid camper and backpacker and enjoy hiking, riding my bike and playing sports. See Tyson’s website

Neelarun Mukherjee

MS Exploration Geophysics, Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur

Water hidden beneath the Earth’s surface comprises around 31% of the planet’s freshwater.  My primary research interest lies in modeling transport and flows in the subsurface. My goal is to address the growing drinking water crisis due to groundwater contamination around the world by developing robust models to explain complex transport phenomena in the subsurface, primarily in the vadose and the critical zones considering the effects of increasing human interference is one of my broad research interests. I am currently focused on the complex transport processes that take place in the thawing Arctic permafrost due to global warming and how they affect the overall water cycle in the Arctic region. Not only is this important for the water cycle, the Arctic permafrost stores a huge amount of greenhouse gases like CH4, CO2, NOx which will get released as the Earth warms up and thus, will affect the global climate. I am interested in computational modeling and understanding the complex subsurface transport physics taking place in the dynamic Arctic subsurface. Other than research, I  am interested in street photography and Formula1. See Neelarun’s website

William Nguyen

BS Geology, University of Maryland, College Park

My research interests converge on questions about groundwater-surface water interactions, nutrient cycling, and contaminant fate and transport across the land-ocean continuum. I am currently developing reactive flow and transport models on the formation of iron-oxide and permeable natural reactive barriers (PNRB) and their dynamic interactions with arsenic and other bioreactive elements along the Meghna River in Bangladesh. The insight from these simulations will help in the protection and management of drinking water supplies in the region and in other similar places. See Will’s website

Cameron deFabry

BS Geophysics University of Nevada, Reno
MS Geophysics, The University of Texas at Austin

I am interested in near surface geophysics and its application to water and engineering problems of all kinds. For engineers to make intelligent decisions on problems such as water use or dam construction, precise and accurate models of the subsurface must be created. Currently I’m working on the application of machine learning techniques to geophysical imaging problems in an attempt to create models with higher signal to noise ratios. Additionally, I’m working on mapping a water table with a ground penetrating radar so as to create flow models with dense and precise measurements thereby improving upon previous models created by interpolating water depth measurements from nearby observation wells.

Yue Wu

BS Earth System Science, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Sophy is currently working toward a Ph.D. degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Since 2017, she has been a Research Assistant with the radar interferometry group led by Prof. Ann Chen. Her current research interests include monitoring hydrological characteristics in permafrost regions using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) data. See Yue’s LinkedIn website

MS Students

Aya Bangun

Ebony Williams

BS Geology/Earth Science, James Madison University

After spending some time using remote sensing techniques to provide research that helped local and federal governments make decisions regarding hydrologic environmental issues, I knew I wanted to pursue a Master’s in Hydrology. I am currently interested in applying remote sensing techniques to study groundwater flow and contaminant transport processes. Aside from research I find all things space related really cool, so I enjoy watching documentaries or reading books about black holes, exoplanets, star formation, etc. I am a “foodie” so venturing out to new restaurants or food trucks is a joy of mine. See Ebony’s LinkedIn website

Undergraduate Honors Students and Researchers

David Keith

Austin Luu

BS Environmental Science (emphasis in Geology and Hydrology)

Throughout my life, science and math have always been my strong suit, and going into university I have a greater appreciation towards the environment and the problems that are affecting it. Now that I am older and near the end of my college journey, I can see the importance that water has on humans and the environment alike from changing underground water/soil systems to clean water scarcity. I am currently working on studying flood water conditions of Waller Creek (Austin TX) through the use and deployment of YSI Exo3 and pCO2 sensors over the course of floods that occur this spring and summer. I hope to help understand the factors that floods affect the most and then use that information in other river or creek systems. In my free time, I like to skateboard, play online video games, play tennis, and work out!

Amber Nguyen

BS Geosystems Engineering and Hydrogeology

Ever since I was little, I loved the environment and outdoors. Now understanding the importance of water on our lives and planet, I decided I wanted to investigate a field related to water systems. With what I learn in my studies, I strive to help mitigate arising environmental issues. Currently, I am researching the connection between submarine groundwater discharge, coral reefs and volcanic activity through analysis of spatial data. In my free time, I enjoy skateboarding, indoor gardening, art and making music.

Jacob Mehr

BE Petroleum Engineering

As the environmental impacts of the oil and gas industry become more severe, an increased efficiency of well sites is needed to reduce the number of wells scattered across a reservoir. Because of this, I am currently pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering at UT with a focus in reservoir engineering and big data analytics. With this I plan to create more efficient and accurate models of reservoirs which involves a deep understanding of the surrounding groundwater. Being an undergraduate at UT as well as a technical scuba diver, I have been able to assist Dr. Cardenas and his research team in their water quality monitoring of the lower Colorado River. These research dives allow me to gain immense field work experience with our local hydrology and increase my knowledge of the surrounding groundwater and geology. For fun I enjoy exploring and photographing the underwater world preferably in flooded karst environments or our local Texas lakes. See Jacob’s LinkedIn Profile

Former PhD Students, Post-doctoral Fellows, and Visiting Fellows

Parenthetical statements indicate position after UT or last known position

  • Anna Turetcaia , PhD Geological Sciences, 2022
  • Stephen Ferencz , PhD Geological Sciences, 2020 (Postdoctoral Fellow, Sandia National Laboratory)
  • Mike O’Connor, PhD Geological Sciences, 2019 (Geological Soc. of America Congressional Science Fellow)
  • Matthew Kaufman, PhD Geological Sciences, 2018 (Linus Pauling Postdoctoral Fellow, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)
  • Eric Guiltinan, PhD Geological Sciences, 2018 (Postdoctoral Fellow, Los Alamos National Laboratory)
  • Lizhi Zheng,  PhD Geological Sciences, 2017 (Asssociate Professor, Tianjin Normal University)
  • Lichun Wang, PhD Geological Sciences, 2015, Postdoc, 2015-2018 (Associate Professor, Tianjin University)
  • Kevin Befus,  PhD Geological Sciences, 2015 (Assistant Professor, University of Arkansas)
  • Peter Zamora, PhD Geological Sciences, 2015 (Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina- Wilmington)
  • Kuldeep Singh (Chaudhary),  PhD Geological Sciences, 2013 (Assistant Professor, Kent State University)
  • Audrey Sawyer, PhD Geological Sciences, 2011 (Assistant Professor,  Ohio State University)

Visitors and post-doctoral fellows

  • Fu Liao, visiting PhD student and CSC Scholar from China Univ. of Geosciences-Beijing, 2019-20 (Lecturer, China Univ. of Geosciences-Beijing)
  • Anzy Lee, visiting PhD student from Purdue University, 2018-19 (Postdoctoral Fellow, Utah State University)
  • Jiaqing Zhou, visiting PhD from Wuhan University, 2016-17 (Associate Professor,  China Univ. of Geosciences-Wuhan)
  • Wen Deng, Postdoc, 2010-14 (Assistant Professor, Missouri University of Science and Technology)
  • Xiaobing Chen, visiting Postdoc (2014) and then visiting professor (2019) from Hohai University (Associate Professor, Hohai University)

Former MS/MA Students

Parentheses show immediate position after UT or last known position

  • Micaela Pedrazas, MS Geological Sciences, 2020 (LRE Water)
  • Jeffery Watson, MS Geological Sciences, 2016 (Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District)
  • Raquel Flinker, MS Geological Sciences, 2014 (Schlumberger, Brazil)
  • Alyse Briody, MS Geological Sciences, 2014 (USGS New Mexico)
  • Mike Kanarek, MS Geological Sciences, 2013 (Intera)
  • F. Alexander Norman, MS Geological Sciences, 2013
  • John Nowinski, MS Geological Sciences, 2010 (Pastor, Behling, & Wheeler)
  • Travis Swanson, MS Geological Sciences, 2010 (PhD student at UT)
  • Blair Stanley, MS Geological Sciences, 2009 (BP, Houston)
  • Wai Sum Chan, MA Science and Math Education, 2011 (high school teacher)
  • Meredith Mackey, MA Science and Math Education, 2008 (middle school teacher)
  • Ashleigh Barber-Bomar, MA Science and Math Education, 2008 (high school teacher)

Former Undergraduate Students and REU/RET Fellows

Parentheses show immediate position after UT or last known position

  • Morgan Teel, BS Chemistry and BS Physics, 2022
  • Christian Roumelis, BS Geological Sciences, 2020 (grad school, Ohio State University)
  • Sebastian Muñoz, BS Geological Sciences, 2018 (grad school, Brown University)
  • Kindra Nicholaides, BS Geological Sciences, 2018 (Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio)
  • Lauryn Martinez, REU student, 2017, University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez
  • Aimee Ford, BS Geological Sciences, 2015 (law school, University of Michigan)
  • Hannah Leiberg, REU student, BS Environmental Engineering (University of Maryland-Baltimore County), 2013 (grad school, University of Nevada-Reno)
  • Julianne Wooten, BS Geological Sciences, 2012
  • Ben Bass, BS Geological Sciences, 2011 (grad school, Rice University)
  • Michael Markowski, BS Geological Sciences, 2010 (City of Austin)
  • Anne Dunckel, BS Geological Sciences, 2010 (grad school, University of Virginia; StreamWatch)
  • Nancy Pattyn, RET fellow, 2010, Anderson High School
  • Laura Merner, REU student, BS Geography (Clark Univ), 2008 (grad school, University of Maryland-Baltimore County)

Celebrating Diversity and Promoting Inclusivity

Knowledge and science recognize no boundaries. Researchers and educators gain tremendously by learning from each other and by appreciating different perspectives. Diverse communities are resilient, more creative, promote growth and awareness, and provide equal opportunities to all. They are good for science, good for the environment, and even better for people. Our group therefore strives to be inclusive and to eliminate discrimination. Present and past group members and visitors are represented by the flags below.



What is in a name and who is the person behind it?