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Joe Waln

Senior Water Resources Engineer

Joe fishing with his son, Noah
Joe with his wife in Shanghai, China
Joe climbing in the Tatoosh Range in Mount Rainier National Park
Joe Waln grew up in northeast Oregon, the oldest of four boys. Because he did well in high school math and science, people would always ask him if he was going to be an engineer.

“That got me thinking so I decided to take a closer look at it,” said Joe. “My father, a ceramic potter, loves to explore the material science aspect of his profession and approaches problem solving like an engineer. He often builds his own equipment.”

In college, Joe pursued a degree in civil engineering for its real world and tangible nature, and a research internship sparked his interest in water resources. Yet after receiving his undergraduate degree, he decided to travel and teach for a few years.

“I taught high school physics and computers for two years in Pensacola, Florida,” said Joe, “as well as English for a year and a half in Chile.”

But he was eventually drawn back to engineering and worked for two other consulting firms before joining Barr. These days, his projects focus on floodplain risk reduction and surface water management for industrial and mining sites. One of his largest projects was a fast-tracked, planning and design flood-protection project for the city of Minot, North Dakota.

“The preliminary analysis required a huge amount of hydrologic and hydraulic modeling to determine the footprint of the proposed levee and diversion system,” said Joe. “In the next phase, I managed the team that created a hydrological model for an 8,000 square-mile watershed and hydraulic model for over 400 river miles.”

Beyond project work, Joe serves on the conference planning committee for the Minnesota Association of Floodplain Managers. He also used to volunteer with Engineers Without Borders.

“Before I had two young kids, that is,” laughed Joe. “Engineers Without Borders gave me the opportunity to mentor students, and I learned about leadership and organizational development. I was the founding president of the Portland professional chapter and supported the establishment of three university chapters.”

Although much of Joe’s free time these days is devoted to his kids, he still finds time for a few personal interests—including playing soccer a few times a week and keeping a hobby garden in the backyard. He also takes advantage of his commute to explore topics in the social sciences.

“I enjoy listening to free university podcasts while driving to work,” said Joe, “particularly in history, economics, and psychology.”