Meet the Team: Jo De Waele

Jo De Waele in Imawari Yeuta Cave, Venezuela. Credit: V. Crobu.

Jo De Waele in Imawari Yeuta Cave, Venezuela. Credit: V. Crobu.

Jo De Waele is the CAVES science coordinator. He is professor of Geography and Speleology at the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Bologna. An experienced speleologist and editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Speleology from 2006 to 2013, he knows the karst systems of Sardinia like the back of his hand – probably even better! He is also a member of the La Venta Exploring Team.

Jo is a very unconventional professor, the one you always wanted to have. His dress code is ‘comfortable, always’. In addition to coordinating the whole of the CAVES scientific programme, he is the instructor for all the science lessons, and the Principal Investigator for the geological and meteorological experiments. He also teaches the astronauts how to perform cave surveys.

Jo is a great teacher. One of my jobs at ESA is delivering ‘train the trainer’ courses. With Jo I had an easy life: he’s smart, motivated, structured, clear and extremely competent.

It took me over a year to find him. When we tested CAVES for the first time in 2008, it was a very different course. It had no content – it was just a outline. The underground world of caves offers a splendid opportunity for a space analog, but until you construct the scientific and operational analogies, it remains an empty shell.

So I needed a scientist, and one who knew the caves of Sardinia. A speleologist, a geologist, someone who had personal experience of exploration, somebody who spoke good English, and who was willing to dedicate time to creating a scientific programme for my crazy course ideas. After doing my basic course in speleology, I started looking for a scientist who ticked all the boxes. I had approached a few, but they all lacked one or the other skills I needed. Then I bumped into the SSI powerpoint project, and there I saw that the lesson on the Sardinian karst systems had been written by this guy named Jo De Waele. I decided to contact him, only to discover that Vitto, my splendid video operator, is a close friend of his and could have introduced me to him ages ago. But hey, I finally met him in Bologna in the fall of 2010, and we went visiting some caves together in January 2011. Thus, the CAVES science programme was born.

Loredana Bessone



  • Kjel Dupon says:


    We are a Belgian caving club named Styx. In the nineties our club came a couple of times to Sardinia for caving. In april we are planning another visit with clubmembers who have never been there before.

    Could you give us contact details of Jo De Waele in order to get some recent information about Sardinia caves?

    Best regards,

    Kjel Dupon

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