If you’re planning a trip to Brazil, you might be looking forward to swimming in clear blue water, trekking through virgin rainforest, or touring historic sites. But when paleontologists visit Brazil, they’re probably thinking about the Santana Formation, one of the best fossil sites in the world.
Unlike most fossil experts, Gabriela de Carvalho doesn’t have to fly across the world to visit this site. She is a young-earth paleontologist from Brazil (a real rarity in South American academia, if not unique) who loves to research local fossils and share the message they proclaim about the Creator.
Even though Gabriela grew up in a Christian family, she didn’t always believe Genesis was true. She began questioning her faith while studying biology at a secular university.
“It seemed evolution had all the answers to prove that the world came into existence without God, and God wasn’t needed to explain anything about life,” she explains. “Not having many Christian scientists or books about biblical creation also made me wonder if my faith could actually have any link to real science.”
After two years in college, Gabriela stopped going to church and decided evolution was truth.
Everything about her perspective changed when a creation scientist gave a lecture at her university. Gabriela says she was very skeptical at first, but she wanted at least to hear what he had to say.
Little did she know that speaker would discredit the unproven foundation of all the evolutionary beliefs she had come to accept as fact.
“That night changed my life. I prayed and asked God for forgiveness, and I decided I wanted to earn my master’s degree and PhD. I wanted to use everything that I was going to study to present God to people, the same way that scientist did to me. I wanted to become a Christian researcher and show others how to do good science.”
Last August, after five years of laboring quietly under the radar, Gabriela earned her PhD in geology and paleontology. Her focus of study was fossil invertebrates—more specifically Hymenoptera, a group that includes wasps, ants, and bees.
“They look the same as the wasps, ants, and bees we see nowadays,” she says. “My professors always told me that if I knew more about extant families [those that are around today], then I would know more about the extinct ones. I found there is no significant difference between them.”
“Studying fossil insects is amazing because we can see so many features that point to the Flood,” Gabriela says. “Seeing fossils so well preserved, with fine details like hair, cuticle structure, blood cells, food in their stomachs, colors, and pollens, shows me many evidences that the Flood buried them quickly, not too long ago.”
Gabriela is currently working to publish papers on the fossils she studied during her doctoral research. In October, she had the opportunity to speak about paleontology at a creation conference in Fortaleza, a state capital on Brazil’s northeast coast.
“I identified and described ten new species, and three of them are new genera. Most of the fossils I studied are from the Santana Formation, and I have used them to show evidence of rapid fossil formation that happened a few thousand, not millions, of years ago.”
Gabriela is eager to share her research because she believes Brazil is ripe for the truth about God’s recent creation. The nation is already open to the gospel message, but many are hesitant to embrace what the Bible says about a six-day creation and a young earth.
“Paleontology is a great field to see God’s truth. Studying this science brings me closer to God, and gives me a desire to tell others the truth as best I can.”
“Many churches have embraced the evolution and millions of years idea. People aren’t very receptive to biblical creation, even Christians,” she laments. “Theistic evolution seems to them to be more reasonable. The number of liberal pastors has increased and that has caused many people not to take the historical account of Genesis seriously.”
Despite the lack of belief in creation, Gabriela is excited to keep sharing the gospel through her research because she knows firsthand how life-changing it can be. “Paleontology is a great field to see God’s truth. Studying this science brings me closer to God, and gives me a desire to tell others the truth as best as I can.”