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Hynes Award - 2021

Hynes Award for New Investigators

Rafael Almeida - 2021

Rafael is a sustainability scientist motivated by the challenge of providing energy and food to a growing human population in a fast-changing world. His background is in freshwater science and he is especially interested in greenhouse gas emissions and socioenvironmental dimensions of hydropower and aquaculture -- two sectors that are booming globally. Rafael’s research approach focuses on achieving synthetic perspectives through collaborative networks that combine a variety of environmental science disciplines, including biogeochemistry, ecosystem ecology, computational sustainability and natural resource economics.

Currently, Rafael is a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, where he works closely with Dr. Pete McIntyre, Dr. Carla Gomes, and Dr. Alex Flecker. Rafael received his PhD in Ecology (2017) from the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (Brazil), under the guidance of Dr. Fábio Roland. He was also a visiting graduate student at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, where he worked with Dr. Emma Rosi and Dr. Steve Hamilton.

In his Hynes Award-winning publication (Nature Communications 2019:, Rafael and co-authors used a multi-objective optimization framework to demonstrate that low-carbon expansion of hydropower in the Amazon basin relies on strategically selecting future dam sites. 

As summarized in his letter of nomination, Rafael’s research “tackled an urgent and complicated problem of strategic river basin planning; in this case, hydroelectric dams in the Amazon Basin.” Rafael addressed this important and complex problem head on by cultivating ambitious collaborations with a team of scientists. His paper is an important contribution “as we grapple with the complexities of river basin planning in data diffuse regions.” Rafael is now working on a global analysis using a large dam database to infer technical and locational attributes that maximize freshwater fish catch and hydropower production while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.