Biologist Fernanda Werneck earned her master’s degree in ecology from the University of Brasilia. She furthered her studies by completing a doctorate in integrative biology at Brigham Young University in the United States. Fernanda also undertook a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University. In her research, she examines the DNA of lizards to evaluate the impacts of global warming on the Amazon ecosystem. Beyond her scientific pursuits, Fernanda is a mother to a teenager who was born during her master’s degree. This personal experience has made her particularly attuned to the challenges and needs of mothers in academia. When she takes a break from her research, Fernanda enjoys playing soccer with friends and practicing yoga.
Biodiversity serves as a repository of information about life’s origins and evolution, offering solutions to numerous challenges faced by humanity. Despite the threat posed by anthropogenic climate change, characterized by rapid global warming and shifting precipitation patterns, its impact on Neotropical megadiversity remains largely unexplored. This is due in part to the continual challenge of overwhelming evidence by obscurantist politics. Our project aims to investigate the evolutionary adaptation processes of natural populations in response to environmental and climatic selective pressures. This is a complex and enduring question. We employ innovative approaches that integrate ecological, molecular, and environmental tools to study the potential responses of natural lizard populations (ectotherms dependent on local temperatures) to climate change. These populations inhabit the threatened mosaics of the Amazon-Cerrado environmental gradient. By analyzing phenotypic parameters of thermal capacities and demographic parameters of genomic DNA, we aim to answer critical questions. For instance, what is the likelihood of lizard populations shifting their geographic distribution to follow favorable climates? Are certain populations and regions more prone to adapt to new conditions or, conversely, face local extinctions? What are the implications of these processes for biodiversity conservation? These inquiries guide our research as we seek to understand and mitigate the effects of climate change on biodiversity.