Some years ago, with Barbara Wohlfarth and Tanja Slotte from Stockholm University, we tested the utility of the shotgun sequencing approach on lake sediments. We used a late glacial sediment sequences from Hässeldala in southern Sweden covering a time interval of dramatic climatic changes (the transition into the present interglacial, 14,000 - 11,000 years ago). In our ancient DNA laboratory in Uppsala we are now using a similar approach on Lago Grande Monticchio from southern Italy. A 14-m-long core was extracted in 2016 from colleagues at the Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam and we are now testing the capture hybridization tecniques on the shotgun data (see project below). The Monticchio fossil sequence is an excellent record to test the potential of the capture technique to address climatic and ecological questions that we cannot resolve using classical paleoecological methods.


Together with Cristiano Vernesi (Foundation Edmund Mac, Italy) and Ludovic Orlando (University Toulouse III) we are developing capture probes targeting a combination of the plant barcoding loci matK and rbcL. We aim to design probes that capture all the diversity of plants and test them on shotgun data from Monticchio. 

In this proejct we are investigating the hypothesis that spruce (Picea abies L. Karst.) survived at northern latitudes in Scandinavia during the last ice age - the glacial survival hypothesis. We use qPCR to screen sediments from northern Europe to investigate where spruce may have been present during cold periods, and how populations moved after the ice melted.

A good explanation for how spruce moved in the past is important for guiding forecasts for tree movements in the future and we hope this information will be useful for researchers modeling species distributions in relation to anticipated climate changes. Our results can also help other researchers to understand the ecology of cold tolerant species and identify genetic genetic resources important for forest breeders who are interested in provenances with traits related to flexibility to changing climatic conditions.

Styrax officinalis is an Eurasian species with highly fragmented distribution in the Mediterranean regions and with a core range in the Aegeo-Anatolian districts, reaching Italy and the Near East. Populations in Italy have long been considered a human import from classic times, due to its very restricted local range close to Rome and the overall scanty and isolated populations occuring in this areas. In order to reconstruct patterns of geographical differentiation and demographic history of the italian populations we use using genome-wide sequencing markers and analyze population structure in samples selected from  the Mediterranean ranger, from Italy to Lebanon and Provence. Our results support relictuality of the Italian populations rather than import all over the western European range of the species.  

Jillian Pelto is an artist who likes to communicate science using Art. She works since many years with extreme environmental issues to raise awareness about environmental topics and illustrate real climate change data (rising sea levels, decrease in glacier mass balance, increase fire occurrences). Jill recently visited Sweden and Norway and we organised an exhibition at Uppsala and Tromsø University showing her artworks and explaining their association with climate change data. 

A large gallery of Jillian's artworks using researcher data can be found at Jill’s homesite.

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Laura Parducci, PhD

Associate Professor 

Department of Evironmental Biology 

Sapienza University of Rome

Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185, Rome, Italy