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Research Projects

In the LEO Lab we conduct studies on a broad range of topics, including bird taxonomy, biogeography, natural history, behavioral ecology, and conservation. Some of our main research projects are presented below. If you are interested in any of the projects listed here and want to work with us, see the section "Oportunities".

Taxonomy and biogeography of the endemic birds of the South American Cerrado

Melanopareia torquata

In this project we are interested in identifying the bird species endemic to the Cerrado, the largest and most threatened tropical savanna in the world.  We are also interested in knowing the origin and evolution of the Cerrado endemic biota. This project involves intensive fieldwork, museum based taxonomy, and also phylogenetic, and biogeographic analyses.

Two centuries of ornithological exploration of the Rio Doce basin, southeastern Brazil: past, present, and future

Parque Estadual do Rio Doce

This project focus on the avifauna of the Rio Doce basin, which was originally covered by unbroken pristine Atlantic Forest. However, this is currently one of the most degraded regions in Brazil. In this project we reconstructed more than two hundred years of ornithological exploration of this hydrographic basin, identified the main naturalists that visited the region, and traced the fate of their collections. After that we build a catalogue summarizing all the ~140,000 bird records available for the region, presenting distributional maps for all of its ~690 species. We are now investigating the main factors underlying bird species extinction in the basin.

Natural history and conservation of threatened grassland birds in the Upper Rio Grande Grasslands

Campos do Alto Rio Grande

In this project we are studying the natural history and conservation of some poorly known and threatened Neotropical grassland birds, such as the Campo Miner (Geositta poeciloptera) and the Ochre-breasted Pipit (Anthus nattereri). This study is being conducted in the Upper Rio Grande Grasslands, an understudied and highly threatened grassland region in the state of Minas Gerais. This region is a conservation priority because: 1) it harbors large populations of several threatened grassland birds; and 2) it is located in a mountainous region predicted to be an important stronghold for grassland species threatened by climate changes.

Lined Seedeater Project – Projeto Bigodinho

Lined Seedeater Project

The Lined Seedeater Project (Projeto Bigodinho) is a long-term project that is running since 2014 in collaboration with Dr. Filipe Cunha. It is a partnership between the Federal University of Viçosa (UFV), Wageningen University and Research, and the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. This project focus on the behavioral ecology of tropical birds and uses the Lined Seedeater Sporophila lineola as a study model. We are currently expanding the project to include two other interesting species the Red-legged Seriema (Cariama cristata) and the Chestnut-capped Blackbird (Chrysomus ruficapillus). Fieldwork is conducted in the Campus Florestal of the Federal University of Viçosa (see the section “Location” of our main study site).

Miscellaneous natural history studies

Donacobius atricapillus - ninho

Brazil is a gigantic country with almost 2000 bird species, most of them still understudied. That is why we simply cannot resist conducting descriptive natural history studies when we have a good opportunity. Descriptive natural history may looks old-fashioned, but no one can deny how foundational it is. So we are continuously  publishing descriptive papers about, for example, the geographic distribution, diet, breeding biology, territorial behavior, plumage sequence, and molt strategies of Neotropical birds.

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