Leading Brazilian Phytolith Laboratories and Researchers

Leading Brazilian Phytolith Laboratories and Researchers

As highlighted on the previous post, the growing Brazilian phytolith community accounts with a great web of scientists. Here, we compile a brief description of Brazil’s leading phytolith researchers and their activities.

Giliane Gessica Rasbold, Post-Doctoral Scholar at Dept. of Earth & Environmental Sciences – University of Kentucky
Lexintong, Kentucky, United States of America

Rasbold, Phd. started studying phytoliths during her undergraduate studies in 2010, with the aim of understanding modern assemblages by analyzing plants and soil litter. Later, proceeded to analyze phytoliths in a paleoenvironmental and paleoecological context, using phytoliths to investigate the formation of fluvial islands in the Paraná River, the paleoclimatic dynamics of floodplain lagoons in the Paraguay River and the geochemical processes and paleolimnological changes in the lagoons of Nhecolândia, Pantanal. As an active member of various multidisciplinary research groups in Brazil and abroad, she has developed a multiproxy approach, incorporating phytoliths, sponge spicules, diatoms, and geochemical analysis of lake sediments.

In January 2025 the Paleolimnology and Paleoecology Laboratory will start its activities under Giliane’s coordination, at Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY, USA. This lab will focus on the use of silica bioindicators, coal particles and geochemical analyses to comprehend how lakes and wetlands are impacted by climate change and what are the implications for these environments’ ecology, providing critical insights for the preservation and sustainable management of these ecosystems.

PhD. Heloísa Helena Gomes Coe – Núcleo de Estudos Paleobiogeoclimáticos (NEPaleo) of Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) and Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF)
São Gonçalo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Coe, PhD. started working with phytoliths during her PhD, completed in 2009, and since then has encouraged the use of this proxy among undergraduate and postgraduate students from several Brazilian universities. Since 2014, she has coordinated the NEPaleo, a group which includes students and professors (geographers, geologists, and biologists) from several universities (UERJ, UFF, UFMG, UFVJM, UNICAMP, UFRJ, UFRGS, UECE, UFPI, UNESPAR), developing paleobiogeoclimatic reconstruction studies aimed at understanding the formation and evolution of coastal and continental environments in the Quaternary.

The group also works with plant reference collections and modern surface sediment assemblages. More recently, they begun to work on paleoenvironmental reconstitution of archaeological sites (Sambaqui da Tarioba, in the state of Rio de Janeiro; Sítio Cabeças 4 and Sítio Matão in Espinhaço Meridional, in the state of Minas Gerais; Sambaqui Casa de Pedra and Cubatão, in the state of Santa Catarina; and Sítio Lagoa Grande das Queimadas, in the state of Piauí).

On natural sites, NEPaleo developed research in different Brazilian regions, especially in the states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Bahia, Rio Grande do Sul, and Paraná. Reference collection studies on modern plants and sediments have been carried out in the Caatinga, Cerrado, Restinga, and Campos Rupestres (Rupestrian Grasslands) and on Poaceae Brachiaria decumbes. A doctoral thesis is also underway on several genera of Arecaceae found in Brazil.

The group’s work is disseminated through the publication of articles, books, and book chapters, in addition to participation in phytolith (IMPR), Quaternary (ABEQUA and INQUA), Botany, Physical Geography, and Archeology conferences.

Ph.D. Marcia Regina Calegari – Laboratório Multiusuários de Estudos da Dinâmica Ambiental – LEDA of Universidade Estadual do Oeste do Paraná (Unioeste)
Marechal Cândido Rondon, Paraná, Brazil

After the studies of Dr. Laboriau’s group in the 1970’s, Calegari, PhD. became the first researcher in Brazil to defend a doctoral thesis applying phytolith analysis to paleoenvironmental studies, in 2008. Her thesis marked the inception of phytolith research in Brazil and led to the formation of the country’s first study group dedicated to phytolith research in plants and soils/sediments. The group’s unique focus is on using phytolith analysis as a primary tool for studying pedogenesis and the paleoenvironmental significance of soils and paleosols.

Under Calegari’s leadership, the group has worked tirelessly to promote phytolith analysis throughout Brazil, sharing knowledge through lectures and presentations at various events across the country. Since 2011 she teaches postgraduate courses at Unioeste and ESALQ/USP (São Paulo), collaborating with international experts like Marco Madella (Spain) and Margarita Osterrieth (Argentina).

In recognition of this extensive work, the Multiuser Laboratory for Environmental Dynamics Studies (LEDA) was established in 2015 at Unioeste, Marechal C. Rondon campus in western Paraná. Coordinated by Calegari, LEDA offers annual courses on phytolith extraction and analysis, and provides training and internship opportunities for students and researchers. The laboratory is fully equipped for all stages of phytolith analysis, particularly for examining fossil assemblages in tropical soils, and currently collaborates with several universities on various research projects.


PhD Mauro Parolin – Laboratório de Estudos Paleoambientais of Fecilcam/Lepafe Universidade Estadual do Paraná (Unespar)
Campo Mourão, Paraná, Brazil

The Laboratório de Estudos Paleoambientais of Fecilcam/Unespar (Lepafe), was founded in 2008 with funding from the Fundo Paraná. Lepafe is dedicated to the study of microfossils, specifically sponge spicules, phytoliths and pollen grains. Since its creation, the laboratory has been coordinated by Professor Parolin, PhD. and since then, he has been and is responsible for training human resources in the paleoenvironmental area involving biomineralizations, and in recent years it has intensified its research into modern and fossil phytolith assemblages. In a survey of publications related to phytoliths in the state of Paraná between 2011 and 2021, carried out in 2023 (Parolin et al. 2023), 88% of the 40 papers are linked to Lepafe laboratory.


Categories: IPS envoys

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy