Name: Luna Brentegani 

Position: Italian J PhD Student

Research School of Earth Science

Australian National University

Area of Study: Marine Micropalaeontology and Ocean Acidification

Project: A post-industrial record of calcareous nannoplankton in the waters and ocean sediments around Australia

What does that mean?

When scientists talk about climate change (again? climate change? Boring scientists..) they are concerned with all sorts of things that they don’t even mention leaving us with questions like: “Why are we experiencing events recorded already 50 or 100 years ago? Are we really affecting our environment or are these changes part of our ecosystem too?” Since the industrial revolution, man has contributed to changes to our atmosphere that are compromising the natural stability of the system and it’s all happening very quickly. We are seeing rising temperatures that are melting the ice caps and causing the sea level to rise and ocean currents to change their patterns. The pH of the ocean is also dropping due to increases in atmospheric CO2 and this phenomenon is called “ocean acidification”. I work with tiny organisms called coccolithophores which form skeletons of calcium carbonate around their single cell. Their distribution and the condition of their skeletons are directly related to ocean currents and the state of the global carbon cycle i.e. ocean acidification. So if I look for them in the fossil record and in the waters they can tell me (us) about past and present ocean conditions. Can they tell me more about the effects of human activity? Stay tuned, I am about to find it out!

How did I get here ?

Are you asking me? Several years ago I decided that I wanted to be a marine biologist and to take care of the sea and all of its inhabitants. Now, I’m a marine biologist who graduated in Italy with a thesis on my beloved coccoliths and I am doing a PhD so I can learn more about them, and how they can be used in climate research. I looked for professors in Australia who were interested in this subject and I found my supervisor…shame that I didn’t check before if Canberra was on the coast!!! I didn’t even know that the Australian National University is one of the best universities I could choose….it almost makes up for the lack of ocean and all in all the coast is not far!

Where will I go?

Well, we have established that I am not very good at learning about a place before travelling to it, so it’s very difficult to know where I might go from here. One thing is clear: next stop will be on the coast and always warm!!! What will I do? Well, I’m planning to rule the world (or maybe just a department). And I shall spread the word about what I have learned and what we should do to take care of this planet, in order that it can take care of us too.