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Six questions for the Professor - meet Patrizio Mariani

Elektronik Fødevarer og fiskeri Biologiske systemer Fisk og skaldyr Fiskeri og fiskebestande

Patrizio Mariani from DTU Aqua has just been appointed Professor. It is both a great honor and a great responsibility, he says. See his answers to questions about the professorial role, the research and where it started.

Patrizio Mariani is newly appointed Professor in Marine Technology and Observation at DTU Aqua. His career at the aquatic institute, until 2009 known as the Danish Institute For Fisheries Research, goes back to 2006. Now, being a Professor for two month, what does he think of being appointed to the role? We asked the new Professor six questions to let you meet him.

What do you think about being appointed Professor?

"We cannot observe everything nor do we need to. We have to decide what we need to observe – and I think combining the two worlds is a way to get there."
Professor at DTU Aqua Patrizio Mariani

I think it is an honor and a pleasure, but also a responsibility. Because this professorship has never been present before here at DTU. The position is about ocean technology which is something very challenging and very important for the future, in terms of societal development and sustainable economic growth in Denmark as well as in Europe.

Can you describe your research area in a few words?

Patrizio Marianin 2It’s all about new technology for observing the ocean to generate new data, and in the use of these data for new ecological models and knowledge development. There are many challenges in order to make accurate observations. In terrestrial systems, new observations can be collected going to field work and see with your own eyes for instance the tree in the forest, the mountains, etc. .. Observing the ocean often requires, first of all that you go under water with some instrument, and that is in itself very challenging as salt water and electronics don’t generally go well together.

That’s why you need to design systems that are suitable for underwater use. Then, once you are in the water, the visibility is often no more than a few meters. So you have to develop methods that are not standard to collect better observations, using for example acoustic systems and laser light – and we are doing research on both.

Does this kind of waterproof technology apply to all kinds of oceans – hot or cold, the Arctic?

Yes, well, many solutions could work in all environments. The Arctic, however, offers additional challenges because you often want to go under the ice or very close to it. And collecting long term observations under the ice is a really challenging task.

Autonomous underwater vehicles are now used to collect several long term observations in different places, but to operate under the ice they have to be equipped with special sensors, for example to avoid collisions with the ice or to be able to transmit regular information also when they cannot reach the surface because of the ice. How to develop such technology for the Arctic is exactly part of the research my group is doing at the moment. For example we are contributing in projects to make autonomous profiling under the ice smarter, but also projects on how to improve observations in coastal areas and in the deep ocean.

After your appointment as Professor, how will your research area continue or change?

My research area has been developing very fast over the last few years and will most likely continue to change in the future. My background is more in process based numerical modelling of the ocean. But now along with the focus on developing new underwater technology, we can provide better data to improve some of these models.

So, what I will do is bridge these two areas. Not only improve marine observations for the sake of increasing data of the marine environment, but also try to define what we need to observe for developing better knowledge. We cannot observe everything nor do we need to. We have to decide what we need to observe – and I think combining the two worlds is a way to get there.

Now, let’s take a big leap to the past – what made you take this path in life?

I am from Pescara, a city on the Adriatic Sea in Italy and while living there I have been immersed in different maritime activities. The name Pescara itself in Italian sounds like fishing. So, I was always connected to the sea and interested in improving our understanding of the marine environment. Very early I was then interested in ocean technology that I studied at the university of Naples in Italy gaining a master on marine environmental science and a PhD on marine science and engineering. I mainly dealt with oceanography, mathematical modelling, remote sensing,...

Why is ocean science important today?

We have two major ecological crises at the moment in our time. One is the climate crisis with temperatures rising and extreme weather and ocean events. And we have the biodiverstity crisis. We are losing global biodiversity at a very high rate.

Both of these crises are very much linked to the state of the ocean. The ocean is one of the main buffer to mitigate temperature rising and the ocean hosts more than 90% of all the habitats available to life. The ocean indeed covers 70 percent of the earth’s surface and we can find species all the way down to its deepest points (about 11,000 meters). So, the volume available to life is enormous. Ocean health and human health are closely connected. We can’t have the illusion to live a healthy life in a word that is sick.

Hence, I think that developing new technology for observations and a better understanding on how things work in the oceans, is as important as to understand how we can keep humankind living on Earth ;)

How can your specific research area contribute to secure sustainable life on earth in the future?

With better observations and hereby better knowledge, we can actually design better strategies for managing ocean resources. For instance fish exploitation, if we improve our knowledge on how fish are distributed, we can become more selective on the catches both in terms of targeting only specific species and in reducing carbon emissions during fishing. Or, if we have better data on the sea-bottom structure, the extend of marine forest or eel grass, we can introduce measures to protect and restore those habitats, by for example avoiding going there with anchoring boats or using damaging gears.

That means having better knowledge about species distribution and pressures that occur in different marine areas will allow us to better manage human activities making them more sustainable for the marine environment, but also sustainable from a social and economic point of view.   

See more about Patrizio Mariani’s projects

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Dr. Patrizio Mariani is Senior Researcher at DTU Aqua and appointed Professor in July.

He leads the group on Observation Technology at DTU Aqua, focusing on the development of ocean technology supporting the next generation of integrated marine ecosystem assessment.

He holds a PhD (2005) and MSc (2000) in Marine Science and Engineering from the University of Naples.

He is president and coordinator of EUROMARINE, coordinator of project MISSION ATLANTIC and main PI in several H2020 and EMFF projects.

Field of interest: Numerical modelling, theoretical ecology, oceanography, automation and control, system integration

Teaching Aquatic Field Work

Memebership: President and coordinator EUROMARINE, Danish representative at the European Marine Board.