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Meet Paola

Hello, world!

My name is Paola, and I’m a young Italian student currently enrolled at the University of Bologna for a Master’s degree in Global Change Ecology and SDGs. I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between organisms and the environment in which they live, especially because this connection is extremely dynamic and plastic, allowing living beings to evolve, mutate, and adapt to contexts characterized by increasingly rapid global changes.

My strong curiosity and sensitivity have cultivated my interest in the biodiversity that characterizes our planet, and my hopeless optimism makes me want to fight against its destruction.

That’s what brought me here, to Iracambi, where I’m conducting the first research project on which I will base my Master’s thesis, with the help of my supervisor Professor Roberto Cazzolla Gatti.

The project consists of monitoring the biodiversity of the Atlantic rainforest under different types of management, using arboreal and mammal diversity as a proxy for it; data will be collected respectively through forest plots and camera traps.

On Fazenda Iracambi, we can identify 4 main types of forest management: eucalyptus plantations, areas of enrichment planting with native species (planted in 1990 and then again in 2005,) secondary forest less than 40 years old, and old growth forest that has been subjected to selective logging. As well as these four management types, I am taking into consideration another variable: the differences in altitude. 

To better understand how different management influences forest biodiversity and biomass, I am using an area of old growth forest outside Iracambi as a baseline comparison. And we are sure that what will come out of this research is the   great potential of restoring forest biodiversity in these different forest areas.  

Beyond the lifetime of this study, our idea is to maintain this monitoring protocol over time, integrating it with soil, water, and air quality monitoring, to really understand the direction in which Iracambi reforestation efforts are going. We plan to use the study to help us develop ecolological corridors and protected areas, all with the ultimate goal of ‘making the Mata Atlântica great again’.

I have only been at Iracambi for a few weeks, but I have already fallen in love with the place and its kind and generous people. And can you believe that this is my first time outside Europe? 

I am excited about everything I see because everything is new: nature, people, and places. Before coming here, I had occasionally got to experience nature in all its power, but here I feel it every day. I can sense the energy of this diversity exploding again in a place where it was previously destroyed. 

We live in an era where human presence on earth has a huge and relevant impact, and my biggest desire is to be part of a society that actively contributes to mitigating it, with the idea of shaping not just a scientific community, but also a social community that is equally resilient to the challenges of these times. 

I try to do my part daily, carrying out my mission, and attempting to minimize my environmental impact as best I can.  However, I’ve reached the point where this alone is not enough for me anymore. I need to play a role that allows my actions to have a relevant impact on the world and transforms my mission into my career. 

Being here, in a place with such amazing possibilities, surrounded by people who share my ideals and aspirations, makes me feel positive and hopeful and I am convinced that, for me, this is the way forward, even though I am just at the beginning. 

With love and rainforest hugs,

Paola

PS I’ll be sure to upload the results of my research, so please stay tuned! 

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