Interview Corner: Xana Sá Pinto


Xana Sá Pinto

one of the founders of the EvoKE community


Who are you?

This is a really hard question… But let’s try! My name is Xana Sá Pinto, and I am a passionate biologist that grew up in a small village from the Douro valley, in the middle of a beautiful natural area in Portugal. I am mother of two amazing and inspiring daughters that give me strength in the greyest days. I also love chocolate with espresso coffee, grilled sardines (a scarce pleasure now), to have “caipirinhas” with my friends and to dive in cold water streams or in the ocean. I love Portuguese popular parties and music and Ian McEwan, Saramago and Agualusa novels. And I love diversity, especially human diversity, and I am always surprised with how amazing and brilliant people can be.


What do you do for a living, and what research do you carry on?

During my PhD and first post-doc I studied the processes that drive divergence and speciation in intertidal species. But, slowly, I got more and more interested and engaged in evolution education and outreach. Today I do research on science education, studying how to teach evolution to elementary school students and the impacts of this in their scientific literacy as well as on effective methods to empower elementary school teachers to teach this subject.


Why did you want to create an organisation like EvoKE?

When I started to get engaged with evolution, I noticed that most outreach events and educational resources in evolution available in Portugal used examples and contexts that were nor local nor updated, nor even grasping the new and exciting developments of the vibrant evolutionary biology research community. Also, I felt that most people did not understand evolution, although studies in Portugal were missing. Being a passionate evolutionary biologist, I had the knowledge and motivation to help with that, but I had no skills that would allow me to effectively teach or communicate evolution. So I started looking for those and that was how I met Kristin, Tania, Heloise and Inga.

Together we noticed that the mentioned problems were not specific to Portugal and would apply to other countries around the world. We also felt that in Europe there were few effective communication channels between experts in evolution and those in science education and communication and we truly believed that this was essential to promote public scientific literacy. So we started working together to foster an interdisciplinary community with international networking opportunities between diverse stakeholders. This is how EvoKE was created.


Which kind of initiatives did you really like in EvoKE?

Being in EvoKE since its foundation, what I love the most about it is helping to construct the EvoKE community. During this process I have worked with a lot of really committed, skilled and passionate people with whom I learned a lot, initially the founder team and recently also with the new EvoKE members like those from the communication team, the structure team, the national representatives team or in associated EvoKE projects like the EvoKIDS. Seeing EvoKE grow and develop with the effort of all these amazing people is what makes me fell fulfilled. EvoKE is what we, as a community, make of it and it is beautiful to see EvoKE changing and “evolving” with the inputs from every new and active members.


Also, I love to learn new things. This usually happens when I meet people with knowledge and skills distinct from those I have. This means that all interdisciplinary events are truly exciting for me! As an example, I am now part of an EvoKE team that is preparing interdisciplinary speed dating and resources to evaluate the impacts of these events in the participants and I love this!


Which kind of initiatives do you want to be develop in the future?

I am a dreamer, so I love initiatives that allow us to change the world and construct a brighter future and evolution literacy is fundamental for this. The COST action and its working groups will be excellent opportunities to do this as these will allow us to propose and evaluate distinct methodologies and events and disseminate best practices to empower distinct stakeholders to foster evolution literacy.


But I believe that the initiatives I will love the most are those that are not yet programmed and I cannot even imagine because these will come up from the joint knowledge, expertise and skills of this wonderful community. And maybe it will start in an idea just like the one is popping up into your mind now and you have not shared yet…