Who are you and what do you do?
Since my childhood I was profoundly interested in nature and that led me later to study biology. Through my studies, extensive reading and extracurricular activities I became highly interested in ecology and sustainable development and this motivated me to start working as a PhD researcher at the University of Antwerp. My scientific interest focuses on the soil biodiversity and the soil-based ecosystem services provided by agricultural ecosystems. I strongly believe that a sustainable agricultural sector is a key to a sustainable society, Flanders being no exception. In order to achieve food security and the sustainable provision of many essential ecosystem services under global warming and the distortions of the global trade system, the agricultural sector in Flanders, in the same fashion as in the rest of the developed world, needs to move towards a more sustainable direction. This agricultural transformation towards ecological, social and economical sustainability requires the participation of all members of society, not only farmers. Responsible consumption should go hand to hand with responsible agricultural production. So, as a scientist and an active citizen of this planet, I feel that I have a duty to contribute to this transformation, by disseminating in an interactive way to my co-citizens the importance of soils and soil biodiversity in the building of a more sustainable and resilient world.
What competences make you a good Generation T?
In common with the members of Generation T, I am profoundly interested in the building of a sustainable and resilient society. Thus, becoming a member of this big family of sustainability seekers would give me the opportunity to get to know and be inspired by people who actively contribute to the transformation of the society I live in towards a more sustainable path. That would also enable me to share with them my vision for the future and disseminate my knowledge on the amazing, yet still largely not very well-known world of soils. Soils, with their very rich biodiversity and highly complex network of biotic and abiotic interactions, provide to humanity many goods and services, which are under threat due to a variety of reasons, the prevailing economic system of “free” markets and global warming standing out as the two most crucial ones. I believe that we humans need a paradigm shift in our mindsets in order to realise how important is to change our lifestyle, and by doing so to contribute to the building of a more sustainable and resilient world. Thus, I am eager to interact in a meaningful way with people who share the same passion as me, and explore new pathways to that end. Creativity, open-mindedness and respect to each other’s background are essential qualities in my interpersonal interactions.
Give specific example(s) on how your projects or activities make a difference and initiate change.
Currently, I am conducting research within the LANDMARK Project (landmark2020.eu), of which the overall scientific aim is to quantify the current and potential supply of soil functions across the EU, as determined by soil properties (soil diagnostic criteria), land use (arable, grassland, forestry) and soil management practices. The agriculture-related soil functions (soil-based ecosystem services) studied include: primary productivity, water regulation and purification, carbon sequestration, cycling and regulation, nutrient provision and cycling and habitat for functional and intrinsic biodiversity. My research within the Project focuses on the last soil function. This Project envisions a sustainable soil and land management, which ultimately will be the basis for a sustainable agricultural sector. However, the majority of people are still unaware of the multifunctionality of soils and the great role they can play in climate adaptation and mitigation. Thus, one challenge for me as part of the scientific community, is to communicate to people and shareholders the importance of the soil component of the human-managed ecosystems in building a more sustainable and resilient society, and how urgent is to adapt our lifestyle in the pursuit of this aim.