Blanca Figuerola
(Photo provided by Blanca Figuerola)

I am a marine biologist. I explore the question of how marine animals change in response to recent and past environments using understudied invertebrate taxa as models from the tropics to the poles. I am currently a postdoc at the O’Dea Lab (odealab.com) in Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama. There, I am evaluating the potential use of microgastropods as proxies for past environmental conditions of Caribbean and Pacific coral reefs using high resolution dating, biotic changes in microgastropod communities and stable isotopes for the first time in collaboration with Dr. Ethan Grossman. In July I will start a Juan de la Cierva-Incorporation postdoctoral position on coralligenous communities and climate change as part of the MedRecover team (medrecover.org) at the Institute of Marine Sciences (CSIC) in Barcelona.

I did my PhD on biodiversity and chemical ecology of Antarctic bryozoans, a poorly known group but well represented in Antarctic waters, at the University of Barcelona. I participated in five Antarctic expeditions led by Dr. Conxita Avila (conxitaslab.cat, ub.edu/irbio), where we were diving under extreme conditions (e.g. -1.8ºC water temperature and low visibility) in remote places that anyone had dived before. In the first expedition (2008), the dive team was composed by 4 women and 2 men (not usual in this moment). In the following Antarctic expeditions, I was happy to see an increase in women representation. However, it is still needed to encourage more women to pursue careers and enhance their self-confidence in science.

I immediately fell in love with this impressive and risky “white continent” and it started my passion for isolated and cold places. For this reason, I applied for several fellowships (e.g. COMNAP, Shackleton and Synthesys fellowships) to carry out my own projects on biodiversity, skeletal mineralogy and natural product chemistry in a global change scenario using sub- and Antarctic marine calcifiers as models in different countries (Australia, Falkland Islands, Italy, New Zealand, Poland and UK) and collaborating with a wide range of experts. One of the most exciting findings for me was the discovery of 21 new bryozoan species from deep cold-water environments.

After my experience working in several Labs, I believe that the best way to build high-level science is to collaborate with scientists from different backgrounds from other parts in the world and to select the right candidates for your team in order to create a healthy working environment (good communication, recognition of the efforts, use of humility and work-life balance).

If you would like to contact me or learn more about me:

Twitter: @BlancaFiguerola

Website: bfiguerola.weebly.com

Illustration of several material (including Antarctic fauna): bfiguerola.wordpress.com

Some of my publications include:

Figuerola, B., Gordon, D.P., and Cristobo, J. 2018. “New deep Cheilostomata (Bryozoa) species from the Southwestern Atlantic: shedding light in the dark.” Zootaxa 4375 (2): 211-249. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29689770.

Figuerola, B., Barnes, D.K.A., Brickle, P., and Brewin, P.D. 2017. “Bryozoan diversity around the Falkland and South Georgia Islands: Overcoming Antarctic barriers.” Marine Environmental Research 126:81-94. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28258012.

Figuerola, B., Kuklinski, P., and Taylor, P.D.. 2015. Depth patterns in Antarctic bryozoan skeletal Mg/Ca: can they provide an analogue for future environmental changes? Marine Ecology Progress Series 540:109-120. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282643663_Depth_patterns_in_Antarctic_bryozoan_skeletal_Mg-calcite_Can_they_provide_an_analogue_for_future_environmental_changes.

Figuerola, B., Sala-Comorera, L., Angulo-Preckler, C., Vázquez, J., Montes, M.J., García-Aljaro, C., Mercadé, E., Blanch, A.R., and Avila, A. 2014. Antimicrobial activity of Antarctic bryozoans: an ecological perspective with potential for clinical applications. Marine Environmental Research 101: 52–9. https://www.academia.edu/8300898/Antimicrobial_activity_of_Antarctic_bryozoans_an_ecological_perspective_with_potential_for_clinical_applications.

My research is also featured in Science Daily:

“New unknown Bryozoa genera and species below thousand meters deep in the Southwestern Atlantic,” 9 February 2018. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180209114334.htm

“Polar front’s oceanographic barrier is not as impermeable for bryozoans of the Southern Ocean as thought,” 24 March 2017. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170324105520.htm

“Antarctic bryozoans give hints of environmental changes in oceans,” 2 May 2016. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160502084043.htm