In the framework of the Women in STEM campaign organised with RESILIENCE and the sister projects, including ARSINOE, you can find below the interview with Teresa Pérez Ciria, post-doc researcher at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany. She shared with us her role within the ARSINOE project and her personal journey which led to her work on climate change adaptation projects.
What is your role in ARSINOE currently?
I am a postdoc researcher at the Geography Department of LMU in Munich, Germany, and within ARSINOE I am working on the case study three, the Main River basin and I am also part of the Work Package 3 which focuses on the modelling activities. I am involved in the climate projections and land surface response tools.
Why did you want to get involved in climate change adaptation projects?
I think I always liked impactful projects as well as tangible results. I think currently one of the most urgent challenges is climate change and its impacts. So, contributing to adaptation strategies and helping to build pathways towards more resilient regions, I think it’s a rewarding job.
What inspired/motivated you to study civil engineering originally?
I studied civil engineering at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain. And I guess I chose this because during high school I was good at math and technical drawing, so engineering was kind of a natural choice. And then among the different options, I think civil engineering or environmental engineering is often associated to major projects and is usually also connected to social needs. So, I think I also liked that part as well as the fact that I was kind of a problem-solving oriented person.
How did this lead into your current field of expertise?
My current field of expertise is hydrology and water resources management. I always thought that water was fascinating, I don’t know if that’s nerdy… But then I also like the fact that it is connected to nature and environment. So, I have been focusing on water-related topics since I started my bachelor. My master thesis was focusing on flood events, modelling, and stream flow analysis. And then during my PhD, I deep dived into these topics, and I also worked on hydropower impacts, climate impacts, and also optimal assessment of renewable energy. All these topics are connected to sustainability as well.
What kinds of skills and experiences have most equipped you to contribute to the goal of climate change adaptation?
I would divide this in two different set of skills, and first the more technical ones. From one side, all the modelling and programming skills, because in the end also within the ARSINOE project, some of my tasks are focusing on the modelling so this is of course needed. And also, maybe analytical thinking and the fact that we’re able to analyse the data and the results in a more critical way. So also because in the projects we work on, sometimes there are issues with the observations, so you have to think ahead how to interpret this. And then regarding soft skills. I think it’s really important to have communication skills. Also, teamwork, I think in research collaboration is key, so you have to be really flexible and open minded to be really enjoying it and having results that are really meaningful.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome in your career path or what do you feel has been the most important lesson you’ve learned?
This is a tricky question. But I guess as an early career scientist it would be the fact that I had to jump into different teams which often are very international. You have to adapt to people with completely different backgrounds and cultures, which is at the same time, a really positive experience, but it’s also, quite challenging in the beginning.
How does your field of expertise complement other disciplines in the project you are working in ARSINOE?
Well, I’d say in ARSINOE everything is really interconnected. And I think from one side also from the modelling perspective, we are able to give specific results to stakeholders, but also through communication for the broader society. So, it’s a matter of being able to understand how to better communicate your knowledge. In the case of the modelling, so it could be climate projections or how you see the flood evolving in the future or the risks, it is about how you communicate this. So I see everything interconnected.
What do you feel has been your biggest achievement contribution to date?
This is a tough question. I supervised a master student last year, and then he got to present his work at EGU, and right now we are waiting for the final review of a paper about his work during the master thesis. He recently started a position as a PhD student at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). In the beginning I was not supposed to be his main supervisor, but I ended up being. So, I think it was a learning process for both of us. But the outcome was just amazing. And the whole process was really rewarding. Overall, it was a really nice achievement for me on both professional and personal levels.
What is your biggest challenge now regarding our ability to adapt to climate change?
I think this is connected to one of the questions I answered before. I think communication is really a key element right now because I do believe we have the tools and some resources to manage and really implement all these possibilities that could tackle climate change. But somehow, there is a lack of awareness of how big the issue is and how short term the impacts could be. In this sense, I think communication and awareness raising are the key challenges.
So how would you do this communication? Do you have some ideas?
I do think that the local approach is very good, the Living Labs are a completely new way to work for us, but we are only getting positive feedback and every time we do a workshop, we end up being really happy about it. These local approaches with the people living there working there, I think it’s already a very good way. Involving citizens and various stakeholders really enables to ask how they understand the issues and how they would like to have this information because we are sometimes so into our field and our own ways of thinking and how we express results and risks and that we don’t understand how other people have different views of this and for that we just need to ask.
What makes you most hopeful for the future?
I do think we have tools, we have resources and they are a lot of motivated and committed people ready to take action. So, this already makes me really hopeful. At the same time, there are a lot of initiatives: we have the Green Deal, the SDG’s, and there are local communities working on adaptation. So, I think there’s a movement, maybe not fast enough. But there is a traction and momentum right now, so that makes me hopeful.