Leandro Castello

Leandro Castello, Assistant Professor


B.S., Fundação Universidade do Rio Grande (FURG), Brazil (1998)
M.S., Maxwell School of Citizenship (2004)
Ph.D., Statue University New York (2007)

Lab Website

Email: leandro@vt.edu
Office: 148 Cheatham Hall
Phone: (540) 231-5046

Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation
310 West Campus Drive
Virginia Tech,Cheatham Hall, Room 106 (MC 0321)
Blacksburg, VA 24061


Leandro Castello’s research program focuses on the ecology and conservation of fish and fisheries in relation to global change processes, with particular attention to tropical regions. Key topics of investigation are the impacts on fisheries caused by overfishing, pollution, hydrological alteration, and land cover change. Unlike programs based on specific topics, his program focuses on a broad range of fishery problems, seeking to identify research questions for which the answers have the potential to improve the state of affairs for fish resources and fishing communities. This goal is achieved by pursuing questions that can influence policy and adopting an interdisciplinary approach. This research program on fish and fisheries ecology and management often includes humans, adopts an ecosystem-based perspective, and makes use of various approaches from fields other than fish biology and fisheries science, including ethnobiology, resource governance, and policy analysis, among others.

Courses Taught:

  • Fisheries Techniques
  • Systems Conservation of Animal Populations

Current Research Projects:

Understanding the migration of Arapaima in ria lake ecosystems of the Amazon Basin

Many fishing communities inhabiting ria lakes of the Amazon are currently seeking to develop management systems for arapaima.  However, lack of understanding of the migration of arapaima in ria lakes makes it difficult to devise effective management actions.  The objective of the present study is to unravel the migratory behavior of arapaima in a ria lake of the Amazon.

New project on the impacts of floods and droughts on aquatic macrophytes, forests, and fisheries of central Amazonian river floodplains

Floodplains and river channels—maintained by seasonal inundation—promote nutrient cycling and high biological production, and support diverse biological communities as well as human populations with one of the highest per capita rates of fish consumption.  However, the hydrology of Amazon river-floodplains is increasingly being impacted by extreme climatic events and land use changes in the uplands. Funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), this project aims to:

  1.  Explore the consequences of droughts and floods for the integrity of river-floodplain ecosystems.
  2.  Quantify the relationship between inter-annual inundation variability and the productivity of fisheries and floodplain vegetation.
  3.  Model the effect of extreme climatic events on inundation dynamics under historic and alternative future scenarios

Land and resource use on the Amazon floodplain under evolving management systems and environmental change

Thi interdisciplinary project aims to (i) measure historical human impacts on river-floodplains of the Amazon; (ii) quantify relations among fish, forests, grasslands, and human welfare, and
(iii) identify expected outcomes under simulated conditions of increased resource demand and climate change. The project is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  Participants include Laura L. Hess (University of California, Santa Barbara), David G. McGrath and Michael T. Coe (The Woods Hole Research Center), Victoria J. Isaac (the Universidade Federal do Pará, Brazil), and Frank Merry and Greg Amacher (Virginia Tech).  Our lab contributes to this project by quantifying and modeling the influences of hydrological alteration and floodplain vegetation cover on fisheries productivity.

Muskellunge population dynamics in the New River

A project in the New River of Virginia to reassess the potential of muskellunge (Esox masquiongy) to impact the smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) population through predation.  With funding from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the project will assess current population dynamics and life history of muskellunge, and model musky growth dynamics and effects of musky predation on smallmouth bass.  Participants include Brian Murphy (Virginia Tech).

Select Recent Publications:

Journal articles

  • Cavole, L.M., Arantes, C.C., Castello, L. 2015. How illegal are tropical small-scale fisheries? An estimate for arapaima in the Amazon. Fisheries Research 168:1-5.
  • Brum, S.M., Rossoni, F, Da Silva, V.M.F., Castello, L. 2015. Use of dolphins and caimans as bait for Calophysus macropterus in the Amazon.  Journal of Applied Ichthyology. 1-6
  • McGrath, D.G., Castello, L., Almeida, O.T.  2015.  Market Formalization, Governance and the integration of Community Fisheries in the Brazilian Amazon.  Society & Natural Resources
  • Castello, L., C.C. Arantes, D.G. McGrath, D.J. Stewart, F.S. Sousa. 2014. Understanding fishing-induced extinctions in the Amazon. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 1-13
  • Nepstad, D.C., McGrath, D.G. Stickler C.M., Alencar, A., Azevedo, A., Swette, A., Bezerra, T., DiGiano, M., Shimada, J., da Motta, J.S. Armijo, E., Castello, L., Brando, P., Hansen, M., McGrath-Horn, M., Carvalho, O., Hess, L.  2014.  Slowing Amazon deforestation through public policy and interventions in beef and soy supply chains.  Science 344: 1118-1123
  • Castello, L., Zhulidov, A.V., Gurtovaya, T.Yu., Robarts, R.D., Lysenko, V.S., Holmes, R.M., Zhulidov, D.A., Spencer, R.G.M.  2014.  Low and declining mercury in Arctic Russian Rivers.  Environmental Science & Technology 48: 747752.
  • Castello, L., McGrath, D.G., Hess, L.L., Coe, M.T., Lefebvre, P.A., Petry, P., Macedo, M.N., Reno, V., Arantes, C.C. 2013.  The vulnerability of Amazon freshwater ecosystems.  Conservation Letters 6: 217–229. 
  • Castello, L., McGrath, D.G., Arantes, C.C., Almeida, O.T. 2013.  Accounting for heterogeneity in small-scale fisheries management: the Amazon case.  Marine Policy 38: 557–565. 
  • Arantes, C.C., Castello, L., Cetra, M., Schilling, A. 2013.  Environmental factors affecting the distribution of arapaima in floodplains of the Amazon.  Environmental Biology of Fishes  96: 1257–1267.
  • Castello, L., Stewart, D.J., Arantes, C.C. 2011 a.  Modeling population dynamics and conservation of arapaima in the Amazon.  Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 21: 623-640. 
  • Books

  • Macedo, M. and L. Castello. 2015. State of the Amazon: Freshwater Connectivity and Ecosystem Health; edited by D. Oliveira, C. C. Maretti and S. Charity. Brasília, Brazil: WWF Living Amazon Initiative. 126 pages.

Last updated April, 2015