Adrian Mikhail Palaci Garcia

Adviser: Rocky Geyer

PhD Candidate, Applied Ocean Science & Engineering, MIT-WHOI Joint Program

BSc, Civil Engineering (2016), University of Pittsburgh



I am currently a PhD candidate in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Applied Ocean Science & Engineering. My goal is to become a professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering with a focus on Environmental Fluid Mechanics. In my research, I want to pursue projects that combine physics with natural science to understand environmental processes and dynamics. As a member of academia, I want to increase STEM awareness and participation amongst under-represented groups through educational outreach.

Research Interests

Working under the direction of Dr. W. Rocky Geyer, I use both observational and numerical techniques to study the effect of different morphologic features on hydrodynamics and dispersion in estuaries. Through my research, I hope ultimately to contribute to stream and coastal restoration with a focus on nature-based solutions. There is beauty in the simplicity and functionality of nature, a design built on over 4 billion years of trial-and-error. It is imperative that we understand and capture these natural designs to work with them, rather than against them, as we consider the future of riverine and coastal infrastructure and management.

Current Projects

In classic river literature, flow around a bend is directed toward the outer bend at the surface and towards the inner bend at depth. This is due to the lateral momentum balance between the centrifugal force and the pressure gradient resulting from the lateral setup. However, in estuaries, salinity differences along and across the channel also affect the hydrodynamics. During a field campaign led by then-postdoc Dr. Wouter Kranenburg, we observed classical lateral circulation during ebb tide and reversed lateral circulation during most of the flood tide. I am currently using numerical modeling to determine under what estuarine and geometric parameters this flow reversal will occur. This reversed flow mechanism may have implications on estuarine channel morphodynamics, which is important for understanding the resiliency of estuaries with respect to anthropologic effects such as rising sea levels due to climate change.

Over long periods of time, the salinity distribution in an estuary is determined by the balance between river outflow, which advects salt out of the estuary, and estuarine dispersion, which is a diffusive mechanism bringing salt into the estuary. While we can determine the estuarine dispersion rate based on the river outflow and salinity time-series in an estuary, we need higher resolution spatial and temporal data to resolve the individual mechanisms that contribute to the total dispersion rate. We conducted a field campaign to determine the contribution of tidal tributary creeks to the total estuarine dispersion. In the system we studied, the creeks can account for about half of the total estuarine dispersion rate. The estuarine dispersion is important because it controls the salinity intrusion, which can have adverse effects on both ecology and freshwater sources.

Undergraduate Projects

With climate change and increased anthropologic activities on the rise, coastline environments and communities will face higher threats. Researchers are considering many forms of "green infrastructure" to protect against storm surge, including coral reefs, seagrasses, and mangrove trees. Mangroves dissipate wave energy because of their complex prop root system, which enhances turbulent intensity. Under the direction of Dr. Heidi Nepf, I conducted experiments to determine the drag coefficient of mangrove trees. The drag coefficient is important to calibrate numerical models that can be used to plan future mangrove reforestation projects.

This research was performed under the direction of Dr. Jorge Abad. Through ArcGIS analysis, I worked to create a baseline study for the morphodynamics of the Peruvian Amazon River by performing a spatial and temporal analysis of the river system from 1985-2010. The purpose of this research is to understand the migration of the river and the processes that form the river's unique geomorphic characteristics. During the CREAR-ED-SPA course, I learned more about the importance of the river to the surrounding region.This research will be important for future development in the Amazon region, because the migration of the river will have huge implications on navigation and accessibility.

My senior design group worked in partnership with Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy from the Pittsburgh Office of the American Rivers organization to perform the design work necessary for the permitting process to remove the Franklin-Glass Dam in Renfrew, PA. This dam, located on Connoquenessing Creek just downstream of the junction with Thorn Creek, is being removed to restore the river to free-flow conditions, allowing for improved fish passage and sediment transport. This project was incredibly multi-disciplinary, requiring work in hydraulics, ecology, environmental engineering, and construction management. My team worked with scientists and engineers from the PA Fish & Boat Commission and the PA Department of Environmental Protection to satisfy permitting requirements.


Peer-Reviewed Journals

  1. W. M. Kranenburg, W. R. Geyer, A. M. P. Garcia, and D. K. Ralston, “Reversed lateral circulation in a sharp estuarine bend with weak stratification.,” Journal of Physical Oceanography, JPO–D–18–0175.1, Apr. 2019, ISSN: 0022-3670. DOI: 10 . 1175 / JPO - D- 18 - 0175 . 1. [Online]. Available:
  2. M. Maza, K. Adler, D. Ramos, A. M. P. Garcia, and H. M. Nepf, “Velocity and drag evolution from the leading edge of a model mangrove forest,” Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, vol. 122, no. 11, pp. 1–22, Nov. 2017, ISSN: 21699275. DOI: 10.1002/2017JC012945. [Online]. Available:

Conference Papers

  1. S. J. Dickerson, S. P. Jacobs, A. M. P. Garcia, and D. V. P. Sanchez, “Joint assessment and evaluation of senior design projects by faculty and industry,” Proceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE, pp. 1–7, 2016, ISSN: 15394565. DOI: 10.1109/FIE.2016.7757395.

Oral Presentations

  1. A. M. P. Garcia and H. M. Nepf, “An experimental study of an artificial mangrove forest: Determination of drag and turbulence,” in Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers - Engineering Science Symposium, Seattle, WA, 2016.
  2. A. M. P. Garcia and J. D. Abad, “La evolucion morfodinamica del Rio Amazonas peruano : Un analisis planimetrico,” in Congreso Lationamericano de Hidraulica, Lima, Peru, 2016. (Spanish)


  1. A. M. P. Garcia, N. Randall, W. R. Geyer, W. Kranenburg, and D. K. Ralston, “Effect of Tributary Creeks on Estuarine Dispersion,” in American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C., USA, 2018.
  2. A. M. P. Garcia, J. D. Abad, C. Ortals, and C. E. Frias, “Insight on the Peruvian Amazon River: A Planform Metric Characterization of its Morphodynamics,” in River, Coastal and Esturaine Morphodynamics, Iquitos, Peru, 2015.
  3. ——, “Insight on the Peruvian Amazon River: A Planform Metric Characterization of its Morphodynamics,” in American Geophysical Union, San Francisco, California, 2014.


During my academic journey, my involvement in diversity programs has been and continues to be integral to my development. Through these programs, I encountered mentorship, support, relationships, and opportunities that have defined my academic experience. I value diversity because of the perspectives I have learned from embracing the collective experience I have had with my peers and mentors alike.

You can learn more about some of these organizations by clicking on the logos above or checking out some of these videos below!


garciaap (at) | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139