Clara Ferreira

Clara Ferreira handling a vole
Photo: privat
Clara Ferreira handling a vole
Photo: privat


Research interests

I am an ecologist with a background in population dynamics and conservation genetics. I am particularly interested in small mammals (orders Rodentia and Eulipotyphla). Connecting animal behaviour to the landscape is my main goal, namely understanding how they move, how they reproduce, and ultimately how they persist, so in the end I can understand how to manage and/or conserve them. Small mammals are also very diverse and a widespread group, that shape their surrounding diversity by both foraging on plants and by being prey to several species. Therefore, understanding their services in the community becomes important to understand the local biodiversity, and to create good practices during management and conservation planning.

My PhD research topic is the "Indirect, tri-trophic effects of fear on biodiversity", and is integrated in the BIOMOVE Research Training Group (DFG-GRK 2118/1). In predator-prey systems many indirect effects of predation have evolved and prey individuals may reduce predation risk by avoiding movement at dangerous times or in dangerous habitats. This in turn creates specific exploitation patterns in prey assemblies, which may affect the local as well as landscape-wide biodiversity of prey. In this project we investigate a tri-trophic interaction of a predator potentially preying on a consumer, a consumer’s resulting movement processes while foraging, and the biodiversity of plant seeds, that are the consumer’s prey. The consumer in this constellation functions both as prey for the predator and as a predator (by foraging) on its own prey, the plant seeds. In a series of experiments we will manipulate the consumer’s landscape of fear (LoF), consisting of levels and spatial distribution of perceived predation risk. We will monitor LoF effects on two cascading variables, the movement processes of the consumer, and the alpha- and beta-diversity of the plant seed community. The project will shed light on movement mediated biodiversity patterns across multiple trophic levels, with consumers as movement process links and as equalizing and stabilizing agents.

Academic Career

Since 2018         PhD student in Biology at University of Potsdam, Germany

2014 - 2018        Research technician at CIBIO-InBIO, Porto, Portugal

2011 - 2013        Master of Science in Biodiversity, Genetics and Evolution at the University of Porto, Portugal

2009 - 2011        Field assistant at the Conservation Biology Lab, University of Évora, Portugal

2007 - 2010        Bachelor in Biology at the University of Évora, Portugal


Guillermo Velo-Antón, Zbyszek Boratynski, Clara M Ferreira  Vanessa O Lima, Paulo C Alves, José C Brito. 2019. "Intraspecific genetic diversity and distribution of North African hedgehogs (Mammalia: Erinaceidae)". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.

António Proença-Ferreira, Clara Ferreira, Inês Leitão, Joana Paupério, Helena Sabino-Marques, Soraia Barbosa, Xavier Lambin, et al. 2019. "Drivers of survival in a small mammal of conservation concern: An assessment using extensive genetic non-invasive sampling in fragmented farmland". Biological Conservation 230: 131-140.

Helena Sabino-Marques, Clara Mendes Ferreira, Joana Paupério, Pedro Costa, Soraia Barbosa, Cláudia Encarnação, Russell Alpizar-Jara, et al. 2018. "Combining genetic non-invasive sampling with spatially explicit capture-recapture models for density estimation of a patchily distributed small mammal". European Journal of Wildlife Research 64 (4).

Clara Mendes Ferreira, Helena Sabino-Marques, Soraia Barbosa, Pedro Costa, Cláudia Encarnação, Russell Alpizar-Jara, Ricardo Pita, et al. 2018. "Genetic non-invasive sampling (gNIS) as a cost-effective tool for monitoring elusive small mammals". European Journal of Wildlife Research 64 (4).

S. Barbosa, J. Paupério, J. S. Herman, C. M. Ferreira, R. Pita, H. M. Vale-Gonçalves, J. A. Cabral, et al. 2017. "Endemic species may have complex histories: within-refugium phylogeography of an endangered Iberian vole". Molecular Ecology 26 (3): 951-967.