Research Interests

Dr. Piasecki's area of research has been on engineering informatics and its application to GeoSciences in particular Hydrology, i.e. HydroInformatics. His interest is in the development of technologies that aid in resolving syntactic and semantic heterogeneities among disparate data sources, a pervasive hurdle and strong impediment when trying to discover scientific data. More specifically he seeks to deploy web technologies such as the use of Ontological Representations of knowledge in addition to standards for metadata and SOA to solve these heterogeneity problems.

A recent addition to his research interests focuses on data mangement for large sensor networks where he is involved in the Trans-African HydroMeteorological Observatory (TAHMO) initiaitve as well as work he is carrying out in the Dominican Republic and Haiti where he also has deployed sensor networks. The development of low cost hydro met sensors and their deployability in large networks with easy-to-use application coupled to a ready made data management is a current focus area.

He also has an interest in the area of Water Resources and the development of Sustainable and Resilient Solutions for its development and restoring ecosystem services. He has been focusing his work on anthropogenic effects such as deforestation in the Caribbean and resulting reduced ececosystem services. He is not only interested in researching the impacts of reforestation on the hydrological cycle but also the connectedness to other dimensions such as economics for rural populations. A related interest is the Sustainable construction of Water Infrastructure (water supply, sanitation, and rainfall/runoff) in developing countries both in non-disaster and post-disaster circumstances using participatory processes.



Current and Past Research Projects

title III Medium: Collaboratiove Research: Algorithms and Cyberinfrastrucutre for High-Precision Automated Quality Control of Hydro-Meteo Sensor Networks

NSF CSE Directorate, Div of Info and Intelli. Systems

role PI M. Piasecki, Co-PI T. Diettrich (Oregon State)
period Sept 01 2015 - August 30 2017
funding $363,470 total: $1,000,000

Advances in sensor technology are greatly expanding the range of quantities that can be measured while simultaneously reducing the cost. However, deployed sensors drift out of calibration and fail, so every sensor network requires quality control (QC) procedures to promptly detect these failures. Existing QC methods rely on human experts to carefully examine the data, which means that when the number of sensors in a network doubles, the number of experts must double too. This project will develop algorithms and software to increase the level of automation in sensor QC so that a smaller number of experts can manage a much larger network of sensors. The methods will be tested on weather data from Oklahoma (the Oklahoma Mesonet), Oregon (the Andrews Long-Term Ecological Network site), the US (the Earth Networks "WeatherBug" network), and sub-Saharan Africa (the TAHMO project), and if the methods are found to work well, they will be deployed in these networks at at the CUAHSI Water Data Center. Accurate weather data could significantly increase the productivity of farms and improve food security, particularly in Africa.

The project will develop an open-source standards-compliant system, SENSOR-DX, that implements automated data QC. Existing probabilistic QC methods assume that correct sensor readings are jointly Gaussian and readings from broken sensors obey a uniform distribution. These assumptions lead to many QC mistakes. This project will develop a new approach in which novel nonparametric anomaly detection algorithms analyze the sensor data. Correct sensor readings have low anomaly scores, while broken sensor readings have high scores; both follow parametric distributions. Probabilistic methods can therefore model the distribution of the resulting anomaly scores instead of the joint distribution of the original sensor readings and infer (probabilistically) whether each sensor is working correctly. To enhance the fault-detection capability of the anomaly detection algorithms, the raw sensor data will be detrended and assembled into multiple views that highlight various correlations among sensor values. The project will develop a novel View-Anomaly-Diagnosis (VAD) framework in which anomaly detection algorithms are applied to the tuples in each view, and then the anomaly scores are combined via a probabilistic diagnostic model to infer which sensors are broken and which are functioning correctly. The project will study how good the detrending models need to be in order to enhance the accuracy of anomaly detection.  

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title WSC: A National Energy-Water System Assessment Framework (NEWS): Stage I Development
source NSF Engineering Directorate, ENG Division, CBET Env. Sustainability Program
role Senior Pers, PI C. Vorosmarty, Co-PI S. Suh, Co-PI R. Newmark, Co-PI Melillo
period July 15 2014 - June 30 2018
funding $388,757 total: $2,336,571

The focus of this research is on the national grand challenge known as the "Energy-Water-Climate Nexus." Specifically, this research is on the reliability of electric power sector infrastructure and operations (electric power grids) and climate change adaptation when viewed from the perspective of strategic water issues.This research unites three ongoing efforts that have been addressing the Energy-Water-Climate Nexus: (a) NREL/Sandia national energy-water assessment, (b) NSF EaSM-funded research on integrated assessment/policy engagement work expanded to national scale, and (c ) UCSB strategic energy economic assessment using input-output models. The principal science goal is to create a National Energy-Water System assessment framework (NEWS) to evaluate, in the context of anticipated climate and economic change: (i) the performance of the nation's electricity sector; (ii) the feasibility of alternative pathways to improve climate adaptation; and, (iii) the impacts of energy technology and investment tradeoffs on the productivity of the economy, water availability and aquatic ecosystem condition. NEWS will be applied in a series of scenario studies to 2050 using AR5 RCP/SSP climate realizations to drive: technology assessment models for renewable and non-renewable power production and their water requirements; hydrology and thermal impact simulations; and input/output economic models at national and sub-national levels. Future climate and changing energy demands will test the limits of current energy infrastructure in the context of environmental regulations and national climate adaptation and mitigation policies. New energy technologies, including renewables, hold the promise of off-loading substantial water limitations in the electricity sector, that is, if sufficient knowledge, economic realities and political will are in hand. 

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title RAPID: Understanding Sudden Hydro-Climatic Changes and Exploring Sustainable Solutions in the Enriquillo Closed Water Basin (Southwest Hispaniola)
source NSF GeoScience Directorate, ENG Division, CBET Env. Sustainability Program
role Co-PI, PI J. Gonzalez CCNY
period October 2012 - September 2013
funding $199,746 total: $250,000

The Enriquillo (DR) and Saumatre (HAiti) are saltwater lakes located in a rift valley that is a former marine strait created around 1 million years ago when water levels fell and the strait was filled in by river sediments. Separated by just a few kilometers at thier closest points these are the largest lakes in the Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti, respectively, with Lake Enriquillo being the lowest point in the Caribbean. The lakes, part of the Enriquillo closed water basin in the southwestern region of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, have been experiencing drastic changes in total lake-surface area coverage during the period 1980-2010. The socio-economic impacts of these changing lakes’ levels have been dramatic. Since the lakes began their recent rapid growth, more than 15,000 hectares of agricultural and grass land around the lake were flooded, having a strong impact in 16 communities with total estimates of 10,000 individuals affected. This has prompted recent urgent actions from the government of Dominican Republic to identify causes and determine action plans if applicable. The City College of New York (CCNY) in collaboration with the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC) and Drexel University are leading scientific studies since early 2011 to determine possible causes for the flooding and have embarked now on a more detailed investigation to examine the causes for the lake expansions focusing on the hydrologic aspects.

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title GeoInformatics: Development of Community-Based Ontology and Standards for Hydrologic Data
source NSF GeoScience Directorate, EAR Division, GeoInformatics Program
role Co-PI, PI R. Hooper CUAHSI
period January 2011 - September 2013
funding $252,198 total: $1,050,000

The Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI) has been involved in the development of Water Data Services (WDS) through the CUAHSI Hydrologic Information Systems (HIS) project. The vision for WDS is to bring together the nation’s (and, potentially, the earths’s) water data in a federated system of servers linked using a services-oriented architecture. A critical challenge in achieving this vision is understanding and reconciling structural and semantic differences across publishers of hydrologic data. The HIS project made a breakthrough in achieving interoperability between different data repositories, by developing a prototype ontology of hydrologic concepts that is used for data discovery purposes. Organizing hydrologic concepts in a way that allows publishers to describe their data unambiguously and helps users to discover data simply yet with a precise understanding of the properties measured, is an inherent component of this larger challenge.We propose to extend this effort by harmonizing the system of hydrologic concepts and existing information models with existing federal information sources. This includes the development of a community process for evolving hydrologic ontology , with contributions from the CUAHSI community, its federal partners, and international collaborators. This research is a collaborative effort with Dr. Rick Hooper from the CUAHSI and Drs. Ilya Zaslavsky and David Valentine from the San Diego Supercomputer Center. 

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title WATERs: Evaluating Community Watershed Models and Observation Networks under Uncertainty within the Susquehanna River Basin
source NSF GeoScience Directorate, EAR Division, Hydrology Program
role PI, co-PI P. Reed PennState
period September 2009 - August 2012
funding $200,000 total: $400,000
abstract The project team seek to transform our ability to detect and/or predict the impacts of long-term changes within the SRB. We posit that our ability to understand human-climate impacts on the SRB’s environmental systems will require a paradigmatic shift towards community level evaluations of watershed models’ predictive power and adaptive design of  basin-scale observation networks under uncertainty. Our proposed framework for evaluating watershed models and observation networks can simultaneously account for both model and observation errors while forecasting how critical system gradients as well as their uncertainties vary in space and time. This research is a collaborative effort with Dr. Patrick Reed and Dr. Thorsten Wegener (Penn State U.)
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title A Prototype System for Multi-Disciplinary Shared CyberInfrastructure - Chesapeake Bay Environmental Observatory (CBEO) 
source NSF Engineering Directorate, BES Division, Environmental Engineering Program
period October 2006 - September 2010
funding $315,000 total: $2,150,000
abstract The project team is developing a prototype for a regional observatory system that seeks to provide new CyberInfrastructure approaches for science in the Chesapeake Bay. The node aims at providing focused data access to the hydrologic, ecologic, marine, and environmental engineering communities and also seeks to be integrated as part of larger nationwide observatory networks. This prototype development is a collaborative effort with Dr. Bill Ball and Dr. Randal Burns (Johns Hopkins U.), Dr. Benjamin Cuker (Hampton U.), Dr. Dominic DiToro (U. of Delaware), Dr. Tom Gross (Chesapeake Research Consortium), Dr. Michael Kemp and  Dr. Laura Murray (U. of Maryland), and Dr. Ilya Zaslavsky, San Diego Supercomputing Center.

To find out more visit the Project Web-Site at

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title WATERs: Demonstration and Development of a Test-bed Digital Observatory for the Susquehanna River Basin and Chesapeake Bay 
source NSF Engineering Directorate, BES Division, Environmental Engineering Program
period November 2006 - December 2009
funding $160,000 total: $300,000
abstract The proposed project will demonstrate the applicability and utility of a Environmental Digital Observatory (EDO) design whose components are currently being developed by the Hydrologic Information System (HIS) group of CUAHSI for use by both the CLEANER and CUAHSI communities. It is crucial that these components are put to a test in a test-bed environment to investigate how the components behave, what pieces are missing, what additional developments need to be carried out, and most importantly whether they are effective for the purpose they were designed. The team will also investigate the use of HIS components and their integration and use in other information systems. This work is a collaborative effort with Dr. Bill Ball (Johns Hopkins U.) and Dr. Patrick Reed (Penn State U).
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title CI-Team: Implementation Project: CyberInfrastructure for Engineering Informatics Education  
source NSF Engineering/CISE Directorates
period January 2007 - December 2009
funding $225,000 total: $900,000

This CI-TEAMs Implementation proposal builds the team’s current CI-TEAMs Demonstration project, the objective of which is the creation of a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to teaching engineering modeling. For the CI-TEAM Implementation, the team will use biologically-inspired robotic systems as representative of other complex, emerging engineering domains. The investigators aim to create novel ways in which we train future generations of engineering and computer science students to build physically realized systems for important applications in medicine, civil engineering, search and rescue, and homeland security. CI-TEAM Demonstration results include a program of education around the creation of comprehensive engineering models for biologically-inspired robots. Specifically, we propose to (1) advance a set of educational modules to be the basis for a general educational program in Engineering Informatics and (2) develop and deploy software tools needed to advance the state of the art in bio-inspired robotic systems. This work is a collaborative effort with Dr. Bill Regli (Drexel U.), Dr. Ming Ling (U of NC), Dr. Vadim Shapiro (U. of Wiscosin), and Dr. S.K. Gupta (U of Maryland).

status past
title Collaborative Research: Development of Informatics Infrastructure for the Hydrologic Sciences: Phase II 
source NSF GeoScience Directorate, EAR Division, Hydrology/Instrumentation Program
period March 2007 - February 2009
funding $138,074 total: $1,800,000

A significant role of HIS is establishing the cyberinfrastructure foundation, or digital environment required to support experimental watersheds, or hydrologic or environmental observatories.  The capability for HIS to do this will be evaluated through testing at hydrologic observatory test bed projects that are being supported by the NSF. The specific goals of this project are to provide better Data Access, to support for Hydrologic Observatories, i.e. to develop a digital watershed framework for synthesizing data and models for a hydrologic region, to advance Hydrologic Science, i.e. to strengthen place-based hydrologic science by supporting the representation of hydrologic processes with equations by an enhanced capacity to describe hydrologic environments quantitatively with data, and to enable Hydrologic Education – education through application of HIS tools to quantify and visualize the movement of water and chemicals in a hydrologic environment continuously in space and time. This effort is a collaboration with Dr. David Maidment (U of Texas, Dr. David Tarboton (Utah State U.), Dr. Jonathan Goodall (U. of South Carolina), and Dr. Ilya Zaslavsky, San Diego Supercomputing Center.

status past
title CI-TEAM: Exploiting Cyber-Infrastructure for Creation and Use of Multi-Disciplinary Engineering Models
source NSF Engineering/CISE Directorates
period September 2005 - December 2006
funding $65,000 total: $250,000
abstract The objective of this CI-Team demonstration is to create a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, engineeringmodel. To focus this effort, the team has chosen the important emerging engineering domain of snake-inspired robotic systems. Snake-inspired robots have many potential applications, including those in medicine, civil engineering (e.g., inspection), search and rescue, and homeland security. For our CI-Team demonstration, the comprehensive engineering model will include semantic descriptions of robotic components, behavioral and simulation software, software for snake robot control and navigation, as well as the tools needed to perform analysis, component surrogation and mission assessment. This effort will be undertaken as part of a coordinated set of multi-disciplinary courses developed by the PIs and concurrently taught across the partner institutions and accessible via eLearning systems. This work is a collaborative effort with Dr. Bill Regli (Drexel U.), Dr. Ming Ling (U of NC), Dr. Vadim Shapiro (U. of Wiscosin), and Dr. S.K. Gupta (U of Maryland).
status past
title Collaborative Research: Development of Informatics Infrastructure for the Hydrologic Sciences: Phase I 
source NSF GeoScience Directorate, EAR Division, Hydrology Program
period April 2004 - March 2006
funding $181,000 total: $2,400,000
abstract The project team's goal is first: to develop a conceptual approach of how informatics infrastructure has to look like by soliciting input from the community and second: to subsequently start building some of the prototype systems that will make up the informatics framework. An additional major goal is to continue to build community support for the efforts as well as engaging industry and governmental institutions (large mission agencies such as USGS and EPA) into the development process. This prototype development is a collaborative effort with Dr. David Maidment (U of Texas), Dr. David Tarboton (Utah State U.), Dr. Praveen Kumar (U. of Illinois), Dr. Wendy Graham (U of Florida) and Dr. Ilya Zaslavsky, San Diego Supercomputing Center.
status past
title CLEANER Planning Grant: Cyberinfrastructure Needs for a Model Environmental Field Facility in Baltimore, Maryland as part of an Engineering Analysis Network
source NSF Engineering Directorate, BES Division, Environmental Engineering Program
period August 2004 - August 2005
funding $75,000 total: $150,000
abstract The Engineering Directorate of NSF has identified as a priority active and increased levels of support for the development of cyberinfrastructure to address needs of science and engineering communities as they relate to networked research sites. One of these groups is the environmental science and engineering community, which has funneled its interests to develop a Collaborative Large-Scale Engineering Analysis Network for Environmental Research, CLEANER.  In order to develop the key characteristics of the items listed in the solicitation for this planning grant proposal, the investigator team proposes to use an existing field site that is funded by NSF as part of the LTER network, located in Baltimore, Maryland, as a prototype environmental field facility (EFF) to assess the status quo, determine the deficiencies, and identify crucial issues that need addressing if this site would become a functional component of an Engineering Analysis Network (EAN), given the general scope and objectives identified in the by NSF for the CLEANER initiative. This work is a collaborative effort with Dr. Claire Welty (U of Maryland, Baltimore Campus).
status past
title 3rd CyberInfrastructure Workshop on Opportunities for CI and CyberEngineering  
source NSF Engineering Directorate, CyberInfrastructure Initiative
period April 2003 - March 2004
funding $49,500 total: $49,500
abstract In order to assist the NSF Engineering Directorate in its mission to develop a future vision for CI enabled research PI M. Piasecki was invited to host the 3ed and final CI workshop for the directorate with the aim to identify research opportunities in all programs across the directorate. The aim is to publish the resulting ideas and visions in a brochure based upon which the directorate is building and identifying future research directions.
status past
title CUAHSI Hydrologic Information System Plan Development  
source CUAHSI Headquarters
period October 2002 - December 2002
funding $56,459 total: $56,459
abstract Following the invitation of the CUAHSI HIS team and President PI M. Piasecki was tasked to develop supporting documentation for developing the HIS team proposal for submission to the NSF Hydrology program. The specific aim is to collect basic information on data sources such as the access mode, metadata descriptions, types and variables etc), help to identify basic communal needs, establish baseline status-quo, and to compile an overview of other current cyberinfrastructure efforts for their technical and architectural approaches and the potential relevance to CUAHSI HIS efforts. 
status past
title Application of an Integrated Monitoring and Modeling System to Narragansett Bay and Adjacent Waters Incorporating Internet-based Technology
source National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), through NASA
period August 2000 - August 2004
funding $535,000 total:1,464,459
abstract In order to assist the national and international user community to access measured and computed model prediction data, an internet based data distribution system will be developed. The specific objectives are: To develop a fully operational two/ three dimensional hydrodynamic model with data assimilation for Narragansett Bay and adjacent Rhode Island Sound waters. 2. To establish and coordinate the collection, dissemination and archiving of sea surface elevation, water quality, meteorological, and current data from a network of monitoring stations for the bay. 3. To demonstrate the ability of the hydrodynamic model to provide hindcasts, nowcasts, and forecasts of the sea surface elevation and currents in the bay for selected events when wind and freshwater forcing are expected to dominate the flow. 4. To demonstrate the utility of the model system by application to estimate the net exchange of water and salt between Greenwich Bay and the upper west passage of Narragansett Bay and between Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound. 5. To further develop an internet based data and model product data distribution system that will allow researchers to access the data from the monitoring system and the models. 6. To transfer the technology and software to a commercial organization to establish a transportable and fully operational monitoring and modeling system for Narragansett Bay or similar estuarine or coastal water body. This work is a collaborative effort with Dr. M. Spaulding, University of Rhode Island, Dr. J. Kelley NOAA-NOS, Dr. C. Swanson, Applied Science Assoc., and Dr. J. Mustard, Brown University

see here for a 2-page write-up for the IM2 system (PDF) 

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