Biologist Amanda Cunha’s passion for marine life dates back to her childhood, when she devoured documentaries about nature. Her research is an intriguing dive into the interactions between colonial invertebrates, called hydroids, and their living substrates in marine environments. It is a study of enormous importance for the ecology and diversity of the oceans, which undoubtedly contributes to our understanding of marine life. Graduated in biological sciences from the Federal University of Uberlândia, Amanda has a master’s and doctorate in zoology from the University of São Paulo, with research internships at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, and Massey University, New Zealand.
On dry land, Amanda practices meditation to clear her thoughts and running routines around the Federal University of Viçosa (UFV) campus, which are also a constant source of inspiration for her investigations in the laboratory. She is currently a professor at the Department of Animal Biology at UFV.
In the vast immensity of the sea, finding a space to live can be highly competitive for animals that live fixed to the bottom. The ability to grow and live on living substrates, known as epibiosis, is a direct consequence of this competition for space, and can offer different advantages and disadvantages to associated organisms. Hydroids are colonial cnidarians attached to various living substrates such as algae, sponges, corals and crustaceans. In this project, we ask whether the great diversity of forms, habits and life histories observed among hydroids can be explained by their interactions with different living substrates. Thus, we seek to understand the role of epibiosis in the diversity patterns of marine hydroids and the ecological and/or evolutionary factors that can explain these interactions.