“Understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change are critical for the sustainable development of our communities”: Dr. Noelia Cruz Pérez interview

The complex challenge of adapting to climate change requires collaboration between many fields of expertise and the diverse approaches of different projects. ARSINOE is working closely with sister climate change adaptation projects IMPETUS, TransformAr and REGILIENCE. Together, these involve many inspiring people whose skills and experience contribute in various ways to creating resilience and adaptation tools, solutions and initiatives. We will share some of their stories as the projects progress.

For the International Women’s Day, we decided to interview some of the youngest and inspiring women in our projects. Today, we have spoken with Dr. Noelia Cruz Pérez, Researcher, Civil Engineer and Agricultural Engineer, Universidad de la Laguna.

Please present yourself and your involvement in the ARSINOE project.

My name is Noelia Cruz Perez, and I hold degrees in Civil Engineering and Agricultural Engineering. I am a member of the research group ‘Ingenia’ affiliated with the University of La Laguna. In the Arsinoe project, I serve as a researcher focusing on the study of the Canary Islands

What is your educational background? What did you study? And what inspired you to pursue such education and led to the point of your career where you are now?

I pursued degrees in Building Engineering and Civil Engineering as my passion for engineering developed during my high school years, and I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to this field. After living in various places such as Senegal, Morocco, Martinique, and Washington DC, where I went with different scholarships focused on young individuals who had studied engineering, I returned to Tenerife.

Back in Tenerife, I started working as a researcher at ULL, and I also decided to delve into Agricultural Engineering, a facet of engineering that had always intrigued me. This provided me with an opportunity to expand my knowledge and apply it to the projects I was involved in. Along this path, I obtained a Master’s degree in Water Technology and Management and another one in Regional Development, both of which I consider essential for engaging in Research and Development and Innovation (R+D+i) in a region like the Canary Islands.

In 2022, I completed my Ph.D. focused on the carbon footprint and water footprint of facilities linked to the integral water cycle in the two Spanish archipelagos, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.

Why did you want to get involved in climate change adaptation projects?

I believe that we cannot address any aspect of our lives without considering climate change. Climate change is shaping our new reality, and staying ahead of it and anticipating its specific effects on the ultra-peripheral European region where I live, the Canary Islands, motivates me every day.

Understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change are critical for the sustainable development of our communities. The unique geographical and environmental characteristics of the Canary Islands make them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including rising temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and sea-level rise. As a researcher and engineer, I am driven to contribute to solutions that address these challenges, ensuring the resilience and well-being of the local population.

What kind of skills and experiences have most equipped you to contribute to the goal of climate change adaptation (examples)?

Having lived in such diverse destinations for work purposes has provided me with the opportunity to work in an international environment, as often required in European projects. The experience has not only broadened my cultural awareness but has also honed my ability to collaborate effectively with individuals from various backgrounds. Additionally, the exposure to different languages during my stays in places like Senegal, Morocco, Martinique, and Washington DC has been instrumental in facilitating cooperation.

The ability to communicate in multiple languages enhances the effectiveness of cooperation, allowing for clearer understanding and streamlined communication processes. It has been an asset in fostering collaborative relationships, sharing knowledge, and contributing to the success of projects with a global scope.

How does your field of expertise complement other disciplines in the ARSINOE project?

Addressing various challenges as case studies in the Arsinoe project requires a multidisciplinary approach, and my engineering background proves to be a pivotal asset. The extensive knowledge gained from studying engineering, covering diverse areas, and cultivating problem-solving skills has prepared my mind to tackle a range of issues.

The versatility of engineering education allows me to bridge gaps between different disciplines, fostering collaboration and synergy among team members with diverse expertise. Whether dealing with environmental, infrastructure, or technological challenges, the engineering mindset instils a proactive approach to problem-solving, emphasizing efficiency and sustainability. This background proves invaluable in the Arsinoe project, where a comprehensive understanding of interconnected problems is essential.

What do you feel has been your biggest achievement/contribution to date?

The collaboration among all the partners involved in the case study is a crucial aspect of the Arsinoe project. Our collective goal is to provide reliable information to the regulatory institutions overseeing water resources in the Canary Islands, specifically regarding the functioning of the aquifer in the islands of El Hierro and La Palma.

The recent volcanic eruption on the island of La Palma at the outset of the Arsinoe project posed significant challenges, causing destruction to numerous homes and businesses. This event has potential implications for the hydrochemistry of the island’s groundwater, a matter that we are actively investigating.

In times of such environmental upheavals, the Arsinoe project becomes not just a scientific endeavour but a crucial initiative for the well-being and resilience of the communities affected. The commitment to providing accurate and timely information to water resource regulators is paramount, ensuring sustainable water management practices and aiding in the recovery efforts post-natural disasters.

From your perspective of your field of expertise, what is the biggest challenge now regarding our ability to adapt to climate change?

International cooperation is essential. Climate change is not something that can be addressed solely at a local level; it requires international consensus and a global paradigm shift to ensure successful adaptation and mitigation efforts.

What makes you the most hopeful for the future?

I believe that the majority of people are aware that we are facing a reality that can seriously impact our way of life, natural resources, and the rest of the planet’s species. I think the risk of losing everything is significant enough for everyone to become conscious and collectively seek solutions. I hope we realize this in time and collaborate internationally to achieve it.