Cintia Gomes de Freitas

Life Sciences

Inspired by the hypothesis that indigenous peoples selected the best fruits and spread seeds along their migration routes, scientist Cintia Gomes de Freitas wonders if this inadvertent practice left a mark on the DNA of plants. Using molecular genetics techniques and archaeological data from the routes of the Guarani peoples, she explores the impact of this interaction on the genetic diversity and structure of palm trees in tropical regions. Born and raised on the outskirts of Recife, Freitas is a Black woman who became the first in her family to achieve higher education. She earned her undergraduate degree in biological sciences from the Federal University of Recife, where she also completed a master’s in plant biology. Her PhD in ecology was obtained at the National Institute of Amazonian Research. The biologist also completed three postdoctoral periods: two at the Federal University of Goiás and one at the New York Botanical Garden in the United States. Her love for nature has been a lifelong passion, further enriched by her writing, philosophy, and sociology interests. This multidisciplinary inspiration has shaped a career beyond research: Freitas is an author, particularly of children’s books inspired by her daughters. With an eclectic eye, she remains keenly aware of the works of Black authors, diving into the understanding of feminist and racial issues and the impacts of the climate crisis on these communities.


Did pre-Columbian human populations leave their mark on the genetic structure of palm species?
Science / Life Sciences

As we selected the most eye-catching, sweet, and juicy fruits at the market, indigenous peoples did the same. Over many years of scattering seeds along their paths, they may have left a mark on the DNA of plants. Could these people have inadvertently selected the best fruits? Did they plant these fruits along their migration routes? Did they plant them closer to settlements to ensure a future fruit supply? If so, indigenous people acted as ecosystem engineers, impacting the genetic and ecological diversity and structure of species. To answer these questions, the project will use the most modern molecular genetics techniques and archaeological data from the migration routes of the Guarani people. We will study the DNA of iconic palm trees, attempting to explain how the interaction between humans and plants might have generated and maintained plant species diversity in tropical regions.

Amount invested

Grant Serrapilheira: R$ 333.000,00
  • Topics
  • Ecology