Verónica_P_Pre-Course Blog Post

Hello everyone!

My name is Verónica Pinelli, I´m from a small county to the south: Uruguay. I study biology, more specifically, ecology. I finished my master studies in 2016, and in 2017 I started my PhD studies. I also work as a teacher in a gardening and landscape design technical school.

One of the main interests of my working group is studying metacommunities, i.e.: sets of communities linked by the flow of individuals between them. In particular, the objective of my PhD thesis project is to analyze the role of metacommunity configuration in the ecosystem functioning at local (community) scale, mediated by its effect on trait-based community assembly processes.

The main study system were we work  is a set of temporary ponds found in prairie fields for livestock. Annually, each pond It fills with water and grows communities of macrophytes that coexist with the graminoid plants that resist flooding. Along 16 years, we have recorded near to 100 species and morphospecies. During my master research, I used an approach based on the identity of the species, a taxonomic approach. In my PhD research, I´m moving to the trait point of view.

To this objective, I have compiled a database of the functional traits of this species, based on species descriptions and web bases. I would like to improve that database, directly measuring attributes on plants, to find out what traits and in what range of values are being selected in the communities, and the associated ecosystem functions. I have no experience in measuring plant functional traits in field, and I am currently designing the sampling protocol to include the measurement of functional traits in our routine sampling. To do this, I am based on some available manuals and protocols.

Thus, my goals for the upcoming course are to acquire the skills necessary to design the plants traits sampling and carry it out successfully. On the other hand, my objective is to acquire tools for the quantification of ecosystem functions related to the plant traits.

Especially, I´m very excited for the opportunity to learn with trained and experienced professionals, to do it in an exceptional and diverse landscape, and to have the possibility to exchange experiences with colleagues in the field of functional ecology, new for me.

In relation to climate change perception, my sensitivity is that it is a highly controversial topic for everybody around the world. I think it is a fairly new topic for many people, especially for the older ones, that have the perception that nature is inexhaustible, immutable and that everything that is thrown in it disappears (I’m caricaturing it, but the spirit is that). Peru has a high representation of native cultures that possibly provide different and diverse looks to the previous.

I haven´t read any specific work, either a scientific or journalistic research, about public perceptions of climate change in Uruguay. Uruguay is developing a national strategy in response to climate change. As an input for that purpose, two work documents, as far as I know, have been written. One is a compilation on the perception of actors from various productive sectors, such as dairy, rainfed agriculture, rice cultivation, livestock, etc. The other is about the development of a methodology for the study of the cultural perception of climate in Uruguay. I have to admit that I knew about that works because, for writing this post, I asked to my lab fellows. Before that I knew that «something was been doing» (in terms of research), but nothing concrete. It is possible that more efforts are being done that I am not informed about.

Many public institutions are allocating resources to «do something» about climate change. This implies a variety of actions, from creating an entire section to assigning someone to go to some talks, depending on the tasks of the institution. I think people in general is not aware of those efforts, beyond that they are rather lukewarm.

My personal experience about climate change is that following every strong storm, drought or excessive rainfall event, a lot of people in the street, bus stop and elevator attribute them to climate change. Some other people points out that extreme events have always existed in Uruguay, and then start to remember a great drought that happened many years ago. Thus, a little debate about climate change is usually generated, putting in evidence that at least the words «climate change» are known to most people.

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