Young Researchers Award winner to map biodiversity knowledge loss caused by Amazon deforestation

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Bruno Umbelino da Silva Santos, 2016 GBIF Young Researchers Award winner

Bruno Umbelino da Silva Santos, 2016 GBIF Young Researchers Award winner. Photo © 2016 Williams Fagner.

Bruno Umbelino da Silva Santos, a Master’s student from Brazil, is one of the two recipients of GBIF’s 2016 Young Researchers’ Award (YRA). The 23-year-old attends the Federal University of Alagoas (UFAL) on the northeast coast of Brazil and is the first Brazilian national to receive the award. The announcement comes just before the Brazilian Biodiversity Information System (SiBBr), the GBIF national node in Brazil, hosts the annual GBIF Governing Board meeting for the first time.

Umbelino’s research aims to calculate how deforestation degrades the quality of biodiversity data for South America’s Amazon biome over time. This decline in data quality can have serious consequences for conservation planning, since researchers may build species distribution models with incomplete data from forests that no longer exist—and which, by definition, cannot be inventoried again.

Building on a model that estimates the completeness of data inventory in the region, Umbelino aims to quantify the amount of biodiversity knowledge already lost to conversion of forestland and also project anticipated knowledge losses to 2050. The resulting ‘map of biodiversity ignorance’ for the Amazon could be instrumental in guiding future field sampling and surveys, particularly when used alongside up-to-date data on deforestation.

Umbelino is pursuing his research in macroecology and biogeography in the Laboratório de Conservação do Século 21 (21st Century Conservation Laboratory, or Lacos 21) under the guidance of Professor Ana Malhado and researchers Dr Ricardo Correia and Dr Juliana Stropp. The lab is housed within the Postgraduate Programme in Diversity and Conservation in the Tropics (Dibict) at UFAL’s Institute of Biological Sciences and Health (ICBS).

"Bruno is an outstanding, motivated student who deserves the award,” said Malhado, who together with Professor Richard Ladle coordinate research at Lacos 21. “We are extremely happy to have a master's project from UFAL recognized by GBIF for its originality and innovation, and hope that it will provide an inspiration for other Brazilian students working in this vitally important area for conservation"

"’Big Data’ like that provided through the GBIF network has a huge role in supporting studies in conservation, biogeography and biological domains,” said Umbelino. “Understanding how the passage of time degrades the completeness and accuracy of biodiversity data will improve inferences based on it and maximize its utility for conservation planning.”

Umbelino shares the 2016 Young Researchers Award with Juan M. Escamilla Mólgora, a PhD student from Mexico who attends Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. The GBIF Science Committee commended both award recipients for embracing ‘research innovation, originality and the creative use of GBIF-enabled data.’

About the Award

The GBIF Young Researchers Award aims to foster innovative research and discovery in biodiversity informatics by encouraging graduate students to use biodiversity data mobilized through the GBIF network of member states and organizations.