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Personal profile

Academic Biography

Dr Baldini is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science in Teesside University's School of Life Sciences and Health which she joined in February 2020. Prior to joining Teesside, Dr Baldini was Assistant Professor in Palaeoclimate and Environmental Science in the Department of Geography at Durham University (since 2016).

From 2008 to 2016, Dr Baldini held two post-doctoral research positions in the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham University. In 2008, Dr Baldini received the prestigious Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship award for the project, "Reconstructing past changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation using Holocene stalagmite records from central Europe". This project built on her PhD research that identified a strong link between Europe's dominant atmospheric circulation pattern (the NAO) and rainwater isotopes in Central Europe. Stalagmites from Niedwiedzia Cave, Poland are yielding important insights into climate (atmospheric circulation, temperature, and rainfall) variability through the Holocene. From 2010 to 2016, Dr Baldini was the Senior Postdoctoral Research Associate on the European Research Council funded HURRICANE Project. This project used geochemical tracers in speleothem carbonate from Caribbean (Belize and Turks and Caicos Islands) and western North Atlantic (Bermuda) sites to produce the highest resolution record of tropical cyclone activity over the past 450 years. This research revealed northward migration of the dominant tropical cyclone belt due to industrial emissions since 1850. Ongoing research will extend this record over the past 2000 years to investigate the impact of Pre-Industrial warming associated with the Medieval Warm Period on North Atlantic tropical cyclone activity.

Dr Baldini earned her PhD in 2008 from University College Dublin, Ireland under the supervision of Professor Frank McDermott. Her PhD entitled, 'An investigation of the controls on the stable isotope signature of meteoric precipitation, cave seepage water, and Holocene stalagmites in Europe' involved a wholistic approach to stalagmite-based palaeoclimate reconstruction along the North Atlantic eastern seaboard. Through this research, Dr Baldini gained expertise in water isotopes as they are modified through atmospheric, soil, and karst processes and finally during precipitation as speleothem carbonate. Dr Baldini's research in La Garma Cave, northern Spain has yielded important insights into climate during the Younger Dryas and the potential for speleothems to record changing seasonality through time. Instrumental and model data suggest that climate seasonality is shifting under climate change but longer-term records of climate seasonality are needed. Monthly-scale geochemical tracers in stalagmites provide the optimal means to reconstruct long-term, continuous changes in seasonality before the Industrial Era. 

Dr Baldini earned her MSc degree from the University of Georgia, USA under the supervision of invertebrate palaeontologist, Professor Sally Walker. Dr Baldini's MSc project entitled, 'Stable isotopes in terrestrial gastropod carbonate and their palaeoenvironmental implications, San Salavador Island, Bahamas' used stable carbon and oxygen isotopes in the shell carbonate of the land snail Cerion to assess its viability as a low-latitude palaeoenvironmental indicator. Biogenic carbonates are also important indicators of past seasonality, climate, and environment.

Dr Baldini currently co-supervises two PhD students (based at Durham University). Her students are addressing key questions within the fields of Environmental and Climate Change Science as described below. Dr Baldini was primary supervisor to Dr Xiangwen Fan who successfully completed his PhD at Durham University in summer 2020. The first publication from this work was published in Science of the Total Environment this summer (2020). 

 

Summary of Research Interests

Dr Baldini's research interests span palaeoclimate reconstruction using biogenic and inorganic carbonates, modern stable isotope systematics in meteoric precipitation and groundwater, and using geochemical fingerprinting to trace human impacts on the environment. In 2019, Dr Baldini led a successful Global Challenges Research Fund-Centre for Doctoral Training (GCRF-CDT) proposal entitled, "Maya subsistence farmer decision-making under climatic uncertainty in Central America". This multi-national collaboration (UK, USA, Belize) takes a unique interdisciplinary research approach combining meteorological monitoring, soil quality assessment, and farmer interviews to document for the first time, the impact of climate extremes and uncertainty on small-share farmers practicing rain-fed agriculture in S Belize. Also in 2019, Dr Baldini joined researchers from Durham University Biosciences and Norway on the a Leverhulme Trust-funded DurhamARCTIC Doctoral Training and Research Centre project to investigate how natural enemies and climate change in Arctic Norway might interact to increase the risk of non-native plant speices invasion over the next several decades. Dr Baldini co-supervises the two PhD students working on the above projects (2019-2022). Dr Baldini was primary supervisor to Dr Xiangwen Fan who recently completed his PhD entitled 'Long-term accumulation of nutrients in the environment: A case study of estimating a spatial N budget across the UK'.

Dr Baldini is co-investigator on two active Spanish government-funded archaeological projects based at the University of Cantabria, northern Spain. Both projects are multi-national collaborations that aim to reconstruct the evolution and behaviour of human groups in coastal areas of SW Europe since the Palaeolithic. Dr Baldini's palaeoclimate reconstructions at La Garma Cave have provided key insights into the role of climate in modulating human behaviour in northern Spain over the past 14,000 years. 

Since 2010, Dr Baldini has conducted research in southern Belize at Yok Balum cave and across the Toledo District in collaboration with archaeologists, cultural anthropologists, palaeoclimatologists, and conservationists from institutions across the US, Europe, and Belize. This research is yielding important insights into Central American climate variability over the past two millennia with implications for ancient and modern Maya farming communities and the impacts of climate change on food security.

Research Projects & External Funding

Total Awarded: £909,849 (as PI and Co-I)

Department of Geography (Durham) Research Development Fund (PI) (£1,944) (2019)

Project Summary: Organised and convened a three-day agricultural-climate workshop at Southern Belize’s regional NGO, Ya’axché Conservation Trust (YCT) that brought together experts in local Maya agricultural practices, climate change, cultural anthropology, and environmental engineering from YCT, Durham University, and US Universities (USF and UNM). Topics discussed included:  i) ongoing sustainable and climate smart agricultural initiatives promoted by YCT across Maya communities in the region, ii) environmental engineering strategies for improving food, water, and energy security across the region, iii) climate change impacts on the seasonality of rainfall and frequency of extreme events across the region. In addition to sharing best practice in ongoing climate and sustainability research in the region, the workshop identified new opportunities for collaborative, interdisciplinary research in the region.

Leverhulme Trust-funded DurhamARCTIC Doctoral Training and Research Centre (Co-I) (£145,000) (2019-2022)

Project Summary: An interdisciplinary project collaboration between Durham University (Departments of Biology and Geography) and the NTNU University Museum, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, this project aims to investigate how natural enemies and climate change in Arctic Norway might interact to increase the risk of non-native plant species invasion over the next several decades. The research methodologies include climate and species distribution modelling, field observations of herbivory compared to historical herbarium records, and common garden experiments to assess the climate thresholds for invasion. 

Global Challenges Research Fund - Centre for Doctoral Training (GCRF-CDT) (Co-I) (£146,487) (2019-2022)

Project Summary: Dr Baldini led the GCRF grant proposal entitled ‘Maya subsistence farmer decision-making under climatic uncertainty in Central America’ which was funded in November 2019. This project is a multi-national collaboration (UK, USA, Belize) that aims to document, for the first time, the impact of climate extremes and uncertainty on small-share farmers practicing rain-fed agriculture in S Belize. The outcome of this research will be used to inform policy-makers working in food and water security, land-use, and disaster mitigation and will be shared with stakeholders (such as NGOs) to enhance resilience of subsistence farming communities across Central America to climate change impacts.

Spanish Government-funded ‘PaleoSub’ (Co-I) (£52,493)(2018-2021)

Project Summary: ‘A new frontier for Prehistory: The submerged Palaeolithic in the continental shelf of the Bay of Biscay (PaleoSub)’ is a multidisciplinary, international, project that aims to identify and analyse Mesolithic archaeological remains and submerged speleothems on the Continental Shelf floor of the Bay of Biscay. More than one third of the land area occupied by Palaeolithic human groups in Europe was drowned by sea level rise at the end of the Last Glacial period thus, this research will revolutionise current understanding of one of the most important periods of Prehistory. Recovered speleothems will be used to reconstruct palaeoenvironmnent and sea level changes since the Last Glacial Maximum.  

Spanish Government-funded ‘SimTIC’ (Co-I) (£192,667)(2018-2021)

Project Summary:This project entitled,‘Symbols below the ground: An approach to the thinking of late Glacial hunter-gatherers using information technology (SimTIC) is an interdisciplinary, multi-national collaboration (28 institutions across seven countries) aiming to reconstruct the symbolic behavior of hunter-gatherers in northern Spain and SW France since the end of the Last Glacial.

Spanish Government-funded ‘Co-Change’ (Co-I) (£192,475) (2015-2018)

Project Summary: This project entitled, ‘CoChange-Coastal societies in a changing world : A diachronic and comparative approach to the prehistory of SW Europe from the late Palaeolithic to the Neolithic’ is an interdisciplinary, multi-national collaboration (32 Spanish, American and European institutions) combining palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, remote sensing and archaeological excavations to reconstruct the evolution of human groups in coastal areas ranging from Portugal to western France from the Late Glacial to the late Holocene.

Durham University Grant Seedcorn Fund Award (PI) (£1,651)(2016)

NERC Isotope Geosciences Facilities (NIGFSC) Grant (PI) (£13,100)(2009)

Marie Curie Research Fellowship (PI) (£119,382)(2008)

Project Summary: This project entitled, ‘Intra-continental Reconstruction of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) based on Stalagmite Isotopes and Trace Elements’ was the recipient of prestigious Marie Curie Intra-European Funding and involved a collaboration with Polish and German researchers to identify and analyse the optmal stalagmite for a long-term NAO reconstruction.  

UCD (Ireland) Research Seed Funding Scheme (PI) (£9,624)(2005)

Project Summary: This project represents the first application of Single Particle Lagrangian Trajectory (HYSPLIT) Analysis and development of a novel statistical approach to elucidating Irish climate-isotope systematic on monthly and event timescales.

Multiple Small (<£1000) Research & Travel Grants (PI) (£2,955) (1999-2006)

Oakridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Research Fellowship (Co-I) (£38,927)        
(1996)

Project Summary: Initiated and managed multi-million USD projects to mitigate heavy metal migration from small arms range soils. Projects managed included:  i) working with the US Army Corps of Engineers to develop erosion resistant firing range impact berms, ii) development of green bullet technology to minimise galvanic corrosion of spent small arms ammunition, and iii) developing innovative acid-extraction techniques for cleaning metals from small arms range soils.

Learning and Teaching Interests and Activities

I lead and/or teach on several modules across the Geography, Environmental Science, and Geology BSc courses within the School of Health and Life Sciences at Teesside University. I have also designed several undergraduate and MSc modules (see below).

Modules I lead include: 

  • Yr 1 - Rocks Minerals and Fossils
  • Yr 1 - Global Environmental Issues (Designed)
  • Yr 2 - Igneous and Metamorphic Rocks (Designed)
  • MSc - Climate Change (Designed)
  • MSc - Environmental Management (Designed)

I teach on:

  • Foundation Year - Chemical Science and the Environment
  • Yr 1 - Interpreting Environments
  • Yr 1 - Physical Geography and Geology Field Work
  • Yr 2 - Earth Systems, Geotechnology and Earth Catastrophes
  • Yr 3 - Green and Environmental Chemistry
  • MSc - Global Energy Policy  

As Assistant Professor in Palaeoclimate and Environmental Science at Durham University, I co-designed and taught on a range of Physical Geography modules at all levels including 'Understanding Earth's Principles', 'Geochemistry of the Environment', 'Geochemical Applications', 'Scientific Research in Physical Geography'. and 'Past Climates of the Low Latitudes'. 

 

 

 

Education/Academic qualification

Higher Education Academy

Award Date: 15 Apr 2018

PhD, University College Dublin

… → Dec 2008

Award Date: 15 Dec 2008

Master, University of Georgia

… → May 2001

Award Date: 15 May 2001

Bachelor, James Madison University

… → Dec 1995

Award Date: 15 Dec 1995

External positions

Yorkshire Geological Society Fearnsides Award Expert Evaluator

1 May 2020 → …

Irish Research Council New Foundations Grant Evaluator

1 Jan 2020 → …

Expert Guest Lecturer 4th Speleothem Science Summer School

11 Aug 201917 Aug 2019

International Journal of Speleology Editorial Board Member

1 Jan 2018 → …

Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Expert Evaluator

1 Jan 2017 → …

Geological Survey of Ireland Shortcall Expert Evaluator

1 Jan 201731 Dec 2017

Assistant Professor, Durham University

1 Aug 201628 Jan 2020

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Durham University

1 Feb 201031 Jul 2016

NERC Standard Grant Reviewer

1 Jan 201031 Dec 2010

Leverhulme Trust Grant Reviewer

1 Jan 201031 Dec 2010

Marie Curie Intra-European Research Fellow, Durham University

1 Feb 200831 Jan 2010

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