Arianna Valentina Del Gaudio, Ph.D. Candidate at University of Graz (Austria)

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Hi everyone! My name is Arianna Valentina Del Gaudio, currently a PhD student at the University of Graz, Austria. I am originally from Italy, where I achieved my bachelor’s degree in Geology at University of Parma. After that, I moved to Birmingham (UK) where I got my master’s degree in Applied and Petroleum Micropaleontology. Besides science, I like reading (mainly thriller books) and listening to indie rock music. Another way for me to relax and stimulate my creativity is baking. My colleagues are always happy when they see me arriving at the office with a cake in my hands! I also enjoy being physically active, so I spend a lot of time hiking together with my dog Coconut. 

Woman surrounded by trees on a path wearing exercise clothes and a backpack. A dog in facing forward on a leash.
backgound has red brick buildings of a campus. foreground has a woman in black graduation regalia

What kind of scientist are you and what do you do? My current Ph.D. research focuses on IODP core samples recovered from Fantangisña serpentinite mud volcano, located in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean (Mariana region). My principal aim is to provide an integrated biostratigraphy, based on planktonic foraminifera and calcareous nannofossils, in order to assess the possible age of the mud flow activity in the area. This will help to define the timing and evolution of submarine serpentinite mud volcanoes. Another important point of my research project is to obtain new insights into planktonic and benthic foraminifera assemblages, adaptation and ecology in such an extreme deep marine environment! For example, I can understand how the benthic community is affected by the mud production and how the assemblages behave prior/post and during the mud activity. The study of the planktonic foraminiferal assemblage is important as well! In fact, it allows us to reconstruct the past oceanic conditions in the region. Specifically, I am looking at changes of the ocean thermocline in relation to the ENSO climatic phases (El Niño/ La Niña). 

What is your favorite part about being a scientist, and how did you get interested in science? Since I was a child, I developed a strong fascination for the natural world. My passion for nature began when, every week-end, my grandfather was taking my brother and I to hike in the woods, teaching us everything he knew about the places we were visiting. This is how I learned to observe the world around us. Growing up, my curiosity for the beauty and complexity of nature led me to undertake a course of study in geology. All this brought me where I am right now! 

Woman standing with arms spread wide in between two large shelves of archived drill cores
Woman in mask in a lab setting sampling sections of a drill core

There are so many aspects I like about having a career in science! First of all, working in science means you continue learning and exploring every day. In fact, so far, we have learned a lot about how the natural world works at present time but… things get more complicated when you attempt to perform environmental reconstructions in the past. Every new dataset is challenging but fascinating, as it gives us the possibility to understand a bit better the environmental conditions in the past. 

Moreover, as scientists, we have the opportunities to travel a lot and work in international research teams. For example, I recently joined the IODP Expedition 391 as a biostratigrapher. Our expedition aimed to recover sediment cores and the igneous basement from the Tristan-Gough-Walvis Ridge hotspot track in the Southeastern Atlantic Ocean. 

During these two months in the middle of the ocean, it was exciting to experience how an international team of scientists cooperated together to answer some of our most pressing questions in the earth and climate sciences field. I believe it was a vibrant and highly stimulating environment where a young researcher like me can learn new skills from an experienced group of scientists and work with them to add new pieces to the great puzzle of the geoscience’s world. 

Conference setting with a woman at the podium providing a presentation while audience members look on

What advice do you have for up-and-coming scientists? A first tip for those who want to approach research is to mainly focus on the scientific topics that strongly interest you, because being passionate about something always pushes you to give your best. As a scientist, you also have to be patient as you may experience difficulties in running experiments or interpreting data. In these tough moments, believing in yourself and your abilities will be the key to success. Last but not least, try to develop good communication skills, which are essential to promote your research to the public and to better cooperate with your peers around the world.  

Panorama landscape with a woman laying on rock overlooking a body of water.
Myself at Kalbarri National Park (Australia) admiring the astonishing landscape.

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