MariaElisa_P_Pre-Course Blog Post

What is your background? Where are you from? What do you study? What are you most interested in, scientifically?

Ciao! I am Maria Elisa Pierfederici. I was born and grew up in the beautiful land of Italy where I was enough lucky to spend a lot of time on the Alps. I am an environmental scientist with a special passion for Tundra and High Mountain Environments. I find extremely fascinating the ability of certain species to adapt themself  and survive in extreme environments.

I graduated in Italy with a bachelor of Environmental Science. During my Master degree I joined the Freshwater Ecology Lab at the University of Tromsø (Norway) working on a project on the impact of climate change on the life cycle phenology and population dynamics of Arctic and Alpine lake species. During my studies and after graduating I have been living in Ireland and Sweden where I have been working as intern on various projects within Limnology, Evolutionary Ecology and Plant Ecology Labs. I am now a PhD in Basic and Applied Ecology at the Norwegian University of Norway (NMBU) and my research concerns ecology, evolution and conservation of Alpine plants. I am currently at Duke University  in US working on specialized demographic analysis of a long-term data set of the Alpine plant Silene acaulis.

What are your goals for the upcoming course in Peru? How will you know if you’ve met these goals?

My goal for the upcoming course is certainly to learn as much as possible, from planning and design experiments to laboratory and analysis techniques! Plant functional traits are not part of my project yet, but I believe they are of fundamental importantce for plants demographic studies. I would like to end the course with a good background on functional traits, in order to be able to apply the skills acquired in my present and future works.

What are you most excited about, with respect to the upcoming course and trip?

This is my first time in South America and I am very curious to discover these landscapes. I can’t wait to learn more about high altitude environments in the Tropics and later compare them to the environments I normally work in. Other than that I am looking forward to work with other young scientists and learn from experienced researchers joining for the course from all over the world. I am also happy to have the opportunity to meet local people and discuss about climate change with them.

What do you anticipate people will think about climate change in Peru? Do you think most people will accept that the planet is warming, and that this is largely being caused by human activities? Or will this topic be controversial?

Latin America is a vulnerable country in the face of climatic changes. I believe local people to be aware of this and  to have high perception of the  risks related to climate changes. At the same time i expect the perception to vary depending on the person’s education level, which in the most of the countries greatly influence the way of thinking.

What do you know about public perceptions of climate change in your home country? What, if anything, have you experienced related to public perceptions of climate change?

In Italy, especially in the last few years, sensitivity to climate change related problems has increased. The most of Italians consider climate change to be a serious problem but not many of us have a scientific understanding of it. The most of the population believe that the climate is actually warming up but this is due to the perceptions seasonal anomalies in temperatures than on information provided by scientists. Mass media play a key role, in fact the level of public concern about environmental issues tends to follow the amount of attention devoted to the media.

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