Nathaniel Chaney


Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Prior to arriving at Duke, I was a postdoctoral research associate in the program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at Princeton University and had a dual appointment as a visiting research scientist at the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. I obtained my undergraduate degree at U.C. Berkeley where I received a Bachelor of Arts in Atmospheric Sciences and Applied Mathematics. For my graduate studies, I attended Princeton University where I completed a Ph.D. in Hydrology in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

My research harnesses the existing petabytes of global environmental data to improve understanding of the terrestrial water cycle. More specifically, I focus on quantifying and uncovering the role of multi-scale spatial organization over land (i.e., heterogeneity) in the Earth system. To this end, my group's research has three overarching themes: 1) improve the representation of land heterogeneity in Earth system models, 2) harness environmental data to characterize the observed spatial patterns and features over land, and 3) quantify the sensitivity of the hydrologic cycle to spatial heterogeneity. The tools that my group uses include numerical modeling, satellite remote sensing, machine learning, and high performance computing.

I am currently looking for highly motivated Ph.D. and postdocs. If the research themes of my group are of interest to you, please don't hesitate to email me.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Assistant Professor

Contact Information

  • Office Location: CIEMAS 2463, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 660-5195
  • Email Address:
  • Websites:


  • Ph.D. Princeton University, 2015

Research Interests

Hydrology, Earth system science, soil science, ecology, geomorphology, numerical modeling, high performance computing, machine learning, environmental data delivery and data assimilation. 

Courses Taught

  • CEE 690: Advanced Topics in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • CEE 691: Independent Study: Advanced Topics in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • CEE 780: Internship

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Chaney, NW; Van Huijgevoort, MHJ; Shevliakova, E; Malyshev, S; Milly, PCD; Gauthier, PPG; Sulman, BN, Harnessing big data to rethink land heterogeneity in Earth system models, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, vol 22 no. 6 (2018), pp. 3311-3330 [10.5194/hess-22-3311-2018] [abs].
  • Chaney, NW; Metcalfe, P; Wood, EF, HydroBlocks: a field-scale resolving land surface model for application over continental extents, Hydrological Processes, vol 30 no. 20 (2016), pp. 3543-3559 [10.1002/hyp.10891] [abs].
  • Chaney, NW; Wood, EF; McBratney, AB; Hempel, JW; Nauman, TW; Brungard, CW; Odgers, NP, POLARIS: A 30-meter probabilistic soil series map of the contiguous United States, Geoderma, vol 274 (2016), pp. 54-67 [10.1016/j.geoderma.2016.03.025] [abs].
  • Chaney, NW; Herman, JD; Reed, PM; Wood, EF, Flood and drought hydrologic monitoring: The role of model parameter uncertainty, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, vol 19 no. 7 (2015), pp. 3239-3251 [10.5194/hess-19-3239-2015] [abs].