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Current projects

Lead by D.Sc. Maria Zucchi, our laboratory develops research on genetic and genomic diversity of two major groups: native plant species and insect pest species.

Conservation biology of Atlantic forest native potentially medicinal plant species
A genetic approach on forest restoration

Destruction of Brazilian Atlantic forest is one of the most alarming problems

of ecological conservation in the world. For the preservation of this biome,

and its species, not only is necessary the conservation of its natural remants,

but also forest restoration of areas that have already been deforested.


For this, long-term sustainability monitoring studies of forest restoration areas

are necessary. Genetic diversity is one of the main bases for environment conservation.

Besides floristic restoration, the restoration projects also need to aim restoring the

genetic diversity of such communities. This project aims to carry a depth evaluation on the levels of genetic diversity and structure of restoration areas within the seasonal semideciduous Atlantic forest, in coparison with genetic diversity and structure of natural remants of the biome.


This proposal has six main goals: 1) The evaluation of genetic diversity and structure of targeted species occuring in both, areas of forest restoration and also in natural remants, based on nuclear microsatellite markers (SSR); 2) Phylogeographic stidies on the targeted species including the forest restoration areas, based on chloroplastidial microsatellite markers (cpSSR); 3) A pilot project on genetic diversity enrichment of already restored areas; 4) Determination of mating systems based on evaluations of crossing rates; 5) Based on population genomics approaches (AFLP), seek for genomic regions of the targeted species that are under selection in anthropic environments, and that are important for individual survival within these environments; and 6) A pilot project on environmental education involving students from the elementary, middle and high school educational institutions in the city of Piracicaba, warning about importance of restoration and conservation of natural biomes, specially the Atlantic forest.​

New approaches on population genetics of pest insects: Population genomics and genomic scan for the developmento of management practices



The Sugarcane Borer, Diatraea saccharalis (Fabr. 1794), is an poliphagous insect, within Lepidoptera order, and is considered pest for important crops such as maize, sorghum and sugarcane, causing great losses for these crops in Brazil and other countries like Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela and United States. Both, in Brazil and in other countries, pesticide-resitante lineages have already been found, and for this reason this species has a great potential to evolve resistance for Bt toxines, produced in GM maize that have recently been introduced in Brazil to control agricultural pest. Furthermore, this insect may present lineages associated to the host plant, its taxonomical status is unresolved yet (presents siblings species and begining of sympatic speciation), and there are populations that show differences in the sexual pheromone composition. These and other features make the species a model for studies on genetics, evolution and also for the development of more efficient and sustainable management of pest insects. The main objective of this project is to evaluate the genetic diversity of D. saccharalis based on molecular marker, in order to identify factors that affect the distribution of this diversity. Initially, SSR molecular markers will be employed to study genetic structuring among populations collected in different regions of Brazil, and on different crops. With non-neutral molecular markers AFLP and SNPs, searches for loci with non-alleatory distributions, which may be under natural selection, will be performed. Such approach (population genomics) is recent within the field of population genetics, and it is consequence of the development of NGS technology and ease for obtaining genetic markers. Population genomics permits the study and separation of loci that have neutral effects from the outlier loci.





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