current projects


Project Bats & Fruits (main research line)

Coordinator: Dr. Marco A.R. Mello, UFSCar

Sponsor: FAPESP, program 'Young Researchers in Emerging Centers'

Most tropical trees depend on animals for seed dispersal. Bats and birds are responsible for up to 90% of all seed dispersal in some sites, and they play complementary roles. However, the role of birds has been much better studied than the role of bats. As bats disperse mainly pioneer plants, they are crucial for forest regeneration in disturbed areas. Therefore, the main objective of this project is to investigate bat-fruit interactions at different levels, from individuals to communities, in order to understand general patterns and processes that regulate seed dispersal services by bats. We also want to generate data that can be used for enforcing conservation programs in the tropics. More specifically, my research team wants to test: (1) hypotheses based on the optimal foraging theory, in order to understand mechanisms that determine fruit selection by bats at the levels of species, individual plants and fruits; (2) Based on the theory of seed dispersal, to test hypotheses on how bats may help or harm plants by consuming fruits and removing seeds; (3) Using network theory, to investigate the structure, dynamics and fragility of bat-fruit interactions at community level, in the context of mutualisms between free-living organisms.

Here you find basic info about the research projects that I am currently conducting. The first is my main research line, and the others are partnerships with colleagues from different institutions.

Pollination networks of oil-flowers

Coordinator: Dr. Isabel C.S. Machado, UFPE

Sponsor: CNPq

Pollination is a key stage in the reproductive cycle of plants, and bees are responsible for over 90% of this ecological service in many different biomes. Although most bees look for nectar and pollen in flowers, some collect oil in specialized flowers structures. The tribe Centridini is particularly important in this interaction in the Neotropics, and those bees are the main pollinators of the family Malpighiaceae, a group with great ecological and economical importance. In this project, we aim to investigate the structure of this ‘tiny world within the smallest of all worlds’, i.e. an important subweb within whole pollination networks. We aim to describe the structure of oil-flower networks in different biomes, and especially we aim to test hypotheses based on the theory of ‘webs within webs’. Data acquired in this project will be very important to understand the hierarchy of ecological networks, and to help in the conservation of the Malpighiaceae.

Bats as regenerators of disturbed forests

Coordinator: Dr. Elisabeth K.V. Kalko, Uni-Ulm

Student in charge: PhD-candidate Katrin Petschl, Uni-Ulm

Sponsor: DFG

Tropical forests are being cut-down at an astonishing and ever-increasing rate. This loss and fragmentation of habitats is threatening organisms from several groups. Thus, it is crucial to understand how those forests are naturally restored through the action of different functional groups, mainly seed dispersers who bring back thousands of plant species to disturbed sites. Bats are specially important in the Neotropics for their role as dispersers of pioneer plants. In the present project, we aim to understand how bats play their ecological role in a disturbed and fragmented preserve, which was used for agriculture in the recent past. We will study how bats use the habitats available, on which plants they feed, how they affect seed germination and how they plant populations in different habitats through seed dispersal. Ultimately, we want to understand how bats can be used as catalyzers of natural forest regeneration in conservation programs.

Photo by Sávio M. Drummond