E m i l i o    B r u n a

Hi there! My name is Emilio Bruna and I’m one of the researchers working in the rainforests here in the Brazilian Amazon. I was born in Juarez, Mexico, but my father’s job moved us around quite a bit (there were stints in Boston, Mexico City, and Venezuela). When I was ten, my family moved to El Paso, Texas, and that’s where they are to this day (my parents, that is; my brother Sean is studying Anthropology at the University of Chicago). I’ve always had an interest in natural history, conservation, and the outdoors, so it was no surprise that I majored in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution at the University of California San Diego’s Revelle College. It was there that I had my first serious exposure to biology in the Tropics my Junior year I spent ten weeks in Costa Rica on the Univ. of California’s Tropical Biology Field Course and was hooked. I returned to UCSD, finished my Bachelor’s degree, and then started working on a Master’s degree there studying the genetics and ecology of a group of lizards in the South Pacific (talk about a great field site, I did my field work on the tropical island of Raratonga in the Cook Islands for a month). Now I’m a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California-Davis’ Center for Population Biology under the supervision of Professors Sharon Strauss and Susan Harrison. I’m studying how species interactions like pollination, seed dispersal, and herbivory influence the dynamics of plant populations.

For my dissertation research, I’m studying the effect of habitat fragmentation on plant populations at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragment Project here in Manaus, Brazil. The BDFFP is a collaborative project administered by the Smithsonian Institution and Brazil’s National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA). About fifteen years ago, one and ten hectare blocks of rainforest were isolated in order to study the effects of deforestation on animal and plant populations. I’m particularly interested in one species found here Heliconia acuminata. Heliconia acuminata is a common herb in the understory of the forests here (about 1000 plants per hectare), but habitat fragments only have between a third and a half the density of Heliconia plants as nearby continuous forests. My challenge is to find out the ecological mechanisms responsible for these differences.

Emilio’s Interview/Journals Emilio Bruna’s Biography    1     2