Meet the Scientist #9 – Natalija Samardžić

Natalija at the geothermal well IB-2 Ilidža-Sarajevo during reconstruction of wellhead, 23.12.2019 (Photo: Neven Miošić)

Natalija Samardžić is a hydrogeologist and geothermal energy expert at the Geological Survey of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Federalni zavod za geologiju – FZZG). She works as Advisor for hydrogeology, with 16 years of experience in hydrogeological research of mineral, thermal and thermomineral waters. She is also familiar with the hydrogeology of karst and has participated in numerous projects related to groundwater connections, groundwater protection, investigation for the purpose of dam construction, and others.

She was occasionally engaged in preparation of legal acts in the field of investigation and balancing of groundwater and geothermal energy.

She was involved in the following international projects: 1) APOPSBAL (2002-2005) and 2) ANTHROPOL. PROT (2003-2005) – projects of the European Commission – Brussels related to PCB and other pollutants as a consequence of the war 1992/95 in the ex-Yugoslavia, 3) DanReGeotherm-DATA (2015) – EU project, 4) Investigation of gases and isotopes in hyperalkaline waters of B&H, project in cooperation of FZZG and the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology from Italy (2016-2017) and 5) DARLINGe project (EU project) about geothermal energy of the Danube Region (2017-2019).

You can find her on Facebook, LinkedIn, or contact her by email.

The road to become an expert in hydrogeology and geothermal energy

Natalija’s career in geoscience started by chance. After finishing high school in the small town of Nevesinje, she planned to continue her education at one of the technical faculties in the neighbouring city of Mostar. However, this was not possible because of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), so she went to study in Belgrade, Serbia, at the Faculty of Mining and Geology – Department of Hydrogeology. Natalija: “My encounter with geoscience was unexpected, but I believe my love for geology and hydrogeology is the result of the natural connection of man and ground, as well as the interest of humans to see the invisible, or to discover what exists in the famous underground.”.

Natalija sampling at the hyperalkaline spring “Slatina” in Lješljani (Photo: Ferid Skopljak)

For her master thesis, Natalija studied mineral, thermal and thermomineral waters of the Busovača fault zone in the central part of BiH, where numerous springs and wells of CO2 manifestations also occur. After graduating, an important challenge guided her choice to pursue a career in hydrogeology. Natalija: “How to provide drinking water for the thirsty Herzegovina region was my motto.”.

At present, she is investigating why the Lašljani well in BiH has the highest emission of methane ever recorded in the world. Also, she is making a huge effort to show to energy decision makers in BiH that geothermal energy should be included in all strategic energy documents, in order to increase its use and to contribute to reducing air pollution in BiH cities.

Favourite geological features

Having grown up in the karstic area of Herzegovina region, Natalija is fascinated by the distinctive morphology and large springs. As you can imagine if you are familiar with karst geology, limestone is her favourite rock type.

Natalija’s favourite geomanifestations are CO2-rich waters, locally called “kiseljaci”, because of their remarkable appearance and common use in everyday life – who does not like to drink some sparkling water?

Every scientist has a hobby

Natalija and a furnace (“žežnica”) for production of wooden coal in Kreševo (Photo: Neven Miošić).

Born in a family of farmers, Natalija has learned how to produce and prepare food since her early years. Today, cooking is the hobby she enjoys the most. Natalija: “I love to prepare the most some traditional dishes from Herzegovina like sarma – minced meat wrapped in leaves of sour cabbage, baklava – very strong cake made of thin leaves of dough, butter and nuts, and traditional cheeses.”. Natalija has been an activist in the international organisation for protecting artisan products in risk of extinction, Slow Food, for more than ten years.

Making the results of the project useful for stakeholders

Natalija considers that making the results of GeoConnect³d understandable to the wider public is the biggest challenge we have to tackle. Being a project that covers a wide area of Europe and therefore many different countries, it is inevitable to run into some difficulties – for example, different technical and policy terminology, and varied needs of the stakeholders according to region. Natalija: “One of the most important tasks for me in the project is to choose practical results and to transfer them to BiH stakeholders and general public on a credible and understandable way.”.