Spotlight on Outreach: Barbara Cavalazzi, U. Bologna
April 28, 2017

Spotlight on Outreach: Barbara Cavalazzi, University of Bologna

dscf2953 Dr Barbara Cavalazzi is Assistant Professor at the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Bologna and visiting senior lecturer at the Department of Geology, University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Barbara has conducted research in many different areas of geobiology and astrobiology, and has organised field campaigns in Africa, north and south America, Australia, Europe.

Barbara first visited the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia in 2013 and, for Europlanet 2020 RI, she has been characterising the site as a planetary analogue for astrobiology studies, as well as for Venus and the early-Earth. In addition to her research, she has been very active in outreach and education related to the site.

Reaching out to schools in Ethiopia


In October and November 2016, Barbara spent a month visiting schools in Ethiopia to find out more about the education system. Ethiopia is a complex country, with many different states, at least 19 languages and dialects, and many very remote areas that are difficult to reach. The education system is organised in three cycles:

  • primary school (8y): grades 1 to 8
  • secondary school (2y): grades 9 to 10
  • college preparatory school (2y): grades 11 to 12

Most villages do not have a secondary school and many children leave education at the end of primary school. Only a very small percentage of young Ethiopians complete the college preparatory course.


Barbara visited several schools in rural areas in Tigray and Afar to give talks and meet students, teachers and members of the local community. She also spent time as a teaching assistant, supporting classes in science and English.

Teaching the teachers. Credit: B. Cavalazzi

You can hear more about her reflections on getting to know the local communities, learning from the teachers, developing an understanding of Ethiopan culture and experiencing the enthusiasm for learning  of the children in this Europlanet webinar ‘Tales of Geology and Education in Ethiopia’ and in her presentation.

Public High School (rural area near to Mekelle). Credit: B. Cavalazzi

Research Scene – The History of the Earth in Colours

In March 2017, Barbara took to the stage in Bologna for a multimedia show relating the ‘History of the Earth in Colours’. She guided the audience through the colourful history of the Earth, from the red of the new-born planet’s magma ocean, through the black and gray of the first rocks, to the blue oceans and the green of the development of life. Even today, the multicoloured Danakil Depression gives insights into the what the primitive was like Earth. The event at the LabOratorio di San Filippo Neri was organised by the Fondazione del Monte di Bologna and the Ravenna con Mismaonda.

cover of the event

PhysisArt – Photography of Danakil Exhibition

The artist, Samantha Tistoni, who accompanied Europlanet researchers for a field trip to Danakil in January 2017, in collaboration with Barbara Cavalazzi, created a photographic exhibition “PhysisArt – Photography of Danakil Exhibition“, which toured Italy (Bologna, Modena, Chieti and Pescara) in 2017-2108.

Exhibition website