Helena Freitas holds a PhD in Ecology from the University of Coimbra, in collaboration with the University of Bielefeld, Germany, and was a Post-Doc at the University of Stanford, USA. She is full Professor in the fields of Biodiversity and Ecology at the Department of Life Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Coimbra, and Chair Holder of the UNESCO Chair in Biodiversity Safeguard for Sustainable Development at the University of Coimbra. She is founder and coordinator of the research unit Centre for Functional Ecology (cfe.uc.pt).
Helena Freitas was part of the Scientific Council of the Department of Life Sciences and a member of the General Council of the University of Coimbra (2009-2011). She was the Director of the Botanical Garden of Coimbra from 2004-2012, President of the Portuguese League for the Protection of Nature, between 1999 and 2002, the first Ombudsman for the Environment and Quality of Life of Coimbra’s City Council, from 2002 to 2005, President of the Portuguese Ecological Society (2004- 2013) and Vice-President of the European Ecological Society, from 2009 to 2012. She also served as Vice-Rector at the UC from March 2011 to August 2015. From October 2015 to March 2016 Helena Freitas was deputy in the Portuguese parliament.
Helena Freitas’ areas of scientific expertise deal with: Mediterranean ecosystem dynamics; ecology and management of exotic and invasive species; plant diversity and conservation; environmental policy; ecology and societies sustainable development. She has coordinated or been a participant in several national and international projects and consortiums, including the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. She was supervisor or co-supervisor of more than 30 Master Thesis and 60 Doctoral Dissertations, already approved by public examination. She has published more than 300 peer-reviewed international publications. As a committed citizen, she also publishes regularly in the national and regional press on the relation between society and the environment, land use planning and policy, and is also a frequent guest on national television channels.