Meet the Research and Development Office staff here, or see more information about the office.
David Raff, Ph.D.,
David Raff, Ph.D., PE, D.WRE, serves as Reclamation's Scientific Integrity Officer — ensuring that the agency follows the Department of the Interior's Scientific and Scholarly Integrity Policy while overseeing Reclamation's Research and Development Office. Raff works with multiple federal inter-agency committees including the National Science and Technology Council's Environment and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water Availability and Quality. He serves within the engineering community as a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and American Geophysical Union within the Hydrology Section. He is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Colorado and received certification as a Diplomate of Water Resources Engineering within the American Academy of Water Resources Engineers. See his leadership bio.
Levi Brekke, Ph.D.
Chief, Research and Development
Prior to joining the Research and Development Office in March 2011, Levi spent 6 years at the Technical Service Center and 2 years in Reclamation's Mid-Pacific Region, focusing on technical coordination and implementation of reservoir systems analyses and hydroclimate studies.
Levi's education includes a B.S.E. degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Iowa, an M.S. degree in Environmental Science and Engineering from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Water Resources.
Levi Brekke serves as the Research and Development Office's climate and water liaison to various science organizations, including the U.S. Department of the Interior's Climate Science Centers and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA). Prior to joining Reclamation, Levi spent time in the private sector, working in the areas of wastewater and water treatment engineering.
Chuck Hennig graduated from Colorado State University in 1978 with a Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering. Between 1979 and 1991, Chuck served as a design engineer on many major dam construction and rehabilitation projects.
From 1991 to 2000, he became a Dam Safety Program Manager and, later, the Deputy Chief of Reclamation's Dam Safety Office. In 2000, he became the Science and Technology Program Research Coordinator for the Research and Development Office and, ultimately, the Deputy Director.
Rod Wittler, Ph.D.
Mid-Pacific Regional Science Liaison
Rod Wittler is the Mid-Pacific Region Science Liaison to Reclamation’s Research and Development Office. Rod served as the Senior Scientist of the Trinity River Restoration Program from 2004 - 2008. For 15 years prior, Rod was a Research Hydraulic Engineer in the Water Resources Research Laboratory in Reclamation’s Technical Service Center. He has 29 years of general and research engineering experience in hydraulic models, river mechanics, flow measurement, sediment analysis, temperature modeling, and river restoration. He earned a Bachelors of Science, Masters of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Colorado State University and is a registered professional civil engineer in the State of Colorado.
Hydropower and Renewables Coordinator
Erin holds a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Memphis and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Denver, with over 19 years of power industry experience. Prior to joining Reclamation in June 1999, she worked at the Tennessee Valley Authority in the Hydro Modernization Program and Fossil Power Engineering at the Allen Fossil Plant.
Science and Technology Program Coordinator
Miguel Rocha is the Science and Technology Program Research Coordinator for the Research and Development Office. In this position, he manages the selection process, develops policy, and coordinates over 100 research projects annually.
With over 15 years working for Reclamation, Miguel has developed broad water resource experience in water recycling, water operations, water conservation, civil design, and safety of dams. During this tenure he has worked in Oklahoma, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, and now Colorado. He is a graduate of New Mexico State University and is a registered professional engineer in the State of New Mexico.
Technology Transfer Coordinator
Samantha Zhang is the Technology Transfer Coordinator for the Research and Development Office. Prior to working at Reclamation, Samantha was at the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice in 2004 until 2006.
She was born in the Guangdong Province of China and immigrated with her family to Denver, Colorado, in 1985. She received a Chancellor Scholarship to the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver and graduated with honors with a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration.
Invasive Mussels Research Coordinator
Yuliana Porras-Mendoza is the Research and Development Office's new Research Coordinator for Advanced Water Treatment, replacing Kevin Price who served as Reclamation's lead for several years until his recent retirement.
Yuliana has been with Reclamation for over 12 years. She has a Bachelors of Science in Chemical Engineering and a Masters of Science in Environmental Science and Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines, as well as a Masters of Science in Technology Commercialization from the University of Texas.
Yuliana also serves on the Board of Directors of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.
Jake Akervik, PMP
Communication and Information Systems Coordinator
Jake joined Reclamation in June of 2011. Jake manages the information systems and communication and outreach programs for the Research Office and Science and Technology Program. His duties include:
- Designing and administrating several research management information systems, including the internal PropC and SharePoint web applications
- Managing and implementing the annual Research Jam science need and innovation crowdsourcing event
- Managing communication and outreach strategy and products, including the Research and Development website and The Knowledge Stream newsletter.
- Reviewing and approving annual Science and Technology research project management plans
- Improving efficiencies and collaboration through the application of project management principles and web 2.0 technologies.
Jake graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2006 with a Bachelors of Science in Scientific and Technical Communication. He also holds an Associate's Certificate in Project Management from the George Washington University School of Business, and a Project Management Professional Certification from the Project Management Institute. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Technology Management degree at the University of Denver.
Janet Montano started working for Reclamation in April 2001 in the Technical Service Center's Remote Sensing Office; Michael (Mike) Pucherelli was the Group Manager. In 2007, she transferred to the Research and Development Office.
Janet's work consists of helping to schedule the multitude of meetings that transpire with the office, while trying to keep up to speed with all of the new programs that are currently being implemented, such as the Data Tracking System, Concur Travel System, Purchase Request SharePoint site, and the Financial and Business Management System.
Janet also helps with proofreading the layout and articles for The Knowledge Stream newsletter. In addition, she works with the office's PropC and SharePoint sites to update contact information of retires and individuals that request to be added to the newsletter's electronic distribution, as well as coordinating with the Printing and Duplication Office to obtain physical copies for hardcopy distribution. Within PropC, Janet reviews and accepts research articles and reports that are submitted by Reclamation researchers and then compiles those that are accepted for inclusion in the newsletter.
This information was last updated on February 3, 2015
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