Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Conservation biology, from molecules to ecosystem

January 1, 2014 - December 31, 2017
Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
1.03.00  Natural sciences and mathematics  Biology   
3.08.00  Medical sciences  Public health (occupational safety)   

Code Science Field
B000  Biomedical sciences   

Code Science Field
1.06  Natural Sciences  Biological sciences 
3.03  Medical and Health Sciences  Health sciences 
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (19)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  32682  PhD Katja Adam  Biology  Junior researcher  2014 - 2017  103 
2.  20038  PhD Dunja Bandelj  Biotechnology  Researcher  2014 - 2017  275 
3.  07674  PhD Darja Barlič Maganja  Microbiology and immunology  Head  2014 - 2017  431 
4.  32571  PhD Alenka Baruca Arbeiter  Plant production  Junior researcher  2014 - 2016  127 
5.  10375  PhD Bojan Butinar  Plant production  Researcher  2014 - 2016  265 
6.  24375  PhD Elena Bužan  Biology  Researcher  2014 - 2017  364 
7.  30863  PhD Matjaž Hladnik  Biotechnical sciences  Researcher  2014 - 2017  92 
8.  24263  PhD Zala Jenko Pražnikar  Public health (occupational safety)  Researcher  2014 - 2017  228 
9.  27826  PhD Mihaela Jurdana  Neurobiology  Researcher  2017  200 
10.  25525  PhD Saša Kenig  Metabolic and hormonal disorders  Researcher  2017  138 
11.  37503  Tea Knap  Biology  Junior researcher  2014 - 2017  26 
12.  33275  PhD Toni Koren    Junior researcher  2014  92 
13.  35374  PhD Katja Kranjc  Microbiology and immunology  Junior researcher  2016  82 
14.  31274  PhD Andreja Kutnar  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2014 - 2017  396 
15.  33766  PhD Bojan Lazar  Biology  Researcher  2014 - 2017  141 
16.  30883  PhD Ana Miklavčič Višnjevec  Chemistry  Researcher  2016 - 2017  111 
17.  24764  PhD Ana Petelin  Cardiovascular system  Researcher  2017  231 
18.  39241  Marko Posavčević  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Junior researcher  2016 - 2017  12 
19.  32446  PhD Jan Zrimec  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2016 - 2017  97 
Organisations (3)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  1510  Science and Research Centre Koper  Koper  7187416000  13,879 
2.  2413  Universita del Litorale, Facolta di Scienze della Salute  Izola  1810014005  9,128 
3.  2790  University of Primorska, Faculty of mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies  Koper  1810014009  17,497 
Overexploitation of natural resources and other man-driven changes in the ecosystem result in the massive biodiversity loss and in the alteration of ecosystem’s structure and function. Current levels of anthropogenic factors negatively impact both, terrestrial and marine systems. For understanding of ecosystems functioning and for planning their conservation, the interdisciplinary scientific approach is needed which include different fields such us taxonomy, applied ecology, genetics, transcriptomics, molecular/cellular biology and public health. As a team we will investigate both, natural and anthropogenic (agricultural/urban) Mediterranean habitats as drivers of both positive and negative impacts on human health. The program’s key priority is excellence in science and development by investigating the consequences of biodiversity loss and its influence to ecosystem services and human health. The research program is organized into three work packages: 1) Conservation ecology; 2) Conservation genetics; and 3) Ecosystem health. In the field of conservation ecology, the research will be focused on ecology of endangered natural/human-disturbed terrestrial systems; and conservation ecology of marine systems. The study will include different taxa (e.g. plants, butterflies, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, long-lived marine predators), which are either endangered or can serve as bioindicators of human-induced changes. To provide additional information about conservation of studied taxa, ecological data will be upgraded with population genetics studies with different molecular technologies. The special attention will be given to local adaptation and genetic differentiation between populations. In the field of ecosystem health the research will be focused on multidisciplinary study of health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean diet is an important constituent and heritage of agrarian habitats and olive oil is one of the most recognized Mediterranean foodstuff and with functional and therapeutical properties which is insufficiently explored at national level. The assessment of health status of Adriatic marine ecosystems will be obtained through investigation of the presence of some pesticide residues, toxic metals and other pollutants in large marine vertebrates. The research program includes various investigation methods: sampling of plant and animal material in selected habitats, tissue sampling for genetic, skeletochronological and ecotoxicological analyses, microscopy, morphometric, genetic and chemical analyses, methods in cell biology, and clinical interventional studies. Our research program will contribute to the knowledge on conservation status and biodiversity of selected organisms which is fundamental for preserving health of terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
Significance for science
The research program combines several disciplines: molecular genetics, ecology, taxonomy, toxicology, statistics and bioinformatics. All disciplines are fundamental for the development of adequate conservation strategies and assuring the ecosystem health. Investigation will have a significant impact on the knowledge on several taxonomic groups in natural and human-disturbed areas in Mediterranean region. The research team has already started with monitoring of selected taxonomic groups and habitats and the aim is to continue this long-term monitoring by adding new taxa and habitats. This will provide samples for conservation genetic studies of relevant species, especially for those under direct threat by different agents (pollution, habitat change, climate change). The study will also reveal the effectiveness of protected areas and Natura 2000 sites what is new on the national level. With the study of food webs, biomagnification and bioaccumulation of toxic substances in marine organisms of the coastal areas we will obtain scientific information about the state of fragile ecosystems. This research program will also aim to incorporate preliminary urban ecology studies. Although this ecological field is in constant rise across the world, studies of this kind are lacking and the understanding of processes is still poorly understood. In connection to agricultural landscapes, a special attention will also be drawn to traditional varieties of crops and agricultural ecosystem health. The research program will have a significant impact on the olive research community and through comparative genomics also on investigation of other perennial plants. All obtained sequences and developed markers will be available through NCBI and will contribute to the fundamental knowledge of structural and functional genomics of higher plants. Development and improvements of chemical analytical methods will serve for further investigations of table olives and oil. Several important issues are related with olive oil and table olives: chemical composition in correlation with environment, production and storing methods, health benefits, food safety and consumer protection. All these topics are directly subjects of our investigations and are an important contribution to the knowledge about this functional food. In addition, the proposed program is planned to be partly preclinical and clinical. Both parts are focused on healthy nutrition and health preservation. The program will bring new findings on understanding molecular mechanism of active substances from local autochthonous crops. The research work will successfully link different research areas and allow synergistic development and transfer of preclinical knowledge into the improvement of health in the local population. Moreover, students will have the opportunity to actively participate in the programme research as part of their graduation or master theses, and thus improve their expertise.
Significance for the country
Humans depend on ecosystems for important goods and services. Biodiversity is crucial for maintaining healthy ecosystems, which should be a priority. At the same time, biodiversity can also be viewed as a prerequisite for ecotourism in the region. Recently, even marine protected areas in Slovenia have started promoting their biodiversity, e.g. by offering organized underwater dives. Protecting biodiversity is thus an important view for promoting nature parks. However, Natura 2000 sites usually do not have an operative management body and their biodiversity is not adequately promoted. Our research program will contribute to the knowledge on biodiversity of these areas. Moreover, the toxicological study of marine vertebrates in the coastal ecosystems will indicate the health of these habitats. The results will be important for the general public and for scientific community. Mediterranean agriculture offers the opportunity for the development of quality and typical products, which contribute, to the greater visibility of the Mediterranean region in Slovenia as well as to greater competitiveness of producers on the common European market. This latter fact is important for the preservation of the settlement of rural areas, for job creation as well as for deterring the young generations from leaving the farms and undertaking economically more profitable activities. As regards the socio-economic development, the introduction of typical products and traditional farming practices is relevant for the improvement of agricultural structure. Research results will have an impact on transferring new technologies in Slovenia and also in other countries. Such new technologies can have a lower impact on environment, safer food, lower energy consumption and on higher quality of sustainable development. Thus research on Mediterranean cultivated plants on national level and introduction of results into international research community will significantly contribute to the promotion of Slovenia as a Mediterranean country.   The results will also allow the equal inclusion of Slovenian researchers into international scientific sphere. Establishment of international cooperation between research institutions and defining the common goals is of great importance for Slovenian research groups. International cooperation will facilitate information flow, international mobility of researchers and know-how transfer between partners. The indirect significance of this research proposal for society is also present in the form of education of the young. Education is crucial for the development of innovation and the transfer of research findings into enterprises. The project results will be an ideal learning platform for undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Primorska.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2014, 2015, 2016, final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2014, 2015, 2016, final report
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