José A. Á. AntolínezJosé A. Á. Antolínez has been coordinator of the DigiShape program line Data Analysis, Modeling, and AI for a year now. We interviewed him about his work as a coastal scientist and engineer at TU Delft and asked him about the importance of Artificial Intelligence for the water sector.

José, tell us about your job, what is your position?

“I am a coastal engineer and assistant professor at the hydraulic engineering department at the TU-Delft. My current research focuses on regional downscaling of climate change impacts and on engineering nature based coastal solutions to mitigate this. In short I develop and bring companies and policy makers new knowledge, data, and modeling tools to make future based decisions. Moreover, I educate the future hydraulic engineers.”

What does downscaling of climate change impacts mean?

jose a a antolinez at turtle nesting beach“It means that I use global models to predict the effects of climate change on a regional or local level. For example, with the PhD student Jakob Christiaanse, I work on coastal engineering solutions for sandy beaches to protect sea turtles. Sandy beaches are threatened by sea level rise, coastal flooding and erosion. We study these habitats and their interaction with hydrodynamics and try to find interventions that mitigate climate change impacts. We do that for instance by enabling new beach-dune profiles.

Another project I work on with the PhD student Mia Pupić (CHANCE) addresses the regional impact of climate change on extreme sea level. Changes in surges, tides, and waves, can cause flooding of the hinterland. I investigate how global climate change models can be translated to predict local impacts by testing different atmospheric and hydrodynamic forcing, and geological settings. For that, we use numerical models, statistical and machine learning.”

Photo: José with colleagues standing by turtlenest

What is the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in your work?

“I use a lot of AI and Machine Learning in my work. For example, in the research that was recently published by the PhD student Gijs Hendrickx in Coastal Engineering, Predicting the response of complex systems for coastal management, we applied AI to generate numerically derived datasets that were used to train artificial neural networks. The combination of numerical models and machine learning drastically reduces the efforts that are needed to predict the resilience of coastal systems to changes in environmental conditions and to new human interventions. As an example, we explored salt intrusion in estuaries, which is a complex non-linear process. We are already exporting this approach to salt-marsh design in the West USA with the Fullbright PhD student Noelani Villa.”

As a coordinator for the DigiShape AI working group, what do you consider as the main challenges in water engineering and AI?

“Water engineering increasingly needs to anticipate challenges brought by climate change. We need to gain insights on how water systems will behave in different circumstances and at different timescales, so we can come up with pathways forward. For that we need AI.

However, we still have a long way to go in the water sector when it comes to standardizing the use and implementation of AI. We are adopting many algorithms and knowledge from different fields that sometimes are not immediately applicable to our field. So we need to tailor the already available tools and identify what is missing so we can start to develop that.

The best way to do this is, of course, together. In the AI-group we talk about the common ground in our research and the common practices within our organizations. Our group consists of people from different disciplines, from marine to coastal to inland, where applications can be very different. But we face similar challenges to introduce AI in our organizations. We discuss perspectives on future challenges and how AI could help in the strategic direction for each organization. We want to keep developing plans for sharing practices and data and organize workshops where we discuss problem topics.”

What drives you to go to work every day?

jose expedition into turtle beaches“My main passion is learning new things. I like facing new challenges where I have to unravel from scratch or when things require to be optimized. My mind is solution oriented and that made me an engineer. I can't help but analyze the waves and wind when I'm surfing or sailing. To use this mind to help bring solutions to climate change impacts, it motivates me every day.”

Photo: José on a diving expedition to turtle beaches

More information:

Zeewering West-Kapelle

Met de DigiShape use case Markermeer-IJmeer willen we door het combineren van data en het gebruiken van innovatieve data science en bewerkingstechnieken een completer beeld krijgen van het doorzicht in het Markermeer en IJmeer.

Marcel Kotte, Rijkswaterstaat

Project Markermeer-IJmeer