University of Algarve student Raquel Gaião Silva is the first Portuguese woman to win the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Young Researchers Award for her research into climate change.
Gaião, a master’s student at the University of Algarve and first winner of Portugal, seeks to understand the impact of climate change on the distribution of macroalgae from the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula.
Her research aims to use species occurrence records from the GBIF network and other sources to examine whether and how rising ocean temperatures may be altering the distribution of macroalgae along the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Portugal.
GBIF is an international network and research infrastructure funded by the world’s governments and aimed at providing anyone, anywhere, open access to data about all types of life on Earth.
The GBIF Science Committee selected Gaião and Kate Ingenloff, a PhD candidate from the United States, from a pool of 14 candidates nominated by heads of delegation from 11 GBIF Participant countries.
Committee members highlighted the potential for Gaião’s study to produce important scientific output on climate-related impacts for macroalgae, a taxonomic order of ecological, social and economic significance in coastal communities around the world.
Gaião’s research is expected to highlight important issues related to climate-induced impacts on marine macroalgae from the Bay of Biscay to the Strait of Gibraltar, including
- unreported recent changes in distribution, particularly at the southern geographic limits of species’ ranges
- assessments of temperature trends as they relate to the known physiological preferences and limits of the species under investigation
- forecasts of species distribution patterns based on future temperature models
Gaião began her studies at the University of Algarve, taking classes with Professpr Ester Serrão, who later became her thesis advisor. During the course’s third semester, she attended to Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Ireland, taking several courses critical to her research.
“There are large amounts of data from the past state of biodiversity for many regions across the world, that are not used because they are not easily accessible to the researchers and the general public,” said Professor Serrão.
“It is therefore extremely useful and important to have a resource like GBIF integrating data on global scales, allowing researchers like Raquel to integrate all such sources efficiently and to analyse what has been changing in the biodiversity of ecosystems along large regions.”
The Portuguese herbarium collections of Porto, Aveiro, Lisboa, Faro and the Marine Forests project, an open access citizen science platform, were used to promote collective and international monitoring of algae. The results of their research could benefit researchers, policymakers and coastal residents, both within and outside the study areas.
Gaião is the first winner from Portugal, and her award marks the third consecutive year that a Portuguese speaker has received the honour, following Bruno Umbelino and Itanna Oliveira Ferndandesof Brazil in 2016 and 2017, respectively.