HS Hydrological Sciences
The 2019 Division Outstanding Early Career Scientists Award is awarded to Serena Ceola for outstanding contributions to the understanding of the interplay of river dynamics, fluvial ecology and human activities.
Serena Ceola’s research has provided new perspectives on the interactions between human and fluvial systems, analysing both flood-prone areas and river ecosystems. In her research on river ecosystems, she upscaled small-scale experiments on the relationship between benthic habitat (i.e. algae and invertebrates) and hydrologic regimes to entire river networks by a novel probabilistic approach. This allowed her to estimate benthic invertebrate abundance and identify hotspots of anthropogenic influence on river ecosystems in a spatially explicit way from near-bed flow variability.
Her work on flood-prone areas at global scale is based on an innovative use of advanced and non-conventional remotely sensed data, linking local and global information. By analysing satellite nightlight images, she found that the number of people located in flood-prone areas is increasing at a faster rate than overall population growth worldwide, which allowed her to identify hot-spots of increasing flood risk that call for urgent action, thus helping to improve the knowledge on flood risk, especially in data-poor regions. She also quantified the spatial distribution of anthropogenic presence along streams at multiple temporal and spatial scales thus paving the way for a new approach to human-related water science.