Are you a researcher who wants to collaborate with us? If you meet the participation requirements you can apply for a Marie-Sklodowska-Curie or a CIVIS3i Postdoctoral Fellowship with Sapienza as host institution.

Ongoing projects

Metabarcoding and shotgun sequencing Italian vulcanic lake sediments

We tested plant metabarcoding and shotgun sequencing on sedDNA from the long core of temperate Lago Grande di Monticchio in southern Italy for the sequence 1.4–31 thousand years before present. We metabarcoded more than 90 plant taxa from the first 14000 years. To maximize our results are now developing new strategies to improve DNA extraction from mineral-adsorbed samples, counteract PCR inhibition, and target capture short DNA sequences with shotgun seqeuncing

Ancient DNA analysis of dental calculus to infer lifestyle, health and origin of human populations 

With Katerina Guschanski (University of Edinburgh) and Mary Anne Tafuri (Sapienza University) we are using ancient DNA from dental calculus of classical and post-classical individuals dating to I-VIII century CE, to gain novel insights into the diets, health statuses, and origins of human populations that lived in central Italy. The laboratory work is performed at Uppsala University.

Hybridization capture probe design for plants

With, Kevin Nota (MaxPlank Institue, Germany), Cristiano Vernesi (Edmund Mach, Italy), Ludovic Orlando (University Toulouse, France) we are working on creating capture probes that target a combination of the plant barcoding loci matK and rbcL. The goal is to capture the full range of plant diversity from shotgun data extracted from two lake sediments in southern Sweden (see project below).

Shotgun sequencing ancient lake sediments in Sweden

On new shotgun sequencing data extracted from two lakes in southern Sweden - Atteköpsmosse and Hässeldala Port - we have tested the capture hybridization tecniques together with the use of more curated and extensive databases for mapping. The two lSwedish lakes provide excellent records to test the potential of the capture technique to address climatic and ecological questions that we cannot resolve using metabarcoding as well as classical paleoecological methods.

Origin of the western eurasian Styrax officinalis L.

The Eurasian species Styrax officinalis has a highly fragmented distribution in the Mediterranean region, with a core range in the Aegeo-Anatolian districts. Italian populations have traditionally been thought to be a result of human import from classical times, due to their limited local distribution near Rome and their overall isolated range. We are investigating patterns of geographical differentiation and population structure and used chloroplast and genome-wide sequencing markers on Ipopulations sampled over the entire Mediterranean area. Our data suggest that the Italian populations are relictual rather than imported from the east.

Genetic impact of forest fragmentation on baobab trees in Madagascar

With this project we aims at investigating the impacts of forest fragmentation on the reproductive system of the baobab trees A. suazerensis at multiple sites in northern Madagascar. Ecological and genetic findings will be used to identify the most suitable conservation and management strategies for the protection of this iconic African species in Madagascar.

Molecular studies of lichen biodeterioration of cultural heritage

Stone monuments, sculptures, and artworks are valuable cultural heritage items and can be damaged by lichens. This project uses metabarcoding techniques to determine the lichen populations present on valuable stone materials and to identify the type of damage the lichens are causing. The information is used to develop new methods to evaluate if it is worth and necessary to eliminate the lichens from cultural heritage stones.

Norway spruce recolonization of Fennoscandia  

Completed projects

We investigated the migration routes followed by Norway spruce (Picea abies) during recolonization of Fennoscandia after the last ice age by screening modern DNA from living trees and ancient DNA from lake sediments. Results are now published on @NatureComm and available online. A good explanation for how trees moved in the past is important for guiding forecasts for future responses. See also the wiki page we made about the glacial survival hypothesis.

Using art to depict scientific data

Jill 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). In 2019 Jill 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. See here the artworks she produced inspired by our work.

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