Spotlight Logo

Jaqueline Alves Vieira
Graduate Student
São Paulo State University
(IBILCE/Unesp - Brazil) 
Biology Sciences
Posted 2-22-24


Jaqueline Alves Vieira

1. Field expedition in Rio de Contas (state of Bahia, Brazil).


Within my current project, I have visited herbaria and conducted laboratory activities and field collections of 14 species of Ternstroemia occurring in Brazil. I have stayed in riverside communities and National Parks, collected specimens by boat, by car, by motorcycle, and even by kayak and on horseback along the countryside. I have learned how to create distribution maps and botanical illustrations.

In addition to the scientific objective of the project, this initiative aims to form research groups focusing on taxonomy and molecular analyses of poorly known and studied groups. Addressing information gaps in these groups contributes to a broader understanding of the world's flora and aids in resolving relationships between species, genera, and even within sparsely sampled orders. Accurate specimen identification not only serves taxonomic purposes but also enhances knowledge of the popular uses of these plants. Thanks to this work, we have been able to identify several species that are used medicinally by the local community.


2. Field images of Ternstroemia bahiensis J.Vieira & D.Samp - my first described species.


How Jaqueline got interested in the botanical sciences:

Growing up in Brazil, within the domain of the Atlantic Forest, means being constantly surrounded by an immense biodiversity of plants. Since childhood, I've had a profound affinity for the natural sciences and research. I remember that one of my greatest hobbies in my school was developing research projects on every possible topic. During my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to engage with the herbarium of my institution (Herbário SJRP/IBILCE/Unesp), and I realized that it was there that I would grow as a researcher.

During this period, I also participated in my first congress, the National Congress of Botany (2016). It was at this congress, amidst various topics within tropical botany, that my advisor, Prof. Dr. Daniela Sampaio, and I established a partnership with Dr. Eduardo Gasparino, one of the leading experts in Brazilian palynology. In this work, I had my first contact with plant taxonomy and palynology of tree species from the Atlantic Forest and Brazilian Amazon, focusing on two species complexes of the genus Sloanea (Elaeocarpaceae). Still during my undergraduate studies, within this project, I visited the INPA herbarium, the largest herbarium in the Brazilian Amazon, and conducted fieldwork in the Amazon. I knew then that I would never be able to let go of field expeditions, herbarium visits, and laboratory work. I had found my calling. I would be a botanical researcher.

In my master's degree, through the initiative of the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden, Flora and Funga of Brazil (formerly Flora of Brazil), I started working with neglected families of the Neotropical flora, focusing on the taxonomic revision of Pentaphylacaceae (Ericales) for Brazil. In this work, I generated descriptive data, nomenclatural treatments, comments on ecology, phenology, and of course, visited many herbariums across Brazil! From this work, I realized that there were many knowledge gaps within this group, gaps in various areas, not only in taxonomy but also in phylogeny, phytochemistry, palynology, and biogeography.

But how? How to expand research in the field? With what funding, with the assistance of which institutions? Like all students from developing countries, one of the major challenges faced in research is the lack of funding for project development. A large part of my research up to the master's degree was carried out with personal funds. It was amidst almost desperate attempts to maintain the project and make its realization possible that I sought international funding and applied for grants from various institutions. In 2022, I was awarded "The Emily Holmes Memorial Scholarship" (Royal Botanic Gardens - Kew) to visit the Kew herbarium, and "The LinnéSys: Systematic Research Fund" (The Linnean Society of London) to visit the NYBG herbarium. I was also awarded a laptop to conduct my research through IdeaWild. It was through these awards that I found the strength to persist in my dreams and continue in the field of botany. In parallel to that, my advisor secured approval for the project "Integrative Taxonomy of Ternstroemia Mutis ex L.f. (PENTAPHYLACACEAE): uncovering neglected species of Neotropical flora," funded by the Brazilian government. My dream was finally becoming a reality. Countless research possibilities emerged. My doctoral project was coming to fruition, "Phylogenomics and Taxonomic Revision of Ternstroemia (Pentaphylacaceae)." A PhD by the Bioscience Program (IBILCE/Unesp), funded by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES).

My fascination with botany has reached many areas, opening my eyes to possibilities of multidisciplinary approaches and strategies, and connecting me with various researchers, both Brazilian and foreign. I conducted field expeditions across almost the entire Brazilian territory, covering four of the six Brazilian domains. I had the opportunity to receive training in molecular biology and visit herbariums in London, Paris, New York, and Boston, and to be guided by prominent figures in botany such as Dr. Daniela Sampaio (UNESP, Brazil), my supervisor in Brazil, and to receive assistance and guidance from Dr. Alexandre R. Zuntini (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK), Dr. André Vito Scatigna (UEMA, Brazil), and Dr. Anthony Brach (Harvard University, USA), Dr. Cassio van den Berg (UEFS, Brazil), Dr. Corinne Sarthou (Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, France), Dr. Douglas Daly (New York Botanical Garden, USA), Dr. Eve Lucas (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK), and Dr. Martin Cheek (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew). I am also very thankful to my field and laboratory partners Dante Cruz, MSc. João Monzoli, MSc. Valner Jordão, and MSc. Lisandra Teixeira.

Botany has opened and continues to open many doors and possibilities within my country and in international partnerships. The challenges persist, and we continue to build partnerships and seek funding to continue our research. Gradually, activities are unfolding, and opportunities are arising. I am very grateful for everything we have achieved so far. I want to help young researchers to achieve as well, after all, I live in Brazil: the country with the greatest biodiversity in the world! There is much to invest in and to know!


Trinity Rock Climbing

3. Studies in the herbarium of Ternstroemia species occurring in Brazil.


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

Don't give up, even when facing adversity; stay strong. Believe in your potential, in the quality of your work, and in the learning process. Making mistakes is natural; we are all learning. Be passionate about what you do, but don't forget to take care of yourselves. Be members of botanical societies and take advantage of the benefits granted; always keep an eye out for event opportunities, journals for publication, and grants! Attend meetings and network! Participate in conferences, symposiums, and meetings; seek partnerships; make friends from many different places. Never listen to those who don't see potential in your dreams!

Jaqueline's other passions:

In my free time, I love listening to music, watching series, painting, and drawing scientific illustrations. Today, I have several species illustrated in works by other researchers, such as Elaeocarpaceae, Linaceae, and Fabaceae. I enjoy learning new languages, and currently, I'm learning French. I also spend a lot of time with my pets. One of my dreams is to go on a gastronomic tour of all countries in the world. I love cuisine, but I don't have any cooking skills, so I'm a restaurant enthusiast.


Click here to return to BSA Spotlight Series homepage.