Dr. Daniela Schmidt is Professor in the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences. She wrote to us about her inspiration to become a leading academic in her field, the nature of research and fieldwork, and the hats she wears beyond her profession.
I am a Professor for Palaeobiology in the School of Earth Sciences and I head the Global Change theme at the Cabot institute.
Though I did not grow up by the sea, I have always been deeply in love with the ocean. It gives me a feeling of happiness and calm. I wanted to contribute to protecting the environment and its inhabitants. I started studying biology but soon recognised that this was not what I wanted to do. I changed at the end of my first year to Geology (and my dad was not impressed about not bringing to an end what I had started). What I love about Geology is the combination of the ecology, which attracted me to begin with, with the ability to detect cause and effect over longer time scales than just an experiment over a few weeks.
My current research focuses on understanding the causes and effects of global warming and ocean acidification on marine ecosystems, both today and in the geological record. We characterise past intervals of rapid environmental change and determine the biotic response to these changes. We have found that the rate of ocean acidification today is faster than any change since the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago. I am very proud that our findings have contributed to the last IPCC report and inform policy makers about the long term consequences of ocean acidification.
I am not just a researcher but also a mum, supervisor, mentor and teacher. Combining it all is hard work and I have had to become a highly organised person. I love going to the field, may it be at sea or with students to teach them how to bring a large number of smaller observations together to create a bigger picture.