For ecologist Raul Costa Pereira, of Unicamp, describing São Paulo as a stone jungle is not just a force of expression. He used to do fieldwork at lush ecosystems like Pantanal, Pereira prepares to explore the biodiversity that hides in São Paulo’s homes – in a flower vase, in the corner of a room or in tile cracks.
We usually use binoculars and field pants to study environmental relationships. I want to see what can be done in pajamas and socks inside,” the researcher joked in a conversation with Leaf.
The idea will receive an investment of R$570,000 from Instituto Serrapilheira, a private non-profit organization that funds Brazilian scientists with innovative projects. Although there have been some surveys of bird fauna and other large animals that can be found in parks, plazas, and other areas of Brazilian cities, the ecologist’s work has slightly different goals: to find small, but still very important, forms of biodiversity.
“Let’s look more at microorganisms, primarily in arthropods,” he explains, referring to the most diverse group of invertebrates, which includes ants, spiders, beetles, moths, and many other creatures. The “micro” in the analysis also includes spatial demarcation: Pereira wants to investigate how the habits of each dwelling affect the presence of different species in it.
“I have an interest in what you might call the environment of individuals,” he says. “We tend to put many individuals of the same species, such as a type of fish or bird, in the same box. But when we look at us humans, the individuality is wide open, and I think it is possible to see how it resonates and becomes a driving force for the diversity of these systems the microenvironmental environment that naturally depends on us.”
It is possible to think, for example, of the interior of the house as a habitat of a miniature food chain, including small herbivores, such as some ants, predators that feed on them (for example, spiders), etc. . Details like file the presence of plants, small spaces with flowerbeds or lawns, the type of floor in the house, lighting, ventilation, etc. able to influence the species that will form these chains.
But he points to another important variable, which is the habits of people in every home. “Will we have the same type in vegan homeWho eats only processed food and who eats practically all of their meals outside the home? Since we’re the main species in these environments, all of this is going to make a difference.”
Many of our animals that a researcher intends to study are difficult to see, either because of their size or because of their habit of frequenting small corners that are inaccessible to human hands and eyes. To overcome this detection problem, the project will adopt environmental genomics techniques. This means that even the dust accumulating in the carpet can undergo DNA analysis capable of picking up species that have passed through it, even if its largest and most visible remains are gone.
Another important tool is stable isotopes – variants of atoms such as carbon, which appear in all organic molecules, which help estimate the origin of the food consumed by a particular animal. The idea is to investigate, for example, what happened in places where invertebrates have relied on the constant presence of food that humans give up to eat – until such “self-service” runs out as the social distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic arrives. This is the case for Unicamp itself, the Finder is operating normally.
Additionally, the idea is to sample São Paulo homes that take into account the city’s regional and socio-economic diversity – more wooded neighborhoods or just asphalt and concrete, fringes and downtown, etc. It would be possible to cross this geographical data with arthropod surveys to understand how one thing affects the other.
A more skeptical person might think that nothing more interesting than simple ants and crickets will turn up in such a survey. Pereira does not agree. “The first step is to open up, throw the net and see what’s next,” he compares, using the hunter’s analogy. “I think there can be good and bad surprises, including having some species that, in theory, would only appear in well-preserved places.”
“Wannabe internet buff. Future teen idol. Hardcore zombie guru. Gamer. Avid creator. Entrepreneur. Bacon ninja.”