As a child living in Algeria with her family, Chiara Ambrosino remembers seeing massive irrigated agriculture fields in the middle of the Sahara desert. In her 8-year-old mind, she couldn’t make sense of running water in a place that seemed so dead and dry. It’s no wonder that as an adult she built a career around finding sustainable ways for people to grow food in difficult climates.
“At an early age, I loved learning about the environment, how the earth shaped up over the millennia, the resulting and evolving topography and the natural resources around and available to us,” said Chiara.
While working on her Masters in International Development in Rural Areas in the early 2000s, she conducted research in Honduras. Chiara saw firsthand the effects Hurricane Mitch had on the rural communities and their livelihoods and decided to shift her focus to climate change research. She moved to London and began work on her PhD in Climatology at the University College London.
For her dissertation she developed a statistical model for practitioners to better understand year-to-year changes in the planting seasons and rainfall characteristics. With this information, governments, farmer organizations, and NGOs can help farmers prepare for shifts in weather patterns and introduce appropriate management and mitigation tactics.
“This type of research aims to build a bridge between the purely academic research and those who would benefit from such research, simplifying a complex area of study, such as the impact of our climate on our food production system,” said Chiara.
She brings her expertise and love of agriculture and climate science to iDE, working with our country teams across the world to develop strategies that build farmers’ resilience to climate shocks and stresses.
Chiara says science, particularly the physical sciences, are still heavily dominated by men.
“In academia the percentage of women decreases with every step up the career ladder,” she said. “I remember the last project I worked on in academia—the ratio of women to men was 1:4, with all the women, in that particular instance, being at the base of the career ladder.”
Chiara, a mother of two girls, also says it’s difficult for women to build a career and care for their family when they’re working for years on fixed-term contracts that are linked to projects. She hopes that the culture and systems will adapt to the issues women face working in science, such as more flexibility for maternity and childcare. Building both a career and a family shouldn’t put women at a disadvantage compared to their male colleagues.