Students

Karla Morato, MSc Candidate

Tropical forests account for 80% of the world’s documented biodiversity, including the fauna and flora species that together are essential for the maintenance of ecological processes and environmental services. However, most of the remaining forests are facing diverse anthropogenic pressures, being deforestation the most severe. The loss of tropical forests is one of the main drivers of the global extinction crisis. In addition to species loss, changes in composition in deforested landscapes lead to changes in the functional aspects of the remaining forests. However, it is necessary to unravel the underlying mechanisms that lead to these changes. In this context, my master's research aims to investigate experimentally how deforestation affects the rates of predation of arthropods in forest fragments located in landscapes modified by man, and if such a process could explain differences in herbivory levels of understory plants. By pinpointing the role of trophic cascades altering pivotal functional aspects in remaining patches, our study will help to bridge the gap on how changes in taxonomic dimension affect the capacity of remnants to deliver ecosystem services. We expect to subsidize discussions on both hard ecological theory and conservation aspects on the functioning of forest remnants in human-modified landscapes, emphasizing the importance to maintain forested landscapes to assure biodiversity conservation.

 

 

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Rebeca Ferreira Sampaio, PhD Candidate

Anthropogenic disturbances, like fragmentation and habitat loss, especially in the Atlantic Forest, are the major problems for the biodiversity conservation, making changes in landscapes and biota. However, agroforestry systems, where human cultivation is associated with forest areas, help to maintain the heterogeneity and complexity of habitats while conserving local biodiversity. In the southern region of the state of Bahia, the production of cocoa (Theobroma cacao) inside the forest areas, named cabrucas, is widely used. Nevertheless, a Federal Law was sanctioned in 2015 authorizing the intensive logging of arboreal individuals in cabrucas areas. Using the more diverse group of mammals in the Neotropical region, my goal is to understand how the vegetation loss in cabrucas landscapes affects (i) the taxonomic diversity of non-flying small mammals; (ii) the pattern of movement and space using by two species of small mammals that interact strongly with cacao and forest (Marmosa murina and Rhipdomys mastacalis); and (iii) the genetic diversity of the cocoa predator rodent (Rhipdomys mastacalis).

 

 

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Mariana Campelo, MSc Candidate

EEvery year, a great population of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) migrates to the Brazilian coast to reproduce, occurring in this region between the months of June and November. During the breeding season, the males more often emit longer vocal calls, called song, which is believed to be related to the sexual selection of this species. The southern Bahia is region considered a key breeding area for the humpback whale. The region of Serra Grande, located in the southern Bahia, is used as a reproductive nursery by this species during the breeding season. However, a major infrastructure port to be shortly built in the region could affect the health of whale populations. Given the noticeable knowledge of humpback whale vocalizations and their importance the breeding season, we intend in this study to establish a baseline for the singing behavior of males Humpback whale in the Serra Grande region, using reproductive seasons 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019. Through passive acoustic monitoring methodology, a non-invasive method for the study of cetaceans, we will evaluate the variation of vocalization throughout the breeding season. For this, we will conduct acoustic records and relate to several variables that seem to influence this behavior, such as the abundance of adults, time of day, sea state and phases of the moon

 

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Clemensou Reis, MSc Candidate

Considering the growing impact of human demand upon natural systems, agroforests represent highly biodiversity-friendly habitats that, together with remaining native forests, are important for species conservation in some tropical agricultural landscapes. This is the case of shade cacao plantations (cabrucas) of southern Bahia, known to comprise structurally complex habitats and high levels of species richness, including birds. However, studies have shown that local diversity patterns within both habitat types – cabrucas and forests – are influenced by the landscape context. Thus, my research seeks to understand how and to what extent local diversity and species turnover (beta diversity) of birds within each and between habitat type are influenced by different landscape contexts, and thus result in different regional diversity

 

 

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Enée Gottschalk, MSc Candidate

In Southern Bahia, the main cocoa producing region in Brazil, cabrucas encompass structurally complex habitats capable of maintaining a substantial number of vertebrate species, including bats. These agroforestry systems are recognized by the reconciliation of productivity and conservation of biodiversity, harboring a wide range of forest species. Previous studies have revealed that the composition of the landscape influences the cabruca's ability to maintain high levels of species richness of bats. However, it remains unknown how patterns of abundance change according to the percentage of native forest cover surrounding. Thus, my Master 's project aims to evaluate how the landscape scale forest cover affects the local abundance of two species of frugivorous bats, Carollia perspicillata and Rhinophylla pumilio, in cabrucas inserted in different landscape contexts. Despite their ecological similarities, we expect to detect divergent patterns of abundance between the two species, and that this difference may be due to the composition of their diets.

 

 

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Julia Perez Cabral, MSc Candidate

In southern Bahia, the main cocoa producing region in Brazil, cabrucas encompass structurally complex habitats capable of maintaining a substantial number of vertebrate species, including bats. These agroforestry systems are recognized by the reconciliation of productivity and conservation of biodiversity, harboring a wide range of forest species. Previous studies have revealed that the composition of the landscape influences the cabruca's ability to maintain high levels of species richness of bats. However, it remains unknown how patterns of abundance change according to the percentage of native forest cover surrounding. Thus, my Master 's project aims to evaluate how the landscape scale forest cover affects the local abundance of two species of frugivorous bats, Carollia perspicillata and Rhinophylla pumilio, in cabrucas inserted in different landscape contexts. Despite their ecological similarities, we expect to detect divergent patterns of abundance between the two species, and that this difference may be due to the composition of their diets.

 

 

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Soraya Honorato Carvalhedo, PhD. Candidate

The South of Bahia is home to the largest expanse of forest in the northern portion of the Atlantic Forest, composed of native forests and agroforests of economic importance such as cabrucas (cacao under the native forest). It has recently been shown that the presence of birds and bats in the cocoa plantations in the southern region of Bahia negatively affect the local abundance of herbivorous arthropods, significantly reducing the leaf damage of the cacao. Another study found a very high abundance and richness of bats that are likely to be used in intercropped plantations of cacao and rubber trees as corridors between forest fragments and patches of secondary vegetation. Insectivorous birds and bats are able to substantially reduce the biomass of arthropods in tropical forests, including species known as pests of some cultivars, largely present in agroforestry. However, the patterns of composition, richness and abundance of these groups are also influenced by the landscape context. Thus, it is speculated that the ability of birds and bats to control arthropods depends on the existence and proximity of forests in the landscape. I propose to investigate: (i) whether aerial insectivorous vertebrates are able to control the abundance of arthropods in the rubber tree; (ii) whether this control can influence herbivory rates and productivity in rubber plantations in southern Bahia; (iii) whether the proximity of forest would influence the observed patterns; and (iv) whether the types of habitats bordering the rubber tree plantation influence the pattern of predation of the rubber tree. I also intend to make a broad bibliographic review of the environmental services offered in forestry and agroforestry systems, since different uses of the soil benefit from various environmental services and at the same time offer and retain some uncounted environmental services.

 

 

 

 

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Natália Santos de Santana, MSc Candidate

My research focuses on the consequences of anthropogenic changes in forests, such as habitat loss and fragmentation, on frugivory and seed dispersal. In order to carry out this research, I use the Complex Networks Theory, which allows the evaluation of the community ecological interactions as an interconnected network, in which each interaction can influence the other. This approach allows the evaluation of the interactions structure, in order to better understand the influence of anthropogenic disturbances on the mutualistic relationships. My most recent results show that the patch size reduction and the forest amount in the landscape have deleterious effects on species richness and morphological traits of plants and birds, with serious consequences to the structure of seed dispersal networks. As a next step, I intend to evaluate if the changes observed in the network structure as a consequence of the habitat loss are reflected in the seedlings recruitment in the Atlantic Forest landscapes in the south of Bahia.

 

 

 

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Fernando César Gonçalves Bonfim, PhD Candidate

My project aims to understand the effects of landscape-scale forest loss in frugivore and seed dispersal of a key palm species (Euterpe edulis). I also want to evaluate the consequences of forest loss to the structure of ecological networks as well as, understand the consequences for seed germination and recruitment.

 

 

 

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Ilana Araújo, MSc Candidate

The cabruca comprises the predominant agroforestry system in the south of Bahia, where the cultivation of cocoa is carried out under the shade of native trees of the Atlantic Forest. Despite being a recognized system for harboring native biodiversity, its importance in the maintenance of ecosystem processes is still understudied. This project aims to evaluate how the recruitment of certain native plants is affected by local and landscape factors, such as shading level and percentage of forest cover, in 20 agroforestry sites of the cocoa-cabruca system in the south of Bahia. The obtained data will be analyzed statistically to determine the importance and in which context the cabruca acts in the maintenance of this important ecological process.

 

 

 

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Taruhim Miranda Cardoso Quadros, MSc Candidate

Brazilian forests contain remarkable levels of biodiversity, which have been suffering drastic changes as a consequence of anthropogenic actions.  Restoration projects can contribute to the mitigation of these impacts in fragmented forests, where efficient restoration ensure connectivity between remaining fragments and the restoration of forests as functional ecosystems. One of the key factors to define this efficiency is the genetic diversity of species. In this context, we are trying to qualify the efficiency of restoration projects in Atlantic Forest areas located in Bahia. We aim to understand if genetic diversity varies between restored areas and native forest fragments, also checking if the genetic diversity varies according to the restoration method used.

 

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Elisa Sodré Oliveira, MSc Candidate

The Atlantic Forest is a major global hotspot, historically threatened by habitat loss, one of the major causes of declining and extinct species worldwide. My research aims to evaluate how deforestation on a landscape scale modulates richness and abundance patterns of shrubs, a key floristic group yet poorly investigate in tropical forests. Floristic surveys will be done in 20 forest patches within the threatened Brazilian Atlantic forest hotspot, identifying all shrubs at the species level and relating patterns found with forest loss and microclimate variables.

 

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Elaine Rios da Silva, PhD Candidate

Defaunation drives a series of environmental alterations, including changes in species composition and ecological and evolutionary processes. In my PhD, I am interested in evaluating the effects of forest cover reduction at the landscape scale on richness and abundance patterns of medium and large-sized mammals of southern Bahia. I also seek to understand how the reduction or loss of certain species affects key ecological processes, including seed dispersal and predation.

 

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Álvaro García Olaeche, MSc Candidate

The presence of exotic species within and around fragmented forests due to rural development, usually negatively affect the fitness of native species. The Atlantic Forest of southern Bahia is currently mainly occupied by patches of forest, cacao plantations shaded by native trees (cabrucas) and open areas, with large and spread populations of dogs. Therefore, this project aims to study the influence of free-ranging dogs on the spatiotemporal patterns on native medium-sized carnivores in cabrucas from three landscapes, exhibiting different amounts of surrounding forest cover in addition to a large forest patch (control site). Given that dogs are also used in hunting activities, we aim to examine which mechanism has a greater impact on native medium-sized carnivore’s occurrence: 1) intraguild competition between dogs and native species or 2) hunting and persecution of undesirable species. Thus, we will be able to identify how dogs are affecting the carnivore assemblages.

 

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Gustavo Menezes, MSc Candidate

Forest fires change tropical forest composition and structure by promoting different rates of growing, reproduction and survivor of plant assemblages during the regeneration process. My research aims to evaluate the extension of these changes in the structure of 03 arboreous Restinga fragments partially impacted by fire, its regeneration process, as well as the edge influence extension and magnitude of the boundaries between burned and unburned forests.

 

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Igor Pires Reis,, MSc Candidate

Vegetation fragmentation causes edge effect, changing the microclimate, the species composition, and their biotic and abiotic interactions. An important tool for biomonitoring and recovery of degraded areas is the measurement of litter production and decomposition. These two parameters are strongly influenced by the ecophysiological characteristics of the species present in the area. Production depends basically on the functional phonological (deciduous or evergreen) and ecological strategies (pioneer and non-pioneer), age and size of the individual, while the speed of decomposition is influenced mainly by the quality of the litter (C: N ratio and C: P, for example), in addition to other factors such as humidity, temperature, UV radiation, micro and mesofauna soil activity. My project is about how litter decomposition can influence nutrient cycling and how we can reduce the effects of fragmentation by using it as a tool to measure anthropogenic disturbances in Atlantic forest forests in southern Bahia.

 

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Maísa Assano Matuoka, MSc Candidate

Habitat loss is one of the main causes of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest reduction influencing many aspects of species diversity, including shifts in the distribution of the ecological traits inside communities, which are related to ecological characteristics of species and can affect different ecosystem functions. A manner to assess this trait's variation is through functional diversity, and birds, presenting a wide range of ecological functions, consist of a particularly interesting group to study. Therefore, my research aims to evaluate the influence of forest cover loss in the functional diversity of birds in Atlantic forest landscapes of southern Bahia.

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Hugo C. M. Costa, PhD Candidate

Large herbivore species are facing dramatic population declines and range contractions, which induce a huge loss of vital ecosystem functions. White-lipped peccaries (WLP) form the largest group biomass of any Neotropical vertebrate, exploit high-density resource patches, and as such represent critical landscape species integrating vast heterogeneous forest mosaics, both in terms of baseline productivity and hunting pressure. Yet they have never been studied in lowland Amazonian forests and continue to be decimated by unsustainable hunting practiced by thousands of local indigenous and non-tribal semi-subsistence communities. They are, therefore, arguably the highest priority in game management ecology among all Neotropical forest vertebrates. Furthermore, WLPs are virtually extinct at a regional scale in Mesoamerica and Atlantic Forest; thus, they are an excellent model to understand the effects of overhunting at a broad scale, due their high ecology importance and sensitivity to hunting pressure. My research project aims to study the spatial dynamics and habitat requirements of large herds of WLPs, and as their population status within and outside Amazonian Extractive Reserves to develop a community-based model of landscape-scale sustainable hunting practices to reduce the impacts of overhunting on ecosystems services provided by large mammals, thereby increasing the conservation performance of Amazonian sustainable-use reserves.

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Amanda Freitas Cerqueira, PhD Candidate

My project investigates the photosynthetic plasticity of Euterpe edulis according to different levels of luminosity. The palm Euterpe edulis is considered a key resource for frugivorous at the Atlantic Forest and is threatened by palm heart exploitation. The evaluation of the physiological characteristics of this species in controlled conditions of luminosity will contribute to the conservation of biodiversity through data that can be used for policies and plans of conservation actions, as well as the production of seedlings for reforestation programs, landscaping, and sustainable use.

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Lucas Milmann, PhD Candidate

As a marine biologist, I am passionate about the ocean. As a researcher from the GEMARS, a local NGO for the research of aquatic mammals, I have been applying a range of methodologies to study marine mammals for the last eight years, including beach surveys, biological material’s preparation for scientific collections and remote sensing applied in management and conservation. Although my focus has been on beach surveys, studies on the ecological interaction and spatial-temporal distribution of coastal and offshore bottlenose dolphins', the research which I am developing now as a Ph.D. candidate aims to elucidate questions related to trophic ecology and population structure of baleen whales. The fact that humans heavily exploited these animals has not rendered us enough information to evaluate their population trends, especially in the South West Atlantic. Such information gap drove me towards the challenge of using tools such as genetics and stable isotopes to develop science and bring light towards new aspects that can contribute to great whales' management and conservation.

 

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Caio de Azevedo Marques, PhD Candidate

Thousands of albatrosses and petrels die needlessly every year as victims of longline fishing. In a cruel manner, they are attracted to the baited hooks, get caught and dragged under the water and drown. They are the world´s most threatened seabirds group. My research is focused on identifying the spatial probability of incidental capture of albatrosses and petrels by national longline fisheries and evaluate priorities areas to the conservation of these species. In a systematic conservation planning exercise, we intend to identify and discuss different scenarios of goals of conservation and the required strategies for an adequate management of the areas allocated to both fishery production and seabirds protection. Our results are expected to be applicable, contributing in a practice and a directly way for the national marine conservation government policy. The NGO's Projeto Albatroz and BirdLife International are our main partners.

 

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Thamyrys Souza, PhD Candidate

My research interests are invasive alien species and deforestation of Cerrado (Brazilian savannas). Deforestation and biological invasions are key processes affecting global biodiversity, yet their effects have usually been considered separately. Then, I plan to investigate how the deforestation in Cerrado has enabled alien species to expand into regions in which they previously couldn't survive and reproduce and how native species of Scarabaeinae (Coleoptera) are responding the biological invasion and deforestation in the Cerrado in western Bahia, Brazil.

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Fabio Soares, PhD Candidate

My main interest is studying the insectivorous bat assemblage, an ecologically important and speciose group of vertebrate in native forests. By assessing the community structure of insectivorous bats using bioacoustic techniques, my research aims to understand the effects of forest loss at the landscape scale on the community of insectivorous bats and assess the role of top-down control of bats on arthropod in forest patches of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest.

 

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Leiza Souza Soares, PhD Candidate

My project investigates the existence of changes in the genetic diversity of Euterpe adults in human-modified landscapes. In addition, it aims to identify the main mechanistic pathways that influence the genetic parameters of this species, namely: the loss of forest cover, the presence of effective seed dispersers and floral visitors. In addition to this, I also intend to evaluate how the current populations of E. edulis will be affected in the long term, in different configurations and land use scenarios.

 

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Alberico Queiroz, PhD Candidate

My research deals with the ecosystem services provided by bats, but specifically in insects population control. Overall, my interest is to determine which bat species are foraging in intensive agricultural systems, such as cotton, soy or corn plantations, monitoring these species through bioacoustics techniques, thus seeking to understand whether bats can act as controlling insect considered agricultural pests. I will further monitor the availability of food resources and shelter, in order to verify which species of insects consumed cultivars and if there is the presence of large colonies of bats near these agricultural areas.

 

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Aluane Silva Ferreira, PhD Candidate

My research is focused on the use of agroforestry mosaics by mammals in the Atlantic forest. In my master’s degree in Zoology, I studied the home range, habitat use and diet of tufted-ear marmosets in an agroforestry/forest mosaic with rubber tree. Now in my Ph.D. research, the study aims to evaluate the response of mid-sized mammals to (1) agroforestry management intensification and (2) variation in native forest cover surrounding the cocoa agroforests. I will also compare the observed patterns between landscapes with contrasting proportions of forest remnants in Southern Bahia, Brazil to analyze how the total amount of forest in the landscape influences in these responses. I hope to contribute to a better understanding of the function of cocoa agroforestry (cabrucas) to fauna conservation and provide guidelines for the management of cabrucas in order to conserve the associated fauna.

 

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Icaro Menezes, PhD Candidate

The Brazilian Atlantic forest is one of the most biodiverse regions and with a high degree of endemism in the world, with about 20.000 species of trees with 8.000 of these species is endemic. These forests are home to a rich avifauna with about of 1.023 bird species, with 188 of those species are also endemic. Much of this biodiversity is threatened and in danger of becoming extinct by Habitat loss and forest fragmentation. This change in the landscape significantly modifies the physical structure and biotic natural habitat affecting ecological processes (dispersion, pollination, and predation) involving the flora and fauna in the impacted areas. In my Ph.D. research seeks to understand if frugivorous birds generalists that thrive in these disturbed areas can maintain the functionality of the ecosystem even with the loss of species specialists.

 

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Sueli Souza Damasceno, PhD Candidate

The Brazilian Atlantic forest is one of the most biodiverse regions and with a high degree of endemism in the world, with about 20.000 species of trees with 8.000 of these species is endemic. These forests are home to a rich avifauna with about of 1.023 bird species, with 188 of those species are also endemic. Much of this biodiversity is threatened and in danger of becoming extinct by Habitat loss and forest fragmentation. This change in the landscape significantly modifies the physical structure and biotic natural habitat affecting ecological processes (dispersion, pollination, and predation) involving the flora and fauna in the impacted areas. In my Ph.D. research seeks to understand if frugivorous birds generalists that thrive in these disturbed areas can maintain the functionality of the ecosystem even with the loss of species specialists.Currently, the conversion of forest into anthropic landscapes dominated by monocultures is the main responsible for the reduction of biodiversity, especially in the tropical regions. An example of this fact is the Atlantic Forest of the south of Bahia, with high endemism and species richness and that every year loses large portions of area. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the effects of changes in land use from fragmentation and loss of forest on local fauna. My research project “Influence of local characteristics and landscape on different components of bird diversity" aims to evaluate how the structure of the landscape and the local characteristics of different habitats (forest fragments and agroforestry of cacao -Theobroma cacao) in 36 fragments in southern Bahia affect the taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity of the bird community. It is expected to understand how the structure of the landscape affects the diversity and organization of the bird community in environments with different disturbance intensities.

 

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