Photo Credit - Hugo Villavicencio
Always decide what will make you happy.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am a researcher obsessed with water! I study the dynamics of water quantity and water quality in different freshwater ecosystems. I mostly work in the in the tropics, in my home country Guatemala, but for now I am studying the dynamics of water quality in boreal forest (as north as I have ever been in my life). As a water scientist, I have studied the ecological dynamics of one the most beautiful tropical mountain lakes in the world. I have measured the amount of water flowing through a Mayan jungle and I have tried to understand the impact that unsustainable projects could have in water and thus in the well-being of many people.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?
I have two things that have been constant in my life: one that I love water and two that I am very concerned about the environmental situation in my country and in the world. Ever since I was a kid, I have always been part of environmental campaigns to clean a river, to start a recycling program in school or to plant a million trees, and that is the reason why I studied Environmental Engineering at university. I wanted to dedicate my work to protect the environment. Then, in my bachelors I had the best class where our professor, one of the few female scientist in my university took us to do field work to a lake in Guatemala that was changing its quality. And for a whole weekend we were trying to answer the question of what was the best way to preserve the ecological status of that lake, we took water for 200 meters deep in the lake, we walked among rivers and tool samples, we collected rain water and analyzed it. And that was the moment that I knew that in order to protect the environment we first needed to understand it, and that there was so little information available in my country to make the right decisions and that in order to protect it was imperative that I helped in understanding the dynamics of water resources. From that moment on, I have been working in water resources research.
HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?
Up front! Well, maybe I first tackle them up front but then I have to retreat to analyze the situation, make a plan and then I actually tackle the obstacle.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"
That those phrases like “If you dream it you can achieve it” are actually real. Until recently, I thought that those cliché phrases were just that, but beneath the cliché I now believe there is some truth. And maybe, what my younger self would not like to hear is that they are real but come with lots of work and certain sacrifices. However, if you work hard enough and determined enough whatever you dream of will happen.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?
I love that it is never boring; every day you are presented with new questions, with new beautiful landscapes, with new methods to analyze a result, or with other very interesting researchers. And moreover, this very interesting work can actually have the impact of helping protect our environment, our world and the people that most needs to be protected.
BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?
Don’t think that you cannot make it. Our society tends to push our life choices based on “what career is more profitable”. Don’t let them, always decide what will make you happy and the other part will come.