Sophie Ruehr, recipient of the 2023 Secondment Program award, has completed the program and wrote the following to share with the FLUXNET community:
This fall, I was lucky to visit Centro de Investigación Ecológica y Aplicaciones Forestales (CREAF)
in Barcelona to work with Rafael Poyatos and Maurizio Mencuccini. I stayed for five weeks,
during which I got to do some awesome research, drink vermouth, and explore the beautiful
city of Barcelona and its surrounding countryside in Catalonia.
Rafa, Maurizio and I used paired sites from FLUXNET and SAPFLUXNET databases to study
ecosystem reliance on soil moisture and deep subsurface waters. We considered how access to
deeper water sources may increase GPP and ET during drought. We are incorporating various
ancillary datasets to provide additional information and potentially upscale our results globally.
My previous research has focused on single-site studies and field work, while Rafa and Maurizio
have experience with multi-site synthesizes. Expanding my work across ecosystems is a new
(and hopefully fruitful) challenge for me, so I was glad to have their expertise. Our work is
ongoing as we continue to assemble a dataset of groundwater measurements compiled at
SAPFLUXNET sites. Big shout out to the site managers and PIs who have already contributed
data to our project – thank you!
Group meetings with the EcoPhys group at CREAF were full of both humor and serious science.
The academic environment at CREAF is rigorous while being welcoming, casual but thoughtful.
It’s a great place to work and visit. I enjoyed attending seminars, where visiting researchers,
post docs, and students gave talks on everything from bee pollination to solar-induced
fluorescence in tropical canopies (Milagros (Mili) Rodriguez-Caton’s work in Costa Rica was
The graduate students and post docs at CREAF hang out all the time, whether having beers
after work near campus or checking out a hot pot restaurant downtown. Lunch lasts an hour or
longer and is always ended with coffee – cafe con leche was my preference. Talking with my
friends at CREAF opened my eyes about what research culture is like in Europe, where people
“work to live, not live to work.” I really appreciated hearing post docs’ experiences of traveling
to different cities and countries for various positions, which helped me reflect on my future
goals for after I graduate from my PhD. Hanging out at a jazz bar and playing music with my
friends Mukund Rao (another Secondment recipient) and Mili, hiking with Roxanne, Kirsten,
and Marc, eating dinner with Rafa’s family, and exploring La Mercè, a free city-wide music
festival, were some major highlights.
I am very grateful to have had this experience through the Secondment program, and I highly
recommend that other early-career researchers take this opportunity to travel and discover
what flux science is like at other institutions. I had a great time and hope to visit CREAF again
soon. Moltes graciès!