Team: Armand Rausell

Armand Rausell

Can you share a bit about your academic and research background?

Since I was a kid, I always pictured myself as a scientist. Mixing colorful potions all day long seemed like a dream-job to my youngest self. Later on, I remember being really inspired by my biology teacher during high school, so I decided to pursue a biology degree at the University of Valencia mainly moved by the interesting stuff I learned about biochemistry and cell functioning. The last two years of my BSc degree, I realized I had genuine interest in ecology, biodiversity and biogeography. So, after that, I moved to Madrid and obtained a MSc in Biodiversity in tropical areas. Fortunately, all that path led me to start a PhD thesis at the MNCN working with species distribution models, which I believe it encompasses all of my interests.

What specific research projects have you been involved with in the past, and what role did you play?

During my BSc, I asked one of my Conservation Biology teachers to start an internship in his research group. I worked with them for two months learning about limnology and how they processed and inferred ecological processes from water samples. I have also been involved in the study of colour polymorphism of P. bocagei at CIBIO, trying to understand the role of coloration in these lizard populations. Right before starting my thesis, I worked for one year at the Valencian Institute of Agricultural Research, which focuses on studying the adaptive mechanisms and benefits of local landraces in the face of climate change. Finally, different collaborations introduced me to projects within urban ecology and anthropogenic influence and pollution on wildlife.

What are your primary research interests, and how did you become interested in these areas?

Understanding what are the “rules”, processes and factors that shape the spatio-temporal distribution of species. By understanding this, I am confident that we can foster better coexistence with other species and contribute to the well-functioning of the ecosystem from which we are part of.

What will you be working on in our research group, and what are your goals for this project?

I am currently trying to understand how species distribution models work and how slight differences on the design of the models can alter drastically the predictions and projections under climate change. Moreover, evaluation tools that currently exist for measuring the goodness of the models tend to provide over-optimistic measures which do not usually capture the reality of the prediction. Therefore, I hope that my work within our projects helps us to improve the understanding and interpretation of SDM’s, enabling policymakers and decision-makers to formulate policies based on comprehensive information.

What skills or knowledge are you hoping to develop during your time in this research group?

Getting a comprehensive understanding of how species interact among them and with their environment. Also, any tool necessary to carry on the studies.

Where do you see your research taking you in the next five years?

I hope to still attached somehow with the research world, but unfortunately it is not easy to pursue a career in science in Spain without doing great personal sacrifices. So, I wish I had a clear answer for that, but the future is uncertain for young researchers.

What do you think are the most pressing questions or challenges in your research field today?

Many studies employ SDMs carelessly without taking into account how many factors can alter the predictions. By doing so, many other studies cite them using them as validating arguments, creating some circularity. Evaluation metrics are also really stablished and wide-spread. Nonetheless, experts in the field have been warning on the issue of over-optimistic evaluations which lead to spurious interpretations. The call for new evaluation metrics and more cautious models seems to be the pressing questions of the field.

How do you stay updated with the latest developments and research in your area of interest?

I always try to look for the most recent studies with specific keyworks as well as using some online platforms that connect similar studies ( Now, a lot of AI powered search engines are emerging also for the scientific literature, so I encourage people to explore the different tools that will enable us to perform more precise reviews of the latest developments.

Can you recommend any groundbreaking or influential papers/books in your field that you think everyone should read?

This is a really recent paper that summarizes really well all the problems that modelers face and should solve: “Top ten hazards to avoid when modeling species distributions: a didactic guide of assumptions, problems, and recommendations” by Santini et al. (2024)

Outside of research, what are your hobbies or interests?

I am a really social person, so meeting with friends to disconnect from the academic world is always something that fills my batteries up. Also, one of my main passions is playing basketball. It helps me to destress, exercise and have a good time with friends. I have been playing basketball for so many years that I truly believe that somehow, “ball is life”. These last years I also discovered the bachata world, so I enjoy a lot dancing and having fun improvising.

How do you balance your research commitments with your personal life?

I aim to keep my leisure and work hours separate, though there are times when they may overlap. I make an effort to avoid working on weekends and stick to a regular schedule during the workweek, since I must admit that I enjoy programming and designing new approaches. By doing that, I can divide my week better to balance it with sport and some social life.