About me and this website

019My fascination in science stems from my passion for wildlife and nature in general. My curiosity about life is what drives me to explore new areas of research and to work on new species and in new environments. In this website I will keep you informed on my work.

‘‘Nothing will destroy the science and mission of conservation biology faster than a generation or two of biologists raised on dead facts and technology and lacking direct, personal experience with Nature’’ (Noss R., 1996, The naturalists are dying off. Cons. Biol., 10: 1–3)

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Oxidative Stress and Hormesis in Evolutionary Ecology and Physiology

bookThis book illustrates how and why oxidative stress and hormesis have contributed to shape biological diversity, from organism life-histories and behavioural profiles to morphological phenotypes and ageing mechanisms. The book offers fascinating insights into how organisms work and how they evolve to sustain their physiological functions under a vast array of environmental conditions.

Chapter 1: Historical and Contemporary Issues of Oxidative Stress, Hormesis and Life History Evolution; Chapter 2: Early Life Hormesis and Oxidative Experiences Fine-Tune the Adult Phenotype; Chapter 3: Variation in Oxidative Stress Threats and Hormesis Across Environments; Chapter 4: Nutritional Ecology, Foraging Strategies and Food Selection; Chapter 5: Coping with Physical Activity and Inactivity; Chapter 6: The Costs of Makeup in Sexual Selection and Social Signalling; Chapter 7: The Role of Oxidative Stress and Hormesis in Shaping Reproductive Strategies from Mating Systems to Parental Care; Chapter 8: Combating Parasites: Immune Response and Inflammation; Chapter 9: Variation Within and Among Species in Resistance to Oxidative Stress and Hormetic Responses; Chapter 10: Integrating Oxidative Stress and Hormesis into Research on Senescence and Survival Perspectives

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Breeding

Nice to see that my photo “Breeding” showing a pair of Arctic terns (Sterna paradisaea) has been highly commended at BMC ecology image competition 2017.

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Oxidative stress reduces song rate in subordinate individuals

starlingWork on ‘honest signalling’ has been a major area of research in animal behaviour and evolutionary ecology in recent decades. Honest signals accurately reflect individual quality, which depends on various interacting factors, such as foraging capability and also functionality of the hormonal and immune systems. In recent times, it has been suggested that dysfunctional regulation of the oxidative balance (resulting in oxidative stress) might be a significant handicap for the expression of sexual signals in low quality individuals. The term ‘oxidative stress’ describes a state where oxidative damage to body tissues increases because oxidising molecules, which are mostly a by-product of metabolism, exceed the body’s level of antioxidant defences, and thus are free to react with molecules like lipids, proteins and nucleic acids. This study examined experimentally for the first time whether a state of oxidative stress influences song behaviour in male starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Males were injected with a substance that reduces specifically the synthesis of a key cellular antioxidant called glutathione. Treated subordinate males suffered increased oxidative damage, while treated dominant males did not. Treated subordinate males also reduced their song rate. On the other hand, treated dominant males did not suffer any reduction in song rate. This study therefore provides experimental support for the hypothesis that acoustic signals may honestly convey information about the individual’s oxidative status and capacity to regulate its oxidative balance, raising the possibility of hitherto unexplored impacts of oxidative stress on fitness traits in social species.

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Chatting

chattingMy image ‘Chatting’ has been selected as the Overall Runner-up of the BES Photographic Competition 2016.

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Viva day for Shona

d739b8b703Congratulations to Shona Smith for her successful viva today! You are now a Doctor of Philosophy!

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Oxidative stress and signal honesty

fevo-04-00095-g001The aim of the Research Topic “Oxidative stress and signal honesty” published by the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution is to draw together current research on the role of oxidative stress in signal honesty. Scientists have long been fascinated by the huge diversity in body colourations and shapes. From the extravagant colours of paradise birds to the horns of ungulates, scientists have asked themselves whether these traits have a role as signals of individual quality and, if so, which information can they convey. The theory of honest signalling states that their production should carry costs that only high quality individuals would be able to afford. They also need to be honest; that is, the information they convey needs to be reliable; otherwise, the ornament would be quickly counter selected if individuals were attempting to cheat. These traits do not only play a role in mate choice, but they can also be used in other contexts, such as signalling of individual status in social interactions. But the phenotype is not limited to the body itself. It can extend to other features (e.g., egg colourations) that may also work as honest signals. An important question then is which costs the production of these traits imposes to the individual. It is increasingly recognised that the need to manage oxidative stress in an optimal way may be an important mechanism driving the outcome of many life-history trade-offs, including that of investment of resources between expression of honest signals and self-maintenance mechanisms. Much recent research has focussed on how the building up of body signals induces oxidative stress, and how oxidative stress itself may constrain investment in signalling.

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News from the North Pole

I am currently doing fieldwork in North Pole together with French colleagues. The project will be looking at the effects of contaminants on the black-legged kittiwakes. Greetings from the French-German Arctic Research Base AWIPEV in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard.

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Western tarsier research project begins

IMG_6920The Western Tarsier (Cephalopachus bancanus borneanus) is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List and the population trend is considered to be decreasing. I have started a project in collaboration with the Danau Girang Field Centre (Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia) aimed to elucidating which factors are responsible for such a decline and to developing an effective conservation strategy. The biology and ecology of this little creature are also poorly known. So it will also be a great opportunity to know more about this unique species.

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Oxidative stress as a cost of and constraint on growth

allocchi1Congratulations to Shona on getting her first Ph.D. article accepted for publication in the journal Ecology and Evolution. The article reports a meta-analysis of the role of oxidative stress as a cost of and constraint on growth in both invertebrates and vertebrates.

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Oxidative stress changes how female birds make decisions

canaryThe term ‘oxidative stress’ describes a state where oxidative damage to body tissues increases because oxidising molecules, which are mostly a by-product of metabolism, exceed the body’s level of antioxidant defences, and thus are free to react with molecules like lipids, proteins and nucleic acids. Such body deterioration may also in turn influence future investment in reproduction if it results in reduced fertility or changes in hormonal status. The recent article “Experimental evidence that oxidative stress influences reproductive decisions” published in Functional Ecology examined experimentally for the first time whether a state of oxidative stress influences reproductive decisions (when and how many eggs to lay) and reproductive success (hatching and fledging success, number of hatchlings and fledglings produced) in females of a songbird (canary, Serinus canaria). Those females whose oxidative stress level was increased delayed the start of egg laying and laid significantly smaller clutches than those females whose oxidative stress level was not increased. However, reproductive success was similar between control and stressed females. This study provides a rare insight into the cellular mechanisms that constrain reproductive decisions under female control in a vertebrate.

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BES Photographic Competition 2015

I thought it was a catMy photo entitled “I thought it was a cat” has been selected the category “Ecosystems and Communities” winner for the 2015 photographic competition of the British Ecological Society.

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