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.”
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.
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) (https://echn.iah.org/). Part of my spare time is dedicated to the coordination of different activities aimed at supporting hydrogeologists at the start of their professional careers.
–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).
–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.
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.