Four Questions to: Pablo Urrutia Cordero, coordinator for SITES AquaNet

Who is Pablo? Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and what led you to this role?
I consider myself an environmental scientist with primary focus on aquatic ecology, aquatic-terrestrial linkages and water quality issues. My interests on environmental sciences rooted during my youth at my home country, Spain. As a child, I grew up with the notion that freshwater resources are particularly scarce. This is not only due to droughts, but also as a result of intensive extractions for irrigation in agricultural fields and urbanization. Everyone’s aware of it, my mother always told me to keep the tap closed and not use more water than necessary. I think that’s where all started!
I took a Bachelor degree in Environmental Sciences in Spain, and visited Sweden (Gothenburg) the first time through a study exchange program. After my master, which was about water quality assessment and the Water Framework Directive, I got the opportunity to take my PhD in Lund. In my research I’ve been focusing on browning and global warming effects on water quality, as well as management tools to reduce those impacts. For example, we know through biomanipulation of lakes, that is reducing the amount of fish, we can buffer the increased level of toxic algae in response to climate change. This is mainly done by boosting the growth of invertebrates that feed on these algae.  From that I got more and more into working with manipulation experiments, and for the past 4-5 years I’ve worked with mesocosms together with field data. I owe a lot to Professor Lars Anders Hansson from Lund University, who was a pioneer using mesocosms in Sweden looking at the effects of climate change on lakes and from whom I have learned a lot!
How did you become the coordinator for SITES Aquanet?
Through colleagues and my network I had heard of SITES AquaNet, but I still had a vague idea when a colleague from Lund showed me the advertisement and said it was a perfect match with me!

I think it is an interesting challenge to be part of developing the work forward with mesocosm studies. The problem today is that this kind of experimental approach is used more and more, but without any standardization. So it was the overall purpose with AquaNet, as well as the high research level and skilled people involved, that motivated me to apply for the coordinator role.
After these first months with the job, how would you describe SITES AquaNet?
I certainly underestimated the dimensions of the project. It is a much larger team than I thought and the competence level is very high, not only among the leading researchers, but also the technicians, who play a core role in developing the project. To lead and coordinate this group is a pleasure, and I think the project is going well. What’s most challenging is to manage to build a long-lasting infrastructure, at a reasonable cost. That means, to find and get the best deals from different suppliers and partners and knowing the equipment is going to be robust and reliable.
What values and opportunities do you see with SITES Aquanet? If I talk to you again a year from now – what do you expect to have achieved?
The main goal now is to secure we have the best equipment, for example we just had a meeting discussing what kind of sensors to buy, based on experience and input from our technicians. In April-May and July-August we will conduct two pilot experiments at Svartberget, Erken, Skogaryd and Asa. The experiments will help in answering many questions regarding the stability of biological communities in response to environmental disturbances, especially in a world that is rapidly changing on a global scale. These will be the first real experimental tests and I would like to see a consolidated and tested infrastructure available for many researchers to use it in years to come.  

In a more long-term perspective I see a great potential within SITES AquaNet, especially as  a base for coming projects and collaboration with other initiatives. The ambition is to scale it up!
Interview by Mia Barkland

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