Research

During my academic journey, I have worked with responses of plants to drought (by rainfall alterations, high atmospheric demand or leaf wetness events reduction) in different types of vegetation.

Restinga, a type of tropical coastal vegetation  

 Upscaling of a Bromeliacie species in the restinga from soil to trees

This work is special because it was my first research, conducted when I was an undergraduate student. We showed that Billbergia euphemiae, a Bromeliaceae, increased their trait values that describe acquisition resources in roots. Simultaneously, these plants minimised water loss, especially in leaves when scaling up from soil to a more water-limited phase on the trees. For example, we found smaller leaves, and lower a/b chlorophyll in plants on the trees. In addition, the velamen thickness became higher, and protoxylem poles were numerous in the epiphytic phase. That plasticity capacity suggested that species could cope with potential environmental changes. (More about this research here: https://www.scielo.br/j/rod/a/QBR9v7ptqrsDbbjwTw6pBZP/?lang=en)  

Assessing the intra and inter functional diversity across aridity and chronic anthropic disturbance gradients in the tropical dry forest

During my master's degree, I went from the sandy coasts to the interior of Brazil to work with the beautiful tropical seasonal dry forest. In this work, we found that intraspecific variability explained at least one-third of the total trait variation and 46% of the variation in a set of trait diversity across communities. Besides that, increasing disturbance reduced the set of trait diversity, while precipitation affected some particular traits, such as wood density and leaf traits. Thereby, disturbance and rainfall regimes were able to affect community structure in the dry forest! These findings reinforce the emerging idea that human disturbances can deeply alter plant communities and highlight trait variability (including a high intraspecific variability) as a key biological asset for the resilience of dry tropical forests.  

To achieve such results we collected a set of morphological traits along rainfall and disturbance gradients distributed in 15 plots and subsequently we analyzed the data by functional diversity indices (More about this research here:  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/btp.12721)

The beautiful Caatinga, a type of  tropical seasonal dry forest 

During the fieldwork course held in Caatinga when I visited my study area for the first time

Tropical montane grassland on a sunny day

Tropical rainforest immersed in fog events

The ecological role of leaf wetness events in the plant vulnerability to drought


Besides rainfall regimes, in my PhD thesis I investigated the influence of the vapour pressure deficit and leaf wetness events on the plant's vulnerability to drought .
The first chapter was a meta-analysis where we sought to understand the benefits and costs of wetness events to plants. In the second chapter, we investigated how co-occurring species from two contrasting cloud environments, Tropical rainforest (700 m.a.s.l) and tropical montane grassland (2300 m.a.s.l),  respond to drought. Finally, in the third chapter, we investigated if paleoclimatic models based on traits not only are able to reconstruct the climate in the past but also can indicate changes in vegetation in the future. In summary, my thesis showed evidence that leaf wetting events influence on plant vulnerability to drought between environments and climate scenarios. Therefore, wetting events should not be neglected. They are important to empirical studies and might contribute to more realistic models about plant vulnerability to drought.

I have worked with different hydraulics technics such as curves of vulnerability to p50 and p88 obtaining and foliar water uptake.  In addition, I have used a set of morphological traits (e.g. SLA, LDMC, WD) and leaf wetness traits (e.g. leaf water repellency) to describe the plant responses to drought. Also, I have learned a lot about meta-analyses in the first chapter and mathematical models in the third chapter.  Despite a long quarantine due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some collaborations were achieved, such as the Imma Oliveras from the University of Oxford.

My PhD has been an enriching period in my life! I hope to publish my results soon.

Fieldwork at Itatiaia National Park - from left to right: me, Dr. Ilaine Matos (posdoc at University of California - Berkeley), Dr. Imma Oliveras  (University of Oxford), Dr. Bruno Rosado - my advisor during PhD at Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro - and my collegues, M.s. Luiz Bondi (Universität Rostock) and Dr. Lidiane Almeida (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro).

Becoming a PhD candidate

From top to bottom: Leaf water potential measurement per month in tropical rainforest (1), curves of vulnerability to drought with Beatriz (undergrarduate student) helping me during the experiment (2) foliar water uptake experiment (3) and my PhD candidate exam (4)

Visiting Belgium and discussing science

In 2022 I went to the Ghent University as a visiting researcher. During my stay, I developed a study about the role of leaf wetness in the resistance and resilience of tomato plants to drought under supervison of Dr. Kathy Steppe. Also, I had the opportunity to use the Li-Cor and work with a great team during this project! Finally, I showed them a methodology (Pneumatic method) used during my PhD to obtain the p50 values (a trait usually used to verify the vulnerability of plants to drought).

The University of Utah (UofU)

Moving to the desert

In August/2023, I moved to the beautiful and arid mountains of Utah (US) to start my postdoctoral research with Dr. Luiza Aparecido (University of Utah). I am so lucky! During my period at the U, I will evaluate the impact of heat and drought in the fantastic desert and temperate plants present in Utah and Arizona.