Isa Gameiro Aleixo Pais
I am a Biologist who specialised in Biodiversity and Conservation and have worked for the past 10 years in African non-human primate conservation genetics and ecology. I am currently doing a PhD between the Organisms & Environment Division at Cardiff University and the Environmental challenges, Sustainability and Ethnography in CRIA-FCSH. Between my Masters and the PhD, I have worked as a lab manager in a population genetics research group working on Lemurs from Madagascar. Before joining research I worked in Education and have always been engaged in Science communication and other research projects (Frozen Ark, APCM, CONCHA, CEEDER).
I am interested in understanding how forest loss and degradation impact the genetics and diet of endangered african non-human primates. Another field in which I have embarked recently, is Ethnobiology, which explores the dynamic relationships between humans, non-humans and the environment.
The use of plants by humans and non-human primates in altered landscapes: dietary flexibility or local adaptation?
For my PhD, I am assessing the co-use of wild botanic resources by humans and non-human primates in two National Parks located in the west african countries, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone. I use an interdisciplinary approach to carry out my research in two protected areas with different levels of anthropogenic pressure. Humans and non-human primates share wild plants in both Cantanhez National Park (Guinea-Bissau), which accommodates several villages within the forest, and Gola Rainforest National Park (Sierra Leone), an almost intact forest with lower levels of human disturbance.
To understand the impacts of forest degradation on the dietary flexibility of Western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus), red colobus (Piliocolobus badius) and black-and-white colobus (Colobus polykomos), I combine ecological and molecular methods (next generation sequencing metabarcoding). In addition, I will conduct semi-structured interviews in villages from both countries to assess people’s reliance on wild plants and perspectives on protected primates. The ultimate goal of my project is to contribute to the conservation of endangered West African primates and their sustainable co-existence with local human communities.
The results obtained in this study will contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics between different species that share common natural forest resources. The specific insight on the holistic ecosystem in each National Park will, in turn, serve as a conservation tool for the decision making of national and international stakeholders in the management of these protected areas.
Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT)