A FEW WORDS ABOUT ME
Since quite small I had a lot of curiosity with
nature, and so went through an unbelievable variety of different interests before I finally got into orchids. Just
to give an idea of how badly undecided, until the last year of University I still was going to be a Marine Biologist.
Well, this was back in 1978 when I was, guess what, a semi-professional diver. As people always ask me how my interest
in orchids began, there is a very simple answer. While diving near rock slopes, I started noticing those very interesting
and showy-flowered plants rooted directly to the rocks quite close to water level. The next thing was to start
climbing on the rocks observing the different colors and shapes and of course collecting a few to try to grow at
home. At this time I didn't know they were Cattleya
guttata and C. intermedia but figured this out pretty fast as the collector and classifier mind started to work on
the subject. I think I was always destined to be a Taxonomist, regardless of the subject, but seems that the overwhelming
number of different entities in orchids prevented me from looking further on different interests. From that point
on, I guess I've been infected with orchid virus and as every orchid person knows, there is rarely a cure or way
back. My interest in different groups of orchids shifted quite a bit back and forth but seems that from now on
I will stay mostly with the Cattleya alliance.
That was about 20 years ago, and during the year
of 1979 I was lucky to have contact with Guido Pabst, by then Brazil's leading Orchid Specialist, who gave me incentive
to go into a career in Botany. At this time, the interest in taxonomy was just starting as diving was still my
main work.. In 1981, I spent my first time in the Amazon. During this 9 month period I stayed mostly around Manaus
(Amazonas State) so started to have an idea of the different types of habitats and orchids around. Back to Rio
de Janeiro, 1982 was the year when I really started to get serious into Taxonomy and my main interest went to the
so-called "rupiculous" laelias. I was first taught Plant Taxonomy by J. Pedro Carauta, who by the way
is not specialized in orchids but in the fig (Moraceae) Family. This was actually very good so I could learn the
principles of Taxonomy without starting to apply my still rough knowledge (beginner's concepts) to the orchids.
I am not saying I'm much better now, don't get me wrong, but good teachers and 20 years HAVE TO teach you something...
This year was when I started numerous field trips and the goal was to find and photograph as many species as possible
growing in the wild. In 1983, a job opportunity sent me back to the Amazon, and this was a one year research at
an area that would be flooded by the construction of the Tucuruí Dam, I think still today the second or
third in size in Brazil. That was an unique opportunity impossible to pass so I decided to resume the studies on
the rupiculous laelias later. After the end of this very positive one year period, I decided to start my Master's
Degree in Orchid Taxonomy, still in Manaus. By then I was really interested in the Catasetum
alliance as this is the most widespread and varied orchid group in the Amazon, but in 1985 I decided to go back
to Rio de Janeiro; laelias were definitely my real interest. This period in the Amazon really crystallized my interest
in Taxonomy, and since then I've been working in the description of several new species, mostly still Amazon material
gathered then. Back to Rio de Janeiro I decided to continue with the Master's Degree but started an Orchid Business
with the main first goal to propagate Amazon species. I found out soon that it was difficult enough to keep the
plants alive in such a different environment so ended up propagating mostly Cattleya Alliance
species. Since then myself and my wife (which is from Rio but we got married in Manaus) run an orchid business
in Rio de Janeiro and from 1988 to the present I've been coming to the U.S. quite frequently, to the point that
we decided to open a Business here in Florida. Since I finished my Master's Degree a lot of people (especially
my Botanist colleagues) keep asking me why I don't get a Doctorate. My answer has been that my boss will never
ask me that and I won't get any raise going through all this work. This usually convinces them. Also people ask
why I don't teach, and in this case I only can say that, although liking to teach, I am not organized enough (and
it is not getting better with age...). I have been practicing every time I get invited to give lectures to Orchid
Societies, and just in the U.S. alone the number of them exceeded one hundred quite some time ago. Since living
in Manaus, I have been practicing photography a lot and that's basically why I put so many slides on my lectures.
People seem to enjoy the habitat pictures and for me it is a good chance to go back to places that in some cases
do not exist anymore. Fortunately I am also very easy with computers and hope this will prevent me from turning
to an old science dinosaur in the future.