Meet the Scientist #16 – Renata Barros

This post is part of the GeoConnect³d blog.

Renata Barros is part of the GeoEnergy research group at the Geological Survey of Belgium (RBINS-GSB). She is the coordinator of GeoConnect³d since January 2020.

Her expertise spans different geological uses of the subsurface, especially those regarding mineral exploration for sustainable sourcing of critical metals with a focus on battery metals.

Her current research is focused on subsurface management in Europe, with a strong emphasis on the dissemination of subsurface management and geo-energy concepts to stakeholders with varied backgrounds. She is a science communicator actively engaged in the outreach activities of GeoConnect³d, RBINS-GSB and as part of the volunteer team of the Pint of Science festival in Belgium.

You can find her or Twitter, LinkedIn and ResearchGate.

Loving the outdoors

If you take the other interviews of our Meet the Scientist series as an example, you will notice a lot of geoscientists, regardless of where they come from, have something in common: a passion for the outdoors. The idea of having a job with a good amount of time on the field was what got her interested in geology in the first place.

Interestingly enough, Renata’s time on the field is very limited now that her career took a turn towards project coordination as the lead of GeoConnect³d. Renata: “No regrets though – I am discovering a whole new world full of wonders (and paperwork).”

The stories rocks tell

Geologists know that every rock is ready to tell a story, but one has to be willing to discover it. Since she has been working with geochemistry since her undergrad years, Renata is fascinated about reconstructing these stories and seeing beyond an outcrop to find out things such as how deep below our feet that rock formed, which processes it records, what it tells us about the geological history of that area and region, and so on.

In this context, the rocks that tell the most mesmerising stories – and therefore her favorites – are pegmatites! Renata: “I accepted the challenge to do a whole PhD thesis about pegmatites in Ireland even though I learned very little about them during my undergraduate studies in Brazil, which is ironic because some of the most amazing pegmatites are there – ever heard of the pegmatites of Minas Gerais? These rocks are true works of art with all sorts of colours, textures and strange minerals, plus they keep challenging our understanding about the rock forming processes in the upper part of the Earth’s crust.”

De-complicating geology

As it is the case in any other science, geoscientists speak their own language full of technical terms, often not realizing how strange that language looks to someone outside the area.

Renata’ approach: “Now think of when you look at a world map, or see a representation of time zones, latitudes and longitudes. These illustrations and concepts are recognizable and understandable for most people. Now we want to do the same with geological information by using our structural framework model and geomanifestations.”

And this is one of the reasons that made her fall in love with GeoConnect³d: the ambition to get something as complicated as geological data and make concrete progress towards making them understandable to a wider public.

GSB – Geological Survey of Belgium

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