Prof. Dr. Luiz Drude de Lacerda
Marine Sciences Institute, Universidade Federal do Ceará | Brazil
L.D. Lacerda is a biologist with a PhD in Biophysics and Professor at the Federal University in Ceará, Brazil. He is a Member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and of The World Academy of Sciences, also a member of the Scientific Board of the International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems and was a member of the Scientific Steering Committee of LOICZ and the Science Evaluation Panel of the IODP. He was a visiting researcher at the universities of Toulon, Nice and Hamburg.
L.D. Lacerda has experience in the field of Ecology, with emphasis on biogeochemistry and environmental contamination and monitoring of tropical ecosystems, and the impact of global climate change on ecosystem biogeochemistry.
What inspired you to pursue a career in scientific research?
Simply a huge curiosity on Nature processes. I grew up by the coast, in Rio de Janeiro, where the sea, beaches and mangroves were an extension of our home. Thus, a carrier in ecology and oceanography was natural. Although I was strongly attracted by the biology of these environments, I was most curious on how they interact and are affected by the physical and chemical environment. The complexity of these interactions was always a challenge, and them participation in LOICZ was also a natural way. But this came much later, after working through ISME (International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems) and UNEP coordinating a project on Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Mangroves in Africa and Latina America & Caribbean Regions, that allowed me to visit and work in many different locations worldwide, in the tropics in particular, that gave me a clear concept on the necessity of a global approach to the functioning of coastlines and their response to environmental changes. Therefore the inspiration was Nature and mostly the complexity of tropical coastal ecosystems.
How has mentorship shaped your career (could be mentor or mentee)?
I was lucky to be an ecology undergraduate student during the onset of Ecosystem Ecology. Although I was thrived by Biology, the complexity of ecosystems was really appealing. Also lucky was that I had mentors in my early carriers, an ecologist from the Georgia School, a chemist from the nuclear sector and a pharmacologist, who were fundamental for shaping my interdisciplinarity.
As a mentor myself I ask my students to avoid being restricted to their field of interest, rather I always ask them to make a “zoon approach” on their problem, mostly the temporal and spatial scales. All environmental issues generally started far back in time and their causes and effects mostly affect systems far from their sources. As a mentor I also profit from a clear, mostly non-biased view of the environment by my students.
What is a career achievement of which you are most proud?
Obviously becoming a member of the Brazilian (ABC), the World (TWAS) and Future Coasts (FEC) academies is a proud achievement. But the most significance, however, is having ex-students mentees of mine assuming important position in their carries as full professors, governmental authorities and even presidents of universities and head of university departments. This is really something!
What do you enjoy about being a scientist?
Of having a challenging question regarding the functioning of Nature always in mind and knowing answering it may prove important for a better living in our planet.
What do you think are some of the most exciting recent scientific advances in coastal biogeochemistry?
That most processes at the continent-ocean interface have their drivers far from the coast, either inland or in the open ocean, not restricted to the coastal strip proper.
What are some characteristics of a successful scientist?
Curiosity, then it is like any other job, persistence, patience, and hard working. But always having in mind that there are and were many people out there thinking on the same challenging questions of yours. Also, beware of procrastination!
If you weren’t a scientist, what other job would you have?
Sorry, never though of a different job. Even considering my experience as science professional as director of funding agency, plays by the same rules.
What do you do outside your work?
Tourism, visiting any place different from mine, different costumes, culture, food. Since this can only happen in holydays, weekends reading on a beach and bodysurfing is perfect.
Have you ever been anxious? If so, how do you relieve anxiety?
Walk! Anywhere, works better on a beach or trail, by within the city also works.
What was your most valuable experience in LOICZ? What have been the most rewarding aspects of your participation in LOICZ?
The most valuable experience was to work in groups with a broad worldwide experience providing a less site-specific view of the environmental processes I worked with. The experience, both as participating in expert groups writing reports (R&S) and planning and management of the project proper (Science Plans), as well as those dedicated to synthetizing results and organizing scientific regional and open meetings, were fundamental for my international carrier and allowed working in my filed of interest in different countries and regions.
What do you think were some of the most exciting scientific advances of LOICZ?
The understanding that the continent-ocean continuum as a working tool and basic unit to study environmental impacts on the coastal zone. Prior to LOICZ this understanding was very restricted to a small group in the academy, even within this group it was more like a felling rather than a fact. LOICZ provided empirical results, from different tools ranging from nutrient balance modelling of estuaries to DPRSI analysis, available in the numerous R&S on nutrients input-output models, as in the nutrient studies series, and the Basins programs series. Those were applied worldwide followed by specific seminars and integrated in the large open conferences. Without this, many decision-making actions and policies could have not been designed and implemented.
As LOICZ transitioned to Future Earth Coasts, what frameworks and concepts have been inherited? And what new changes have been brought about?
The most significative is the interaction between watersheds and the ocean, mostly relating the impacts on the coastal zone and shelf to basin activities and processes. This framework allowed the progressive inclusion of variables as empirical results clarify their importance. By 1990’s the first framework did not considered climate changes, for example. Already added and highlighted in the LOICZ Science Plan from 2005. The transition to Future Earth Coast, at least in my view, was a natural step to including social-economic and human dimension drivers properly and, in most cases by the understanding that comprehension of the natural phenomenon per se, like eutrophication, would not be enough to mitigate its impacts, without co-management strategies and mostly a community-based planning and decision-making.
What do you think are the biggest challenges/opportunities faced by Future Earth Coasts today?
The biggest challenge in view is how to conciliate a decision-making process strongly capital-driven, even when considering sustainability1,2, with traditional and original population’s views of the coastal zone to produce a proper framework to mitigate and adapt to a changing planet.
Do you have advice for young scientists?
Future Earth coasts existence will depend on attitudes based on a global experience rather than local examples. Most of what we know are based on experiences gained from studies in the developed north hemisphere. We know little on the global south. Any strategy to preserve and maintain the world’s coast will depend on expanding our understand of the global south. My advice is mobility! Get experience from everywhere, compare them before organizing your thoughts.
What kind of support and resources are you willing to offer to help FEC fellows?
You are all welcome to my institution, we can support lab and field facilities and provide grant to students deciding to have all or part of their degree work developed here.
Borges R, Ferreira AC & LACERDA LD (2017). Systematic planning and ecosystem-based management as strategies to reconcile mangrove conservation with resource use. Frontiers in Marine Science Volume 4, Article 353. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2017.00353
Ferreira AC, Borges R and LACERDA LD 2022. Can sustainable development save mangroves? Sustainability, 14,1263. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031263
Pitch note – FEC Dialogue with Academy Members: https://www.futureearthcoasts.org/fec-dialogue-with-academy-members/