Laura Morillas


My main scientific interest is to study water resources in water-limited ecosystems and how climate change can affect water dynamics and water availability in those areas. Because evapotranspiration is the main component of the water balance under water limited conditions, during my PhD my main research objective was to develop regional evapotranspiration models specifically designed for semiarid conditions to achieve an accurate methodology to quantify evapotranspiration at regional scale. Working with physical models forced me to understand those factors controlling the evapotranspiration, and how those factors will be be affected by climate change. To validate evapotranspiration models I learnt and used the Eddy Covariance technique, the most extended methodology to measure CO2, evapotranspiration and energy fluxes between the land surface and the atmosphere. After my PhD I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico (US) where I studied the consequences regarding to water resources of widespread piñon mortality events affecting large areas of piñon-juniper woodlands in the Southwestern US. Our results showed that those regional scale tree mortality events can increase the temperature and aridity of those already water stressed areas, with large potential impacts for water dynamics and availability. At UBC I have joined an international project called FuturAgua, focused on the characterization of water resources in a drought-affected area of Costa Rica, Nicoya peninsula, and the development of resilience strategies to drought in a dynamic social-ecological system. Particularly my participation in the project will be focused in improving our understanding of water dynamics in the area and developing a hydrological model to predict the response of local water resources to predicted climatic scenarios. I am very interested in the practical and social aspects of this project, in which research will be applied from the characterization of current water resources to the development of management strategies to improve resilience of this agricultural-based social-ecological system in order to  respond in a time matter to predicted future water scarcity.