Luiz Eduardo Del-Bem vividly recalls his first encounter with science: at the tender age of six, he discovered a plant fossil. This experience sparked an interest that has only grown over time. Today, as a biologist with a master’s and a Ph.D. in genetics and molecular biology from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), his research offers a glimpse into the past. Through meticulous study, he aims to unveil the ecological landscape of Earth’s colonization by early life forms. In addition to his scientific pursuits, Luiz Eduardo is a musician who plays the piano and the bass. He believes there is a strong connection between music and creativity. Hailing from a farming family, he enjoys helping keep the family farm up-to-date. A culinary enthusiast, he also ventures into the kitchen from time to time. Currently, Luiz Eduardo is a professor in the Botany Department of the Institute of Biological Sciences at the Federal University of Minas Gerais.
The colonization of dry land is a pivotal event in the evolutionary history of life on Earth. It led to the evolution of the most complex known life forms on land, including mammals, birds, and flowering plants. Terrestrial life also created some of the most diverse and ecologically intricate communities, such as tropical rainforest ecosystems. Despite the immense scientific significance of understanding how life colonized dry land, our knowledge about the process and its timeline remains limited. Unanswered questions pertain to the nature of the first terrestrial ecological communities, the origin of biologically active soils, and the emergence of terrestrial plants that eventually led to the formation of present-day and ancestral forests. Our research addresses some of these questions, specifically focusing on how soils originated during the colonization of dry land by photosynthesizing microorganisms. We are also experimentally testing a new theory about the origin of land plants from simple terrestrial charophyte algae.