Research Associates

Dr Martim Pinheiro de Melo

Dr Martim Pinheiro de Melo
MSc (UCT); PhD (Edinburgh)


Martim has been a keen birder ever since he can remember and a ringer since his early teens. He completed his Biology degree at the University of Lisbon, working on the wintering ecology of common cranes (Grus grus) for his final year project. During 1996-97 he was a volunteer for a UNDP project on the island of São Tomé and assisted with the implementation of rural associations and this triggered a long-lasting interest in the birds of the Gulf of Guinea. That same year, Martim participated in a study of the seabird communities of the islands with Rita Covas and Luis Monteiro. He also worked closely with official entities and NGOs linked to the environment, which culminated in a weeklong forum and book on ‘development and environment on São Tomé and Príncipe’.

In 1998, Martim enrolled for the Conservation Biology MSc at the FitzPatrick Institute and worked on the genetic differentiation of the grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) population from Príncipe Island, under the supervision of Peter Ryan and Colleen O’Ryan (Department of Molecular Biology, UCT). This was followed with a PhD on bird speciation in the Gulf of Guinea at the University of Edinburgh under the supervision of Peter Jones.

After a two-year post-doc at the CEFE-CNRS (Montpellier, France) looking at the relationship between host genetic diversity, parasite load and immune response, Martim returned to the FitzPatrick as a CoE post-doctoral research fellow. Here he is working on two projects: i) the genomics of two adaptive bird radiations: the Gulf of Guinea seedeaters and the Tristan buntings (with Peter Ryan and Paulette Bloomer); and ii) speciation processes in the highland forests of Africa, focusing on the afromontane centres that have been little or not studied at all: Angola, Mozambique, Cameroon/Nigeria (with Peter Ryan).

Research interests

Martim is broadly interested in identifying the factors that drive population divergence, and in establishing the link between micro- and macroevolution, i.e., between adaptation and speciation. To address this problem, he uses a combination of ecological, morphological, behavioural and molecular data together with field experiments. Martim has pursued these interests by focusing on the study of ecology and evolution in island systems. Islands offer peculiar situations that can be used fruitfully to understand the role of genetic variation and gene flow (or the lack of it) in adaptation and speciation. Additionally, he recently became interested in the role of parasites in evolution. All of the above research lines feed into Martim’s long-standing and active interest in conservation by allowing him to investigate the potential of organisms to adapt to human-altered environments.

Recent peer-reviewed publications


Lewis, T.C., Melo, M., de Lima, R.F. and Bremner-Harrison, S. 2017. Habitat associations of the critically endangered São Tomé Fiscal Lanius newtoni: Comparing standard and playback-confirmed point counts. African Journal of Ecology

Monteiro, M., Figueira, R., Melo, M., Mills, M.S.L., Beja, P., Bastos-Silveira, C., Ramos, M., Rodrigues, D., Queirós Neves, I., Consciência, S. & Reino, L. 2017. The collection of birds from Mozambique at the Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical of the University of Lisbon (Portugal). ZooKeys, 708, 139-152.


Cáceres, A., Melo, M., Barlow, J. and Mills, M.S.L. 2016. Radiotelemetry reveals key data for the conservation of Sheppardia gabela (Rand, 1957) in the Angolan Escarpment forest. African Journal of Ecology

Lobato, E., Geraldes, M., Melo, M., Doutrelant, C. and Covas, R. 2016. Diversity and composition of cultivable gut bacteria in an endemic island bird and its mainland sister species. Symbiosis.

Monteiro, M., Reino, L., Melo, M., Beja, P., Bastos-Silveira, C., Ramos, M., Rodrigues, D., Neves, I.Q., Consciȇncia, S. and Figueira, R. 2016. The collection of birds from São Tomé and Príncipe at the Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical of the University of Lisbon (Portugal). ZooKeys 600: 155-167. 


Cáceres, A., Melo, M., Barlow, J., Cardoso, P., Maiato, F. & Mills, M.S.L. 2015. Threatened birds of the Angolan central escarpment: distribution and response to habitat change at Kumbira forest. Oryx 49: 727-734.

Mills, M.S.L. & Melo, M. 2015. As Aves Comuns de Luanda / Common Birds of Luanda. AvesAngola, Luanda & Birds Angola,

Lauron, E.J., Loiseau, C., Bowie, R.C., Spicer, G.S., Smith, T.B., Melo, M. & Sehgal, R.N. 2015. Coevolutionary patterns and diversification of avian malaria parasites in African sunbirds (Family Nectariniidae). Parasitology 142: 635-647.