Who we are: Andra Milcu

I like to think that my first steps to where I am now go back to middle school when I was browsing a nice magazine recommended by our biology teacher. It was called the Blue Planet and the article I started reading was “The Photosynthesis Civilization at Sunset”. I remember the phrase “Mankind produces, consumes and throws away… produces, consumes and throws away, again and again…” a process entirely out of the cyclic spirit of nature. That was the moment when at the age of 13 I solemnly decided what I shall do for the rest of my life. It’s clear that I was not able to figure it precisely, but I was definitely feeling in that direction.

In the coming years I was inflexible and naïve enough to take myself very seriously. I was head of graduates of the Department of System Ecology of the University of Bucharest where I had the opportunity to practice in the field of freshwater ecosystem research. My license thesis examined the use of mathematical modelling in the development of water quality scenarios and the contribution of these scenarios to regional development planning. In parallel, I was volunteering for NGOs (Terra Mileniul III, European Environmental Sciences Students’ Association-EURENSSA) which contributed to shifting my interest towards policy making and its scientific foundation.

I pursued with a master in environmental sciences and management at the Free University of Brussels. My dissertation paper “The post-2012 climate policy for Romania” analysed Romania’s constraints and opportunities in the context of international political agreements, its specific interests and instruments. During my master studies I completed a long series of internships: UNDP-Romania, Institute for European Environmental Policy-IEEP, Permanent Representation of Romania to the EU and finally the Committee of the Regions of the European Union. Before starting my PhD I also worked for a brief period for the Climate Change and Sustainable Development Directorate of the Romanian Ministry of Environment. All these stages played a major role in my growing up as a hybrid between a researcher, an activist and an environmental bureaucrat.

A PhD  position in Joern’s Sustainable Land Use group came as the perfect continuation of my professional experience and studies and as the ideal incarnation of my personal motivation and career ambitions. At the same time this PhD allows me to work in a very positive academic environment and to keep strong ties with my home country (Romania) to which I feel deeply attached. After being quite familiar with the world of climate change, I am happy to investigate another challenge in the history of humanity that is rather poorly handled by national governments: land use change. I am also happy to research on a subject I only touched briefly during my professional journey so far: ecosystem services and people’s perception of it. Understanding ecosystem services from the perspective of the inhabitants of Transylvania and the correlation with land use history and perceived well-being is my aim for the next three years.

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