Tracking the Naturalists

Luisa Homem João Nicolau André Godinho Susana Nobre Tiago Hespanha

Documentary / HD / ~60 x 4’ / 2016

A documentary series in four episodes that uses the botanical expeditions to Africa undertaken by naturalists from the University of Coimbra as a starting point to talk about plant diversity and ecology, the way tropical ecosystems work, and the relations between human beings and the environment.
It is a TERRATREME production in partnership with the Center for Functional Ecology of the University of Coimbra. It is part of the project Media Ciência and it is co-financed by Ciência Viva and QREN/COMPETE.


“Tracking the Naturalists – Mozambique” focuses on four of the most important ecosystems found in Mozambican territory: the mangrove, the seagrass meadows, the inselbergs, and the miombo woodlands. This exploration is lead by Dr. Jorge Paiva and retraces the movement of the 1963/64 Botanical Mission to Angola and Mozambique, promoted by the “Junta de Investigações do Ultramar.”


In 1927 Luís Wittnich Carisso, a botanist and professor from the University of Coimbra arrived in Angola to study its flora and collect plants for the Herbarium of Coimbra. In 1937 Luís Carrisso died in the Namibe desert, where 80 years before Frederico Welwitsch had found a plant unknown to science, the Welwitschia mirabilis. Some 80 years after the death of Carrisso, we retrace his journey with the goal of talking about the biodiversity of tropical plants and their ecological adaptations, from the tropical rainforest in northern Angola, to the Namibe desert in the south.

Philosophical Journeys

“Tracking the Naturalists – The Philosophical Journeys” frames the development of modern science in Portugal promoted by Marquis of Pombal, which resulted in the Portuguese philosophical expeditions of the late 18th century. Alongside the narration of science stories we embark on a voyage through the archives, the herbariums, and the methodologies used in the study of botany through time.

São Tomé e Príncipe

Fifteen million years ago a volcano eruption created a new island in the Atlantic Ocean above the Equator line. Little by little, a complex ecological system developed on it, the Tropical Rainforest. How did the plants arrive on the island? And how does this ecosystem work? A journey to São Tomé in search of the present, which retraces the botanical exploration of the island undertaken by the naturalist Frederico Moller in 1885.

Ep. Mozambique

with Jorge Paiva and António Gouveia Director João Nicolau Photography Sir Mário Castanheira Sound Gabriel Mondlane Assistent Director Bruno Lourenço Production Marta Lança Editor Francisco Moreia and João Nicolau Sound Editor and Mix Tiago Matos Colorist Andreia Bertini Graphics Rita Barbosa

Ep. Angola

Director André Godinho Photography Pedro Pinho Sound Gita Cerveira Production Marta Lança Editor Francisco Moreia and André Godinho Sound Editor and Mix Miguel Martins Colorist Andreia Bertini Graphics Rita Barbosa

Ep. Philosophic Journeys

Director Susana Nobre Photography João Rosas Sound Ricardo Leal Editor Renata Sancho Sound Editor and Mix Tiago Matos Colorist Andreia Bertini Graphics Rita Barbosa

Ep. São Tomé e Príncipe

Director Luísa Homem and Tiago Hespanha Photography Pedro Pinho Sound Tiago Hespanha Editor Francisco Moreia, Luísa Homem and Tiago Hespanha Sound Editor and Mix Tiago Matos Colorist Andreia Bertini Graphics Rita Barbosa

    Co-produção: Centro de Ecologia Funcional; Universidade de Coimbra

    Co-Financiado: Ciência Viva, Compete, Qren, UE,
    Rtp, Público

    • DocLisboa, Portugal '16
    • Jornadas Europeias do Património e Natureza, Portugal '17
    • RTP – Rádio e Televisão Nacional Portuguesa, Portugal '16
    • Szolnok International Film Festival of Fine Arts, Húngria '17
    • This Is My City Festival – The Creative Festival, Macau '16
    • Festival Caminhos do Cinema Português, Portugal '17
    • EKOTOPFILM - International Festival of Sustainable Development Films, Slovenia '17
    • Mantova Intl.' Film Forest, Italy'18
    • Alexandre Trauner ART/Film Festival, Hungria'19