Research Fellow, Socio-Hydrogeology, Viviana Re @biralnas: A Day in the GeoLife Series

NAME: Viviana Re @biralnas

CURRENT TITLE:  Marie Curie Research Fellow at National Engineering School of Sfax (ENIS) – Laboratory of Radio-Analysis and Environment (LRAE) Sfax, Tunisia & Ca’ Foscari University of Venice – Department of Molecular Sciences and Nanosystems, Venice, Italy.

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Groundwater science, socio-hydrogeology

EDUCATION:  PhD in Analysis and Governance of Sustainable Development (2011), Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (Italy); MSc. in Environmental Sciences (2007), Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (Italy); BSc. in Natural Sciences (2003), University of Pavia (Italy).


VIDEO:  A Day in the Field


What’s your job like?

My current research concerns the development of a new approach to groundwater investigation called “socio-hydrogeology,” whose aim is to study the mutual relations between people and groundwater and to foster the inclusion of the social dimension in hydrogeological investigations. This means ensuring that the results of scientific investigations are not only based on real needs and local knowledge but are also adequately disseminated to end users (and polluters).

Since October 2013, I have been working as a Marie Curie Research Fellow on the Bir Al-Nas (Bottom-up IntegRated Approach for sustainable grouNdwater mAnagement in rural areaS) in Tunisia. This approach provides a practical example of the concept of socio-hydrogeology, as reinforced by the translation of the Arabic bir al-nas: “the people’s well.”


Socio-hydrogeology in practice: in situ measurements and farmers interviews (Cap Bon, Tunisia; Viviana Re, 2014)


Discussing about water issues with the farmers near Grombalia (Viviana Re, 2014)

What’s a typical day like?

One of the nice things about my job is that every day is different from the others. The part that I love most is indeed field work. This is because I can see my case study with my eyes, learning things I won’t find in any paper. Secondly, because I can work while enjoying the beautiful landscapes of Cap Bon, Tunisia instead of staring at my pc screen. Last, but not least, during the field work I am in close contact with local people. I can have a discussion with them, discover their culture, and have a better understanding of the implication of my research on water end-users.


Working in the field in Grombalia (Chiara Tringali, 2014)

If I’m not in the field I am working at my computer on geochemical and hydrogeological data analysis, writing papers or preparing outreach and dissemination activities.

Since September 2013, I have also been the director of the Early Career Hydrogeologists’ Network (ECHN) of the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) ( Part of my spare time is dedicated to the coordination of different activities aimed at supporting hydrogeologists at the start of their professional careers.

What’s fun?

–The discussions with local farmers, as I can reach a better understanding of the issues at stake while also learning a lot of new things about a different (and very interesting) culture. In addition, this is a very precious moment for awareness raising and to build trust between farmers and scientists. As a side note, farmers and land owners are generally so nice that they even give us all sorts of citrus fruits (freshly picked from the tree), lightening our days with a kind of crash course on fruit tasting.

–The in situ measurement, especially when kids are around. With them I always have the impression of being like a circus clown, with my white gloves and some odd tools in the case, ready to do some funny things for them (and sometimes it also happens that they sit down with us and offer to help).


Kids curious about our work (Cap Bon, Tunisia; Chiara Tringali, 2014) Copyright Viviana Re

–Data interpretation, because I really enjoy finding possible solutions for the problem that I am studying, especially because this can be used to support new strategies for groundwater management and protection.

What’s challenging?

Data interpretation can be the most challenging part, as it requires time, dedication and knowledge. Besides that, it is really stimulating, as it pushes you to always learn new things. When I am a bit bored or tired about that, I remind myself why I am doing it and the ideals behind my research. This generally helps to find the energy and motivation I need!

Reaching managers and policy makers is another challenge, especially if you work in a foreign country. In this case, the close collaboration with local colleagues as cultural mediators is fundamental.

What’s your advice to students?

Follow your passions, work hard, be curious and never give up!

Only if you really like what you are doing you can overcome the (few) downs and really enjoy the (many) ups of your student/professional career.

Also, never hesitate to ask for advice from professors and senior scientists. They might be really happy to support you and to share their experience.


Groundwater and Oranges from Cap Bon, the result of a hard week of work! (Copyright Viviana Re, 2015)


  1. Pingback: NEW! Research Fellow, Socio-Hydrogeology, Viviana Re @biralnas: A Day in the GeoLife Series | BirAlNas

  2. Sanjaya

    Social-hydrogeology, one of the facets of the subject that has probably got less attention is something I am always interested in. Working as a hydrogeologist in the government sector for the RWSS (Rural Water Supply and Sanitaion) department in the state of Odisha, India, I often come face to face with the social dimension of water as a resource. Be it the salinity problem in the coastal tract or the high level of flouride and iron in ground water in the hinterland, they all come with their intricacies of social/management issues. As a geo-hydrologist, it’s a great challenge to apply your scientific moorings to come up something that becomes useful.
    I would be interested to know how you use the social aspect as an investigation tool of ground water.


  3. reviviana

    Dear Sanjaya,
    thanks for your comment.
    I agree with you that socio-hydrogeology is as important as still less understood, but it is good to know that there are many hydrogeologist willing to reverse this trend!

    You can find more details on my socio-hydrogeological approach in this recently published (open access) article:
    Incorporating the social dimension into hydrogeochemical investigations for rural development: the Bir Al-Nas approach for socio-hydrogeology (
    and on my blog (

    Also I will be happy to know more about your work, so feel free to contact me privately (all details in the blog).

    Best regards,

  4. Pingback: “A Day in the GeoLife” : guest blog series from geoscientists around the world. | Bir Al-Nas

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