For Ronald Daanen, research professional with the Water and Environmental Research Center at INE, growing up on the family farm in the Netherlands helped shape his choices about his future.
Ronald Daanen started work as a research professional with WERC in January 2011.
Daanen’s research with WERC will focus on hydrology, freezing, permafrost, patterned ground and groundwater interactions. He began the position in January 2011.
Despite having missed the heyday of the farm—“My father was 65 when I was 10, and my brothers didn’t want to take it over,” he explained—he enjoyed learning about agriculture on what he called a “hobby farm,” with a few horses, cattle and some crops. The experience led him to study horticulture in Nijmegen, Netherlands, where he earned the equivalent of an associate’s degree.
He quickly realized he was not done with education, and pursued a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from Van Hall Instituut in Groningen, Netherlands, then a master’s in agricultural engineering from Wageningen University in Wageningen, Netherlands. While studying at Wageningen, he happened to meet the person who would convince him to continue his studies in the United States: Debasmita (Debu) Misra, now a fellow researcher at WERC.
“I met Debu when I did my masters. We were staying in the same (apartment) complex,” Daanen said. “Debu was finishing his PhD and he suggested I should move to Minnesota.”
At Misra’s urging—“He can talk anyone into anything,” Daanen joked— Daanen traveled to the University of Minnesota in 1997 to pursue his doctorate in Water Resource Science. His wife, Ina Timling, moved to Minnesota from Germany with the couple’s young twin children about 14 months later. Daanen completed his doctoral work in 2004.
Daanen’s educational path exemplifies the progression of his interest toward Arctic water systems: His undergraduate thesis focused on waste water treatment; his graduate thesis addressed water flow and heat transport under frost and thaw conditions; and his doctoral thesis was titled “Modeling Liquid Water Flow in Snow.” In hindsight, UAF seems the ideal place for Daanen’s research interests, but it was his wife who first came to study in Fairbanks, and later convinced him to give it a try.
“Ina came to Fairbanks in 2002 for a field ecology course. It was an introductory field course on tundra science,” he said. “She was so excited about it and the research, she decided I also needed to take the course.”
So the following year, he did. The course was the outreach component for a project on the bio-complexity of pattern ground, funded by the National Science Foundation and led by principal investigator Skip Walker. The networking Daanen experienced helped convince him to seek a research position at UAF.
“I got to know Skip and the other scientists, and I really liked it. I really felt at home,” Daanen said.
After the course he contacted his friend Debu Misra, who by then was a research faculty member in the College of Engineering and Mines at UAF, and Misra helped find a post-doctoral research position for Daanen. The two worked together on a project that modeled coupled heat and moisture transfer in Arctic soils from 2004 to 2005. Daanen then moved to the Geophysical Institute (GI), and worked with Vladimir Romanovsky, professor of geophysics at GI’s Permafrost Laboratory, on a number of projects: non-sorted circle observations and modeling, permafrost modeling, permafrost observations, thermal effects of groundwater manipulation, and terrestrial lidar observations of frost heave and soil motion. In 2011, Daanen move to WERC.
Daanen and his family are now quite at home in Fairbanks; his wife, Ina, is earning her PhD from UAF, and the couple has taken up ice carving. They are currently on a team carving at the local Ice Alaska ice art competition. Daanen said he also enjoys skiing and gardening in the summer.
Although he hopes to teach at some point, Daanen is currently focusing on research and on improving his proposal and report writing skills. His research will center on hydrology, permafrost, pattern ground, road construction, and groundwater interactions, including the effects of water on permafrost. He’s currently working on computer models that can simulate such water processes to quantify their effects.