Portuguese student André Vicente Liz wins 2023 GBIF Graduate Researchers Award


André Vicente Liz, a PhD candidate at the Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources (CIBIO-InBIO) at the University of Porto, has been named one of the two winners of the 2023 GBIF Graduate Researchers Award.

An expert jury selected Liz, who was nominated by Portugal's delegation to GBIF, recognizing his integrated analysis of the genetic and spatial distribution patterns of 107 vertebrate species that live in the Sahara-Sahel desert.

Intraspecific diversity (ISD) reflects the genetic variation that resides within an individual species. Though historically unappreciated, ISD has surfaced on the agenda of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Its importance as a measure of biodiversity may equal that of the variation between species, especially given it status as a key variable in species' resilience to climate change.

The terrestrial vertebrates on which Liz's study focuses have lived and evolved through the Sahara-Sahel's many wet and dry cycles over the past ten million years, accumulating remarkable levels of ISD. The region's vast and relatively inaccessible landscape has hindered deeper understanding of the structure and mechanisms behind this diversity.

Liz's research leverages more than 21,000 GBIF observations, using them both to help infer the distribution of 325 confirmed genetic lineages and to model the species' current and historical distributions. Combined within a common framework alongside past hydrological, climate and vegetation scenarios for the first time, this integrated study seeks to identify and corroborate ISD hotspots and determine its main drivers.

"By integrating these approaches, the methodology enables us to assessm the impact of wet and dry fluctuations on the generation and structuring of genetic diversity across the Sahara-Sahel biomes," said Liz.

"If we can understand the relationships between ISD and past climatic variability, we stand a better chance of adapting conservation plans to identify and protect the desert's unique biodiversity effectively from climate change-related threats."

"Andre is a determined, disciplined and resourceful researcher whose research links conservation biogeography, phylogeography, climate change and big-data computation," said Silvia Carvalho, researcher at CIBIO.

"The award is a well-earned recognition of his splendid work and outstanding potential as a researcher who's unafraid of facing new challenges."

"André has performed splendidly both as a researcher and a collaborator since joining our doctoral programme in biodiversity, genetics and evolution," said José Carlos Brito, principal researcher at CIBIO-InBIO and Liz's thesis supervisor.

"Having already published three articles in high-impact journals, I fully expect that his two main PhD articles, with their data-driven, state-of-the-art methodologies, will achieve a similar profile."

Liz is the first student nominated by Portugal to win the award since Raquel Gaião Silva, who earned selection in 2018. The research for his PhD studies has been developed primarily at CIBIO-InBIO and at the Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change (LIB Museum Koenig Bonn), with additional research stays at the Centre d'Écologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive de Montpellier (CEFE-CNRS) and King's College London. Liz has been supported by a PhD fellowship from Fundação para a Ciênçia e a Tecnologia (FCT). While completing the writing of his dissertation, he works as a research technician at the BIOPOLIS Association.

Liz shares the 2023 award with Dorothy Akoth of Makarere University in Uganda, with both winners receiving a €5,000 prize.


About the Award

Since its inception in 2010, the annual GBIF Graduate Researchers Award (previously the Young Researchers Award) has promoted and encouraged innovation in biodiversity-related research using data shared through the GBIF network.



The Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources is an internationally recognized research unit in biological sciences, with headquarters at the University of Porto and three other Portuguese centres.

The Research Centre conducts basic and applied research on the three main components of biodiversity: genes, species and ecosystems, and fosters an international and multicultural research environment, hosting researchers from more than 17 countries, organized in 34 research groups.
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About BIOPOLIS Association

CIBIO-InBIO is managed by the BIOPOLIS Association, a non-profit private institution focused on environmental biology, ecosystem research and agrobiodiversity.

The association receives funding support through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.
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About BIOPOLIS Teaming project

The Biopolis Project is the Teaming European project #857251 and includes three partners: CIBIO (PT), Porto Business School (PT) and University of Montpellier (FR).


Jury for 2023 Graduate Researchers Award