Rafael Schmitt is a postdoctoral fellow at the Natural Capital project and the Woods Institute for the Environment. Rafael’s research regards modeling and managing water, energy, and ecosystem services provided by the world’s large rivers. As part of the Natural Capital Project, Rafael is currently working on developing models to quantify the role of nature to provide sediment retention and flood and landslide prevention. Rafael also works on strategic hydropower planning to find better trade-offs between dam environmental impacts and economic benefits.
Previously, Rafael was a postdoc at UC Berkeley’s College for Environmental Design, where he worked on quantifying the impacts of basin-scale disturbance on the sediment budget of the Mekong and the potential impacts on the Mekong Delta and the 17 Million livelihoods it supports. Rafael received his Ph.D. in Information Technology from Politecnico di Milano for his dissertation on developing the CASCADE model for network sediment connectivity. He holds a M.Sc. in Environmental Engineering and a B.Sc. in Environmental Science from ETH Zurich.
For his actionable research on strategic hydropower planning, Rafael was awarded the Young Researcher Award of the International Hydropower Association in 2017. He received the Chorafas Price, awarded for engineering research with high potential to solve real-world problems, and the ETH Medal for his M.Sc. thesis on remote-sensing based characterization of rivers.
Rafael commonly presents at scientific conferences, such as the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, and policy relevant meetings, such as the World Water Week. His research has been published in journals such as Nature Sustainability or the Journal of Geophysical Research. Rafael is in continuous dialogue with international actors, such as the World Bank, large NGOs and River Basin organization. Being born and raised in Germany, and after many years in Switzerland and Italy, Rafael currently lives in San Francisco, where he greatly enjoys spending his free time in the California outdoors.