PhD Award in Ecology - Amadeu Dias Foundation Winners of the 2017 Edition

The winners of the first edition of PhD Award in Ecology - Amadeu Dias Foundation, organized by SPECO – Portuguese Society of Ecology – have been announced. The top three will present their work at the 16th National Ecology Meeting (16º Encontro Nacional de Ecologia), which will take place on November 9 and 10 at the University of Lisbon.

Ricardo RochaAlice Nunes, researchers at cE3c (Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes) from the University of Lisbon, and Elsa Teresa Rodrigues researcher at CFE (Centre for Functional Ecology), from the University of Coimbra were, selected respectively for the first, second and third prize, by the jury invited to evaluate the applications for the PhD Award in Ecology - Amadeu Dias Foundation.

Ricardo Rocha studied the effect of forest fragmentation on tropical vertebrate communities, using bats as the biological model. The innovative aspect of his work was the approach used to assess spatial and temporal scale effects. For that Ricardo Rocha took advantage of a large database of bats sampled in continuous forest, forest fragments and secondary forest between 1996 and 2002 and from his own data collected between 2011 and 2014 in the Brazilian Amazon. This study constitutes an important management tool in the regeneration of fragmented landscapes, highlighting the benefit of secondary forest protection for the successful conservation of tropical communities.

Alice Nunes studied and identified functional attributes of plants as a tool for the regeneration of arid zones and showed that functional diversity responds more predictably to climate than species diversity. With this work Alice Nunes developed an ecological indicator based on multiple functional traits, that can be used to map areas at risk of desertification and soil degradation. This indicator constitutes a tool to better improve predictions of the effects of climate change in arid regions and to optimise strategies for the management and restoration of these areas.

The third prize, awarded to Elsa Teresa Rodrigues, reflects an important contribution to the development of alternative ecotoxicological tests for the normal use of fish (vertebrate organisms) in laboratory studies. In this work Elsa Rodrigues used the crab Carcinus maenas as an experimental model organism and developed an in vitro test with cell lines to evaluate the environmental risk of azoxistrobina, a fungicide currently used in agriculture. With this methodology she was able to determine the seasonal and spatial variation of fungicides in the Mondego river estuary, as well as the actual critical levels present in the estuarine system. This work also highlights the need to improve the processes of environmental risk assessment of biocides, normally used in agriculture.

The awards, in the amount of two thousand and five hundred euros and one thousand euros, are attributed, respectively, to the first and second places. The third place is awarded with an honourable mention. The three candidates will still have a 2-year bonus with paid quotas.

The award received nine applications of doctorates with theses defended at the Universities of Lisbon, Coimbra, Aveiro, Porto and Algarve.

The juri of the award was composed by:

  • Professor Maria Amélia Martins-Loução, president of SPECO (Portuguese Ecological Society),
  • Professor Henrique Cabral, University of Lisbon and MARE (Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre),
  • Professor Margarida Reis, University of Lisbon and cE3c (Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes),
  • Professor Helena Freitas, University of Coimbra and CFE (Centre for Functional Ecology),
  • Professor Myriam Lopes, University of Aveiro and CESAM (Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies),
  • Doutor Joaquin Hortal, cE3c and Museu Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC) Madrid
  • Doutor João Gonçalves, administrator of the Amadeu Dias Foundation.