Hello, my name is Rafael Pinheiro. I’m a Ph.D. candidate at the graduate school of Ecology, Conservation and Wildlife Management, of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and a member of the Ecological Synthesis Lab. Currently, I am as a guest Ph.D. student in the Department of Biometry and Environmental System Analysis, University of Freiburg, Germany.
My main research interest is the ecology and evolution of interspecific interactions, mainly parasitism and mutualism. Since my undergraduation I have been studying the interaction between mistletoes (Struthanthus flexicaulis) and host trees, as well as its effects on the plant communities of Cangas (ferruginous rupestrian fields). Published results from these researches can be found here and here.
Since my Masters’ Degree, I have studied the interactions between parasites and hosts in avian malaria systems. My studies have been focused on the diversity, specialization and geographical distribution of the avian malaria parasites, as well as in the structure of the networks formed by those interactions (examples here and here). As a result of my Master’s Degree research, we published a paper in which we proposed a new hypothesis for the specialization of parasites: the integrative hypothesis of parasite specialization.
Currently, my focus is on ecological network topologies and its underlying mechanisms. In my Ph.D. research, I used the integrative hypothesis of specialization to derive a mechanism able to shape interaction networks into the most common topologies. A pre-print explaining the IHS model was recently published.