The Brazilian Team has been built as a collaborative and multidisciplinary group of biologists, citizen-scientists, communication professionals, ecologists, economists, engineers (agronomists, data, electrical, forestry, mechanical, robotics), environmental managers, informaticians, and mathematicians from Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, UK and USA.
The destruction of the tropical rainforests is expanding faster than humans have been able to study the biodiversity. The Brazilian Team devote synergic efforts for improving the knowledge about plant and animal diversity in tropical rainforests worldwide. We use innovative technologies and solutions, carefully designed developed, and tested by us, for rapid and accurate biodiversity assessment, especially from remote or difficult to access geographic areas.
Our technologies and strategies have been applied during the XPRIZE Rainforest, a five-year competition, to enhance our global understanding of the rainforest ecosystem. In August 2023, the Brazilian Team was announced as one of the 6 finalists of this competition, being the only team based in a tropical country and the only selected from the South Hemisphere.
Our strategies include use of drones, flying over the 100-hectare area to obtain high-definition images of plants; bioacoustic tools, to capture the sounds of the forest and identify birds, bats and amphibians; collection of hematophagous insects to identify also their animal hosts (e.g. mammals and birds); collection of water, litter and soil samples to identify fish, frogs, insects, plants and various organisms based on their DNA. Portable sequencers (“MiniONs”) will be used for quick DNA sequences in the field, and artificial intelligence tools to identify sounds and plant images.
Our strategies include:
Use of drones flying over a 100-hectares plot to obtain canopy high-definition images
Bioacoustic tools to capture the sounds of the forest, for identifying mainly insects, birds, bats and amphibians.
Collection of hematophagous insects for taxonomy identification and their animal hosts (e.g. mammals and birds)
Sampling collection of water, litter and soil to identify organisms (e.g. fish, frogs, insects, mammals, plants and others) based on their DNA traces present in the environment, and ground images collection.
Our main innovations rely on the use of existing tools (drones, bioacoustic devices, portable sequencers, mobile apps) and knowledge in an integrated manner, aiming to develop technologies and protocols for the rapid and replicable biodiversity assessment, based on scientific approaches comparable among different environments.
Our approaches do not require human presence inside the study area. They are based on the mobilization of previously collected vast corpus of data coming from citizen science programmes, university databases, and the knowledge of indigenous populations. Field data collection is always done using devices such as drones and terrestrial robots.
The Brazilian Team focuses on Plants (Angiosperms, Gymnosperms, Ferns, Lycophytes, and Bryophytes) and Animals (Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fish, and Arthropods). Our techniques cover three frontlines:
We aim at generating a final species list and set of occurrences in the target study area, including the presence of exotic or invasive and threatened species, names considered doubtful due to their occurrence, etc.
We focus on field activities using robotic samplers for arthropods and leaf litter collections, and drones for plant identification through artificial intelligence (supervised and unsupervised deep learning models), and remote sensing.
We use DNA metabarcoding from environmental samples (e.g. water, soil, leaf litter, and bulk of insects) and portable sequencers (“MiniONs”) for quick DNA sequencing in the field, and bioacoustic analyses (specially for birds, bats, insects and frogs).
Cause minimal or no harm to the living beings and the surrounding ecosystem
Allow for a rapid and accurate representation of the multiple habitats, their composition, and structure, and
Allow biodiversity assessments in remote or human inaccessible areas.
This system consists of obtaining data through drones, which fly over and collect information about tree canopies, branches, leafs, fruits flowers, nests, and eggs, allowing their identification through artificial intelligence – as well as spatially locating and quantifying them. Our solution is a novel combined hardware system and custom algorithm workflow, which collects and then, in post-processing, generates unique data fusion product deliverables incorporating several remote sensors.
Allow taxa identification using short fragments of DNA, while comparing it to a library of reference sequences. Although these approaches are more efficient for animals, it is currently being improved for plants, with satisfactory results using larger stretches of DNA and some prior knowledge of the local flora. DNA extraction and sequencing techniques are performed using backpack laboratories, including the “MinION” sequencer (measuring just a few centimeters and connecting to a computer through a USB port). We work with multiple MinIONs simultaneously for providing robust data in the field
Brazilian Team solutions developed for the XPRIZE Rainforest
Brazilian Team Semifinal Submission for the XPRIZE Rainforest
The Brazilian Team is structured on two pillars: the scientific and the technological crew, including experts and recognized professionals, with a large experience in ecosystem restoration and scientific computational platform projects, and early career fellows (future leaders in tropical biodiversity research) and the local community citizen-scientists.
Coordinator: Vinicius Castro Souza. Researcher and professor at the Universidade de São Paulo (ESALQ-USP).
Vice-coordinator: Rafaela Campostrini Forzza. Researcher at Instituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro (JBRJ).
Coordinator of the Bioacoustics group of the Brazilian Team. I’m a biologist and audiovisual collections manager at the Museu de Diversidade Biológica (Museum of Biological Diversity) of Unicamp (University of Campinas). I have experience in the areas of audiovisual collections, bioacoustics, biodiversity acoustic monitoring, animal communication, taxonomy, population, and community ecology. I also work on the development and implementation of educational and university outreach actions.
Luís Felipe Toledo
Assistant coordinator of the Bioacoustics group of the Brazilian Team. I’m a zoologist with a focus on Herpetology, working in natural history, taxonomy, ecology, communication, behavior, and conservation of amphibians. Currently, I’m an Associate Professor of Vertebrates at Unicamp (University of Campinas), curator at the Museu de Diversidade Biológica (Museum of Biological Diversity), coordinator and curator of the Fonoteca Neotropical Jacques Vielliard, and a professor in the Graduate Program in Ecology. http://www.naturalhistory.com.br/
Researcher at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. I was awarded the world-renowned Marie Curie Post-doctoral Fellowship (MCSA, H2020), and my research is focused on the role of environmental factors in the evolution of animal acoustic communication and the impacts of global change on species’ communicative strategies. I hold a PhD in Ecology from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM), and I was granted the Extraordinary Doctoral Prize 2013-2014. Additionally, I am a collaborating professor at the Federal University of Goiás (UFG, Brazil), where I supervise and lecture students and coordinate research projects.
Juan Sebastián Ulloa Chacón
Researcher at Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt. As a scientist and engineer, I am driven by the pursuit of creating smart tools to preserve biodiversity. My research focuses on combining acoustic monitoring and artificial intelligence to assess and predict the impact of global change on tropical ecosystems. With a PhD in Ecology from the University Paris-Saclay, France, my strong background in signal processing and pattern recognition has equipped me with the skills to adapt these technologies for biodiversity monitoring.
Research Engineer in Ecoacoustics at CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique). I’m a data scientist in ecoacoustics, specially developing frameworks in R and Python for analyzing large audio dataset recorded in terrestrial environment. I have a PhD in Acoustics and Biomedical Engineer (M.S). Engineer at Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle. Member of the Ecoacoustics Research project (ear.cnrs.fr) dedicated to biodiversity monitoring by acoustics.
Researcher and professor at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). I work on the development of interactive machine learning solutions for acoustic monitoring of wild animals and the creation of a software tool that can be used for annotating acoustic data.
I am a researcher at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), focusing on machine learning for classification and representation learning of audio data. For the XPRIZE Rainforest competition, I am developing an interactive tool for passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) of wild animals. My tool is designed to leverage automatically generated labels by large pre-trained artificial neural networks to streamline the manual annotation process of bioacoustic data.
Hannes Berthold Kath
Researcher at German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). I work on the development of interactive machine learning solutions for acoustic monitoring of wild animals and the creation of a software tool that can be used for annotating acoustic data.
Maria João Ramos Pereira
Assistant Professor at the Zoology Department, UFRGS. In my research I integrate studies in population and community ecology of mammals and birds, to understand ecological and evolutionary patterns of vertebrate diversity. I am also interested in methodological aspects of non-invasive monitoring methods, particularly acoustic monitoring, and camera-traps. My studies are applied in conservation and management of populations and ecosystems, and human dimensions of wildlife, under a logic of sustainability. https://www.ufrgs.br/bimalab
Moise Leance Sagbohan
Research collaborator at the Mathematical-Statistical Modeling Laboratory of UFPA (Federal University of Para). In my research, I use machine learning techniques to predict habitat changes based on acoustic indices and develop automated algorithms to detect bird-specific signals to investigate anthropogenic impacts on their vocal communication. Apart from bioacoustics and ecoacoustics, I am also interested in applied statistics, data science, climate change and its ecological consequences.
Paulo Guilherme Molin
Danilo R. A. de Almeida
Carla Martins Lopes
Carla is the coordinator of the DNA subgroup within the Brazilian Team. She is a biologist holding both master’s and PhD degrees in Genetics and Molecular Biology. Her research is focused on employing molecular tools to better understand ecological and evolutionary factors influencing biodiversity, especially trophic relationships, biotic and abiotic interactions, and conservation of biodiversity in tropical forests.
I’m Associate Professor at École Normale Supérieure, Université Paris Sciences & Lettres. My research activities fall at the interface between community ecology and macroecology, microbial ecology, molecular biology, and bioinformatics. My objectives are two-fold: (i) to improve methodological frameworks for environmental DNA-based techniques in order to (ii) better understand the ecological processes shaping microbial and invertebrates communities and how these respond to global changes.
Vinicius Castro Souza
Biodiversity group and Brazilian Team General Coordinator. Biologist, Ph.D. in Plant Taxonomy from University of São Paulo (USP), he is a professor at the University of São Paulo since 1991 and former director of National School of Tropical Botany at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden. He is a professor in postgraduate courses at USP and State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and has more than 150 scientific articles and 20 books, most of them as the first author. His best-known book, “Systematic Botany”, now in fourth edition, is the main reference in Brazil, with 40000 copies and more than 2000 citations on Google Scholar. He oriented around 40 master’s and doctoral students, several now professors at Brazilian universities. One of the main highlights of his career is his experience in fieldwork, having surpassed 44000 collections, mainly in rainforests.
Researcher at the National Amazon Research Institute (INPA) in Manaus, works with Botany and Plant Ecology and professor in the Postgraduate Program in Botany at INPA. He coordinates a long-term experiment, the Manaus Forest portion of the ForestGeo network, at INPA linked to the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (PDBFF), with more than 150 thousand trees and 1500 species. He believes that in the technological world that is being designed, we need a large amount of data on individuals and populations, so that knowledge of the biodiversity of the Amazon is indeed cumulative and can be incorporated into artificial intelligence processes.
Alexandre Adalardo de Oliveira
Biologist, PhD in Biological Sciences (Botany) from University of São Paulo. He is currently a professor at the University of São Paulo and an associate researcher at the Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS) at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution (STRI). He has experience in Ecology, with an emphasis on dynamics of tropical forests, acting mainly on plant ecology and tree diversity. Coordinates the Tropical Forest Studies Laboratory (LabTrop) with a primary focus on understanding the structuring of tropical forest communities, working both in the Amazon and in the restinga Atlantic Forest.
André Victor Lucci Freitas (Baku)
Graduated in Biological Sciences from UNICAMP (1991), Master in Ecology from UNICAMP (1994) and PhD in Ecology in (1999), currently full Professor at Unicamp’s Animal Biology Department since 2009. Research lines are mainly focused on butterfly ecology, systematics and conservation, especially of the Nymphalidae family. The main subjects studied by our group are: 1) Population Biology, 2) Taxonomy and Phylogeny, 3) Community Ecology and Conservation.
Cássio Augusto Patrocínio Toledo
Bachelor in Biology (ESALQ/USP) with master degree and Ph.D. in Botany (Unicamp). Spent 12 months as intern at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and 6 months at the Royal Botanica Gardens Kew as part of the Ph.D. program. Currently conducting a post-doctoral project focusing on forest inventories and DNA barcoding (ESALQ/USP). Over the last 12 years developing researches with emphasis on Plant Taxonomy, Phylogenetics, Floristics, Floral Ontogeny and DNA barcoding. The bibliography includes about 20 scientific papers, 2 books, 2 chapter books, along with online publications and other material.
Cássio van den Berg
Professor (Full) at Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana. I am currently interested in plant phylogeny and population genetics of plants and their interface with evolution, phylogeography, and plant morphology as quantified by multivariate and geometric morphometrics. Currently PI of a molecular biology laboratory in the topics above, with emphasis in Orchidaceae, but also other relevant groups for understanding the evolution of the eastern Brazilian biota and Neotropical biogeography.
Biologist, Master in Ecology of Agroecosystems from Escola Superior de Agricultura – ESALQ / USP and PhD in Plant Biology from State University of Campinas. He has experience in Botany, with an emphasis on Taxonomy, working mainly in the identification of tree species. She is currently a professor at the Universidade Estadual Paulista, campus of Rio Preto and expert in Tropical Forest, with two books published.
Diana Castillo Diaz
Graduated in Forestry (B.Sc. 2010) and Forest Management at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil (M.Sc. 2013). Her passion for seed ecophysiology and forest ecology inspired her to work in different forest types of South America and South Asia, spanning from the National Institute of Agricultural Research in Uruguay, the Colombian Network for Ecological Restoration, The Pontifical Xaverian University in Bogota, Colombia to South China, where she is currently a fourth-year Ph.D. student at the Forestry College, Guangxi University. Diana has experience in research and evaluation of processes that involve the regeneration, conservation and ecological restoration of ecosystems, dynamic and ecology of plant populations, valuation and sustainable use of non-wood resources of the forest, ecophysiology of forest seeds, massive propagation of in vitro plants, installation, and evaluation of experiments in the laboratory, nursery and field, data processing and analysis, and preparation of technical and academic reports. Diana is a member of the leadership team and focal point for the participation of young researchers at the group of specialists in seed conservation of the IUCN. In addition, she is recipient of the 2020 Harvard University Arnold Arboretum Ashton Award for Student Research.
Gabriel Dalla Colletta
Biologist and Master in Biological Sciences (Botany) from University of São Paulo, on DNA-barcoding to identify tree species from Atlantic Forest in São Paulo State, Ph.D. in Botany from State University of Campinas, on Plantaginaceae Systematics. He has experience in the field of Botany, with an emphasis on Systematic Botany, working mainly on Atlantic Forest, Cerrado, molecular markers and database. He is the author of three books on flora of tropical forests and Cerrado.
He holds a degree in Agronomic Engineering from the Federal University of Paraná and a master’s degree in Weed Science – The University of Tennessee. He is the founder and director of the Jardim Botânico Plantarum, currently the Brazilian Botanical Garden with the largest number of native species under cultivation. He has experience in the field of Botany, with an emphasis on Taxonomy, especially palm trees. He is the author of several books on Brazilian flora for the general public, many of them considered “best sellers” in this area. In addition to being a general adviser with regard to scientific dissemination to the general public, he will also be a great collaborator in the recognition of the rainforest flora, especially palm trees.
Master’s and PhD in Biological Sciences (Botany) from the University of São Paulo in 1989 and 1993, respectively. He is currently Scientific Researcher VI at Instituto Pesquisas Ambientais (IPA) (former Instituto de Botânica-IBt). He works in Botany, with emphasis on Taxonomy and Phylogeny of Ferns and Lycophytes, as well as Plant Taxonomic Nomenclature.
João Marcelo Elias
João Marcelo Elias is agronomist and has Masters in Natural Resources Management. He has broad knowledge on agro-environmental area, and now he is responsible for elaborate and implement Projects that includes initiatives of forest recovery, water pollution control, monitoring and environmental management, education, vegetation reports, fauna monitoring and environmental audits. Since 2018 he has been working at the Forest Foundation as Conservation Units´ Manager of Ecological Station & Environmental Protection Area of Barreiro Rico. He also had many experiences abroad, through practical training in the agricultural and environmental areas, carried out in Switzerland, Israel, Norway and United States.
Juliana de Paula Souza
Agronomist (Luiz de Queiroz Higher School of Agriculture – ESALQ/University of São Paulo), with a master’s and doctorate in Botany (Institute of Biosciences/USP). After completing postdoctoral fellowships at Federal University of Minas Gerais, USP and Ohio University, I joined the faculty staff of the Botany Department at Federal University of Santa Catarina, where I´m involved in undergrad/grad teaching and the curatorial team (Vascular Plants) of herbarium FLOR. Besides my research in Plant Systematics focused on Neotropical groups, which includes extensive field experience in floristic surveys and collecting expeditions, I also have a long history of collaborations with specialists in pharmaco-chemical research of medicinal plants native to the Brazilian flora, involving extension actions with local communities for educational activities of valuation and rational use of their natural resources.
Karinne Sampaio Valdemarin
Natália Macedo Ivanauskas
Ph.D. in Plant Biology at the State University of Campinas and former Assistant Professor at the State University of Mato Grosso (UNEMAT), Scientific Researcher in the area of Characterization of Ecosystems at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) and currently she is a Level VI Scientific Researcher at the Forestry Institute of the State of São Paulo. She is coordinator of the Nucleus of Specialists in Phytosociology and Plant Ecology of the Botanical Society of Brazil. She is the chapter coordinator of the Brazilian Diagnosis on Invasive Alien Species, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services of the Brazilian Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (BPBES). She works in the field of Botany, with an emphasis on Phytogeography.
Otávio Augusto Vuolo Marques
Biologist, Master in Ecology from Universidade de São Paulo (1992), Ph.D. in Zoology from Universidade de São Paulo (1998) and Postdoctorate from Cornell University, CU, United States. He is currently researcher at Instituto Butantan, one of the main research institutions in Latin America, especially in the study of snakes and other venomous animals, where he was director of the Ecology and Evolution Laboratory. He is currently President of the Brazilian Society of Herpetology and published nine books and about 100 scientific articles, mainly on Rainforest Fauna.
Pedro Henrique Santin Brancalion
Associate Professor at the Department of Forest Science, University of São Paulo, vice-coordinator of the Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact and affiliated member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. Pedro is a young (<40 years old) researcher that published >170 peer-reviewed papers, including several ones in top academic journals such as Nature and Science, received >8,200 citations, and was recently included among the top 100,000 scientists with the largest research impact. He coordinates large research and technology projects financed by research agencies, NGOs, and private companies. Overall, he is a generalist focused on developing cost-effective solutions to conserve and restore tropical forests, based on interdisciplinary research and co-production of knowledge with multiple stakeholders.
Graduated in Biological Sciences from the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) and Master and PhD in Plant Biology from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP). I am currently a professor at the Department of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Education at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), at the Center for Agricultural Sciences. I develop research focused on the following lines: Taxonomy and systematics of Euphorbiaceae and Phyllanthaceae, phylogenetic studies and activities aimed at teaching botany in Basic Education. I am the author of the Phyllanthus and Manihot monographs in the Flora e Funga do Brasil project, having completed the closure of the Phyllanthaceae family in the previous edition (Flora do Brasil 2020).
Rafaela Campostrini Forzza
Biologist, Ph.D. in Biological Sciences (Botany) from University of São Paulo. She is a senior researcher at the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro, curator of the RB herbarium, coordinator of the Reflora and and Flora do Brasil 2020, in addition to actively contributing to SiBBr and National Biodiversity Monitoring Program of ICMBio. She is a Master and Doctoral advisor at the University of São Paulo, Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro and Federal University of Mato Grosso; member of the CNPq Deliberative Council (CD). She belongs to the Distinguished Counselor to the Board of the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) and serves as Brazil’s Focal Point in the Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI), of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and as an Open Data Ambassador for Biodiversity at the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). She has experience in the field of Botany, with an emphasis on systematics of Angiosperms, conservation, floristic inventories, management and digitalization of biological collections and evolutionary studies, especially in rainforest and inselbergs.
Renato Augusto Ferreira de Lima
Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of São Paulo (USP), Renato A. F. de Lima is a Brazilian ecologist working on the ecology, succession and restoration of tropical forests and the taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity of tree species. He is also interested in subjects related to species conservation, DNA barcoding, bioinformatics and computer programming. He has over 15 years of experience working with tropical forest data, which granted him advanced skills in vegetation sampling methods, species identification, molecular biology, and the management of biodiversity data. He is the creator and maintainer of plantR, a computer program to manage species records from biological collections.
Thiago Bevilacqua Flores