My Research Stay: Report by Jamil A. A. Anache

Jamil Alexandre Ayach Anache holds a PhD in Hydraulics and Sanitary Engineering and works as a professor at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. He received the Green Talents Award in 2018 and conducted his three-month research stay at the Institute of Soil Science at the University of Hamburg.

I completed my research stay at the Institute of Soil Science of the University of Hamburg (IfB-UHH). During my 3-months stay at IfB-UHH, I was under the supervision of Dr David Holl in the research group headed by Prof. Lars Kutzbach. The University of Hamburg was very welcoming, and both the DLR Project Management Agency (on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, BMBF) and the university team were very supportive.

The motivation to join IfB-UHH

Along my post-doc at the University of São Paulo (2018–2020) I deployed a flux measurement experiment using eddy covariance (turbulence principles) to measure the evapotranspiration of a tropical woodland and a grazing (pasture) area located in the Cerrado Ecoregion in Brazil. The Cerrado ecoregion is part of Brazil’s agricultural frontier, and the importance of its undisturbed vegetation in maintaining the availability of water resources needs to be well understood by scientists. Along this empirical study, the sensors also monitored carbon dioxide fluxes to and from the target land covers, but by that time, we only focused on water vapor measurements. After the post-doc ended, I wrote a paper on how accurate remote sensing-based methods are for estimating evapotranspiration in South America, and numerous empirical datasets across the continent are needed. While searching for such data to collaborate with the paper, I got in touch with Dr Holl and Dr Kutzbach, who were responsible for flux datasets from Patagonia, Argentina. Thus, we started a collaboration with this data sharing, and they collaborated on our paper. After some time, the paper was published and the restrictions due to the pandemic were more flexible. Thus, I decided to have my research stay in 2022, and I had the idea to ask Dr Holl for mentorship, since we already had a great collaboration in 2020 and his focus was carbon dioxide fluxes, which were also included in the empirical dataset of my post-doc, but were not analyzed since my focus was on water.

The idea of using the empirical carbon dioxide measurements coupled with other water and meteorological data for an area located in the Brazilian Cerrado was the core of this new partnership. The Green Talents research stay grant made this possible by allowing me to spend three months immersed in a group working on a topic that was new to me and very important to environmental science and engineering. Along my experiences in the Green Talents program and in my academic life, the carbon fluxes are the topic of almost all discussions about sustainability and incorporating them into my research topics is very important to increase impact. In addition to the valuable experience of the IfB-UHH group in data analysis of carbon fluxes, I also experienced a very welcoming group involved in many interesting research projects and initiatives, such as the Cluster of Excellence “Climate, Climatic Change, and Society” (CLICCS).

My experience in the City of Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg is a lively city with contrasting environments: lots of green areas, parks, and a huge port connected to a dense industrial area. I got to know life in Hamburg very well: people were very kind, communication was very easy, transportation was very efficient (I borrowed a bicycle from a German fellow and also used the 9-euro ticket for local and regional public transportation), and the food was delicious. I was also fortunate to see many summer events such as concerts, soccer games, and street fairs. I was also impressed by the buildings of the city of Hamburg. My favorite one was the Elbphilharmonie.

The end of the research stay and future perspectives

In the last month of the research stay (August 2022), I attended the Green Talents alumni meet-up at the BMBF headquarters in Berlin. This gathering was an opportunity to meet with other former Green Talents who were also in Germany for various reasons.

After three months of intensive data analysis, reading, meetings, field trips, and personal experiences in Germany, I am heading back to Brazil to return to my regular professional activities and life. However, my supervisor, Dr Holl, and I organized our schedule to finish a joint manuscript, which includes the activities of the research stay, in the next few months. I returned to Brazil and resumed lecturing a few days after my arrival and became coordinator of the Natural Resourced Graduate Program. It is important to mention that throughout the research stay I did not stop my ongoing research projects in Brazil with my graduate and undergraduate students. After all, I can say that the Green Talents program changed my career and the research stay was a unique opportunity to improve my adaptability skills to new environments and also to open the horizons for future projects, paths and collaborations in my scientific career.

Read more about Jamil Alexandre Ayach Anache.