Friday, February 13, 2009

Brazilian professor visits UIS and Emiquon for research

By Courtney Westlake

Dr. Luiz Felipe Machado Velho decided he couldn't pass up an opportunity to travel to the United States to participate in scientific research, so he gave up his "summer vacation" to work and learn at UIS and the Emiquon Project this winter. Velho is currently visiting UIS from the State University of Maringa, located in southern Brazil.

UIS has been connected with scientists from the University of Maringa for many years. Dr. Mike Lemke, professor of biology at UIS, traveled to Brazil several years ago and even co-wrote a published paper with Velho's colleagues in Brazil.

"Dr. Lemke came to Brazil and started a collaborative project with our group, who has also been working on big rivers," Velho said.

Velho said this is his first visit to the United States, and he thinks it is a "really great" area. He has been living in UIS campus housing, and his family is also visiting with him since it is summer in Brazil, and they are on break. Being from Brazil, this is the first time he and his family have seen snow, ice and winter.

Velho said he especially loves the Emiquon Field Station and surrounding area, including Thompson Lake. Emiquon, located about an hour northwest of Springfield, is one of the largest floodplain restoration projects in the country, and the field station, which was dedicated in spring 2008, is directed by Lemke.

"It's a beautiful, amazing place," Velho said. "It was very fun to be there during this ice period. I've been used to taking samples in a boat in Brazil. Here, we walked on the ice and cut the ice to take samples."

While Velho and Lemke both work on microbes in freshwater systems, Lemke specializes in work on bacteria, and Velho works on protozoa, which are simple-celled organisms only slightly more complex than bacteria. The two brought their expertises together to work on a project at Emiquon.

From March to November in 2008, Lemke and his crews collected water samples from Thompson Lake and Lake Chautauqua. They are currently discovering information about the water quality conditions and how the microbes respond.

"Felipe's work complements mine, helping me to bridge the ecological links from nutrients to bacteria to protozoa," Lemke said. "The picture that is developing is fascinating. The bacteria community definitely is responding to the weekly changes in the water. We are just now uncovering the protozoa patterns."

There is a second aspect to Velho's work at Emiquon as well. He is also trying to find new molecular techniques to identify the very small and complex protozoa, he said.

Lemke said he was honored to collaborate with Velho on this project.

"The group from U of Maringa, Brazil, are experts in floodplain studies; it is a privilege to have him working with us," Lemke said. "We hope to describe the microbial community in floodplain lakes like Thompson. A better understanding will allow us to understand linkages between nutrients, lake conditions, and links to other parts of the food web."

Velho said he hopes to return to UIS and Emiquon in the near future and looks forward to working together with Lemke on future endeavors.

"Our intention is to get a real collaborative project together and bring UIS students to Brazil and of course bring students from the U of Maringa here," he said.

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