Marcel Schaap--Featured Researcher

Marcel Schaap

I have been a faculty member in the SWES Department since August of 2006. I did my undergraduate studies and Ph.D. at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands on the topics of Soil Chemistry and Forest Hydrology.  In 1996, I was selected for a NASA-funded two-year postdoc position at the U.S. Salinity Laboratory and

University of California-Riverside, ultimately making it to the rank of associate researcher 10 years later. My move to SWES was exciting, as it allowed me to work with new colleagues and students, while

continuing a research program in environmental physics.


My research broadly ranges from experimental and computational fluid dynamics to physical aspects of Vadose and Critical Zone Science – in other words, I am studying the many complex ways water moves around in the environment. For this program I currently depend on graduate students Josh Larsen, Emily Kopp and Susanna Pearlstein in SWES and Yonggen Zhang and Chris Jones in the Hydrology Department (where I have a joint appointment).


I'm teaching the following classes in the fall: Environmental Physics (SWES 420/520, which typically fills up by June so register early) and Mass and Energy Transport in the Vadose Zone (SWES 605, with Markus Tuller). In spring, I teach the graduate seminar class (SWES 696a) and Advanced Topics in Pore-Scale Processes (HWRS/SWES 696a, with Larry Winter).


Pore-scale research is close to my heart, and throughout my career I have carried out research that related fundamental pore-scale processes to material characteristics that are relevant at the sample and field- scale. Essentially this comes down to understanding how water situates itself among soil particles, but also how crude oil behaves in deep rock reservoirs.  In the past 10 years, tremendous advances in technology have made it possible to directly observe pore-scale processes (e.g.  with X-ray micro-tomography), but also to simulate pore-scale fluid- dynamics with advanced numerical models – a volume of soil the size of a soda can require 120 Gigabytes of memory.


Currently, I have a Department of Energy grant to study pore-scale aspects of geological carbon sequestration in deep saline aquifers and a USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to simulate colloid transport in soils. Both grants are carried out with Dorthe Wildenschild, my long-term collaborator at Oregon State University. Despite the fundamental pore-scale focus, our ultimate goal is to derive more reliable relations for predicting flow and transport of water, contaminants and oil in the subsurface.