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Elton John de Lírio
Instituto Nacional da Mata Atlântica
Posted 3-27-24


Elton John de Lírio


I am a biologist holding a Master's and PhD in Botany from the Instituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), with part of my doctoral research conducted during an internship at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (France). Throughout my academic journey, I have been dedicated mainly to studying Monimiaceae (the boldo family) and Aristolochiaceae (pipevine family), focusing on their systematics and conservation.

During my Ph.D., I conducted a comprehensive taxonomic review, performed phylogenetic analyses, and investigated pollen morphology and ultrastructure for the Neotropical Mollinedioideae (Monimiaceae). Additionally, I explored the sex expression of a species, enhancing our understanding of its reproductive biology.

In my postdoctoral phase, I continued research at esteemed institutions, including the University of São Paulo, Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro, Universidade Federal do ABC, and Instituto Tecnológico Vale. I undertook an internship at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, contributing to the PAFTOL (Plant and Fungal Trees of Life) project, focusing on Laurales (including Monimiaceae). This opportunity was made possible through the support of the International Association of Plant Taxonomists and the Bentham-Moxon Trust Grants.

Throughout my career, I have described 12 new species and rediscovered two species after over a century without collections. I led the Monimiaceae monograph for the Flora of Brazil Online and collaborated on monographs for three other plant families: Siparunaceae, Aristolochiaceae, and Canellaceae. I actively participate in the IUCN Species Survival Commission for plants from Brazil and Madagascar, contributing to extinction risk assessments, action plans, and conservation efforts for numerous plant species. I also worked with endemic plant species of Minas Gerais state, Brazil, with a particular emphasis on species endemic to the Quadrilátero Ferrífero. This region, characterized by ""Cangas"" vegetation, is subjected to iron extraction and harbors many endemic and threatened species.

Currently, I am a research fellow at Instituto Nacional da Mata Atlântica, working on taxonomy and conservation of plants of inselbergs in the Atlantic Forest. Simultaneously, I am nearing completion of a project I lead, supported by the Conservation Leadership Program, addressing threatened plant species endemic to the Atlantic Forest. This initiative involves documenting threats, reassessing extinction risks, and proposing conservation actions in collaboration with local communities.

My upcoming endeavors include the phylogenomic reconstruction of Monimiaceae, analyzing sexual systems, and estimating genome size evolution. I am also embarking on a new project focused on the taxonomy and conservation of Podocarpus (Podocarpaceae) in the Atlantic Forest, funded by the EDGE of Existence program (promoted by the Zoological Society of London).

I have collaborated with national and international researchers throughout my career and actively engaged with professional societies. I am enthusiastic about the potential to further contribute to advancing botanical knowledge and conservation efforts.


Staminate flowers of Macropeplus friburgensis (Monimiaceae). Photo E J Lirio


How Elton got interested in the botanical sciences:

I was born in the countryside of Espírito Santo state, Brazil. I grew up on a farm where my parents worked as farmers. From my early years, I began to accompany my parents in the fields and had contact with the land and animals. Influenced by my father and maternal grandmother, I developed a liking for cultivating ornamental plants. During high school, due to my interest in Biology and plants, I became friends with the teacher who taught me that subject. She motivated me to take the entrance exam for Biological Sciences. Unfortunately, studying at the Federal University of Espírito Santo was not feasible since my family couldn't afford for me to live in the capital, Vitória, more than 80 km away from our home.

I then enrolled in a program sponsored by the Foundation for Research Support of the State of Espirito Santo (state government of Espírito Santo), allowing me to compete for a scholarship for the Biological Sciences program in the neighboring city. Receiving this scholarship, I could turn my dream of making my passion for plants into a profession. In the first semester of the course, I took the plant anatomy class with Professor Selma Hebling. Professor Selma's enthusiasm and passion for plants captivated me, and since then, I have been on this journey with plants.

Atlantic Forest, Teresópolis, Rio de Janeiro state. Photo J. A. A. S. Maior

Atlantic Forest, Teresópolis, Rio de Janeiro state. Photo J. A. A. S. Maior


Elton's advice for those just starting their botanical journey:

Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and the wealth of knowledge stored in herbaria. Let your curiosity be the compass that guides your explorations. Engage in conversations with fellow enthusiasts and be receptive to collaborative opportunities. Don't allow insecurities to drown out your inner voice; let your confidence speak louder. Trust in your abilities and embrace the journey of discovery.

Elton's other passions:

I have a deep passion for travelling, relishing immersing myself in diverse cultures and exploring new places. Music holds a special place in my heart, and I am constantly looking for new songs to add to my playlist. I find solace in the melodies accompanying me on my life journeys.

On the more active side, I am a sports enthusiast, reveling in the thrill of physical activity and the camaraderie it fosters. Equally, I find joy in the quiet moments spent gardening, cultivating a connection with nature through nurturing plants.


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