It was a delightful moment for Dr Alvin Lal to be announced the Fiji National University (FNU) Vice-Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award winner in the category of Early Career Researcher.

Dr Lal is an Assistant Professor at FNU’s College of Engineering, Science and Technology (CEST).Earlier this year, Dr Lal completed his PhD on ‘Development of Sustainable Groundwater Management Methodologies to Control Saltwater Intrusion into Coastal Aquifers with application to a Tropical Pacific Island Country’ from James Cook University (JCU) in Australia.

To date, he has published four Q1 journal papers, three Q2 journal papers and one Q3 journal paper. His Scopus h-index is 5.As part of his research, Dr Lal developed state-of-the-art 3D groundwater models (using Groundwater Modelling System Software) and water quality forecasting models using Artificial Intelligence (using Artificial Neural network, Genetic Programming, Support Vector Machines, Gaussian Process Regression and Group Method of Data Handling algorithms) for sustainable management of an aquifer system in Kiribati.

According to Dr Lal, this research has assisted in developing groundwater monitoring tools and models that are used in groundwater management strategies and adaptive groundwater monitoring networks.

“The application of my 3D groundwater and forecasting models have been applied to sustainably manage groundwater resources in Kiribati, which has benefitted the urban population of South Tarawa, Kiribati,” he said.

For this outstanding research contribution, Dr Lal was one of the 11 recipients who were recognised amongst the 133 higher research candidates competing for the prestigious Deans Awards for Research Higher Degree Excellence at JCU.

Dr Lal is currently working on several groundwater modelling projects in collaboration with researchers from Poland, Australia, Indonesia and Fiji.

The Assistant Professor further added that in the long run, he plans to establish a Pacific Island Groundwater Research and Training Centre (PIGRTC) in Fiji with the support of the Government and other stakeholders.

“If established, the centre could be instrumental in solving various water-related problems currently prominent in almost all SIDS in the Pacific,” he mentioned.

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