Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Integrative zoology and speleobiology

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
1.03.00  Natural sciences and mathematics  Biology   

Code Science Field
B005  Biomedical sciences  Zoology 

Code Science Field
1.06  Natural Sciences  Biological sciences 
taxonomy, biodiversity, ecology, phylogeography, phylogeny, evolution, conservation biology, Dinarids, cave animals, large carnivores, mineralization, biomimetic materials, chitin, model organisms, cuticle, epithelia, mutualism, pathogene, reproductive biology, ecotoxicology
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (41)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  11957  PhD Lilijana Bizjak Mali  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  217 
2.  38158  PhD Urban Bogataj  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  38 
3.  50532  PhD Špela Borko  Biology  Junior researcher  2017 - 2019  77 
4.  11169  PhD Janko Božič  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  320 
5.  21844  Gregor Bračko    Technical associate  2015 - 2019  40 
6.  04336  PhD Boris Bulog  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2017  211 
7.  35367  PhD Teo Delić  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2017  130 
8.  51859  PhD Andraž Dolar  Biology  Junior researcher  2018 - 2019  52 
9.  11155  PhD Damjana Drobne  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2018  863 
10.  18913  PhD Cene Fišer  Biology  Head  2015 - 2019  274 
11.  35368  PhD Žiga Fišer  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  73 
12.  18324  PhD Gordana Glavan  Neurobiology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  144 
13.  53634  Špela Golob  Biology  Junior researcher  2019 
14.  39092  PhD Tajda Gredar  Biology  Junior researcher  2016 - 2019  28 
15.  53805  Nuša Hrga  Biology  Researcher  2018 - 2019 
16.  24447  PhD Anita Jemec Kokalj  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  291 
17.  17424  Franc Kljun    Technical associate  2015 - 2019  55 
18.  32058  PhD Marjeta Konec  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  72 
19.  35369  PhD Veno Kononenko  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2015 - 2018  68 
20.  06960  PhD Ivan Kos  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  562 
21.  36373  PhD Monika Kos  Biology  Junior researcher  2015 - 2017  67 
22.  18749  PhD Rok Kostanjšek  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  470 
23.  39089  PhD Žan Kuralt  Biology  Junior researcher  2016 - 2019  70 
24.  30770  PhD Ajda Moškrič  Biology  Junior researcher  2015 - 2016  56 
25.  33923  PhD Polona Mrak  Natural sciences and mathematics  Researcher  2015 - 2019  97 
26.  24029  Jožica Murko Bulić    Technical associate  2015 - 2019 
27.  33175  PhD Sara Novak  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  105 
28.  18628  PhD Hubert Potočnik  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  286 
29.  13605  PhD Simona Prevorčnik  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  103 
30.  37504  PhD Neža Repar  Biology  Junior researcher  2015 - 2019  31 
31.  25992  PhD Tomaž Skrbinšek  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  228 
32.  07737  PhD Jasna Štrus  Biology  Retired researcher  2015 - 2019  443 
33.  14835  PhD Peter Trontelj  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  424 
34.  16261  PhD Rudi Verovnik  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  393 
35.  53741  PhD Astrid Vik Stronen  Biology  Researcher  2018 - 2019  76 
36.  32060  PhD Miloš Vittori  Biology  Researcher  2016 - 2019  137 
37.  23478  PhD Maja Zagmajster  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  343 
38.  25832  PhD Valerija Zakšek  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  136 
39.  27833  Katja Zdešar Kotnik    Technical associate  2015 - 2019  48 
40.  16065  PhD Primož Zidar  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  172 
41.  16381  PhD Nada Žnidaršič  Biology  Researcher  2015 - 2019  239 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  66,295 
Programme 'Integrative zoology and speleobiology' upgrades previous programme 'Investigations in zoology and speleobiology' at the Department of Biology, Biotechnical faculty, UL. In proposed programme the integrative approach will be applied to explain the key functional and evolutionary mechanisms of surface and subterranean animals in the Dinaric karst. Outstanding biodiversity of the area enables focused research of evolutionary and ecological processes, at the same time representing invaluable natural heritage that deserves sustainable management and protection. Since the effective nature conservation and understanding of biological processes, both require a holistic approach, the program is integrating knowledge across different levels of biological organization: from the communities, species and populations, to organisms, tissues and cells. In the proposed programme we aim to study: 1. Biodiversity, distribution, species composition and phylogenetic relationships of the selected taxa (spiders, centipedes, crustaceans, butterflies), aiming to explain the patterns and causes for the observed Dinaric and local hotspot diversity and assess threats to populations of keystone species (large carnivores, butterflies, bats). 2. Processes and adaptations that create and maintain the unique Dinaric fauna. These will be studied on the basis of genetic diversity, the role of symbiotic bacteria, morphology, and behavior of selected taxa (cave crustaceans, large carnivores, bees). 3. Structural and functional features of model subterranean and surface organisms (crustaceans, amphibians) at tissue and ultrastructural levels, reflecting adaptations to specific environments. To better understand the mechanisms and role of biomineralizations in living systems, calcified chitinous matrices during molting, embryonic development and interactions with microorganisms will be investigated in terrestrial isopods. 4. Effects of pollution on selected animal species (crustaceans, proteus, bee) in surface and subterranean ecosystems. 5. The impact of land use on ecosystem functioning and on population genetics of the selected species. The proposed research aims to elucidate some current evolutionary and ecological issues (e.g. speciation, specialization, origin of communities), provide an adequate understanding of population status of the keystone species, as well as basic insights into human impacts on fauna (land use, pollutants). This knowledge will represent the basis for (aim 6) the effective protection and conservation management, of the Dinaric ecosystems and their fauna. Knowledge of organisms is of great importance for science and society as the rate and extent of global change increase. Integration of knowledge about organisms is important for explaining results from cellular, molecular and genomic studies, for understanding interactions between living beings and environment, for human well-being, for the expansion of technologies and design of biomimetic materials.
Significance for science
The proposed research aims to make several original contributions to knowledge: 1. The Dinaric region is an ideal natural area for macroecological and evolutionary studies. The main biodiversity and ecological questions refer to processes that shape species diversity patterns, especially to the impact of phylogeny. Due to their comparative simplicity, the subterranean communities are important for studying and understanding these processes. In addition, relatively well preserved surface key species populations offer great opportunities for studying a wide variety of interactions and their role in the ecosystem. The proposal also addresses several evolutionary topics, e.g. the role of selection in the process of speciation and the level of predictability of evolution. Comparatively simple surface-subterranean systems with relatively well-defined selection regimes are an excellent natural laboratory for tackling mentioned issues. 2. Most significant advantage of the program is its integrative and interdisciplinary approach, used to address the core scientific issues. A combination of methods and analytical tools used in diverse fields (e.g. ecological and spatial modeling combined with phylogenetic analyses) improves the understanding of the processes. Equally important is the integration of knowledge acquired at different levels of biological organization, which provides insights into patterns and causal mechanisms at cellular to super-cellular levels, as well as the mechanisms’ interactions (e.g. the relationship between selection and physiological cascades). Moreover, the integrated approach provides new insights into already known patterns and paves the way innovative research; e.g. "Could the ultra-structural details provide an evolutionary advantage for crustaceans, one of the dominant subterranean invertebrate groups, in invading the underground milieu? Is the interaction with bacteria that provide new metabolic pathways in the host, including the cuticle mineralization, one of the host’s key success factors?"... 3. The research will be important to advancing knowledge across different fields. Research on bacterial interactions with their arthropod hosts as important, yet overlooked natural reservoir of Chlamydia, will extend current knowledge on Chlamydia transmission. This is important also in association with Rhabdochlamydia species, the emerging pathogens. As the cuticle is present in arthropods for millions of years, it’s an ideal model for studying the evolutionary success of a biological structure. New knowledge of ultrastructure, composition and dynamics of biomineralized tissues is important for designing advanced materials, useful in medicine and elsewhere. The research content, large set of innovative approaches and natural predispositions will all strengthen the existing domestic (NIB, JSI, SASA) and international (U.S., Europe) cooperation, and enable knowledge dissemination in the international arena.
Significance for the country
Proposed program presents the basis to improve the knowledge on our precious natural heritage and its conservation. It is focused on karst, an important resource of drinking water, giving it enormous economic value. The program continues the tradition of nature conservation document 'Spomenica' from 1920, not only by conducting the basic research to develop nature conservation policies, but also by its promotion. Nature conservation obligations are given by national and international legislation, yet basic knowledge on species distribution, ecology and their interactions is needed for their implementation. Slovenia is known as a 'cradle of speleobiology'; it is here where the first discoveries of the unique subterranean animals come from, it is also one of the world's richest areas in subterranean biodiversity. We have therefore great responsibility to protect this exceptional cultural and biological heritage for domestic and international public. A relatively large proportion of Slovenia is a part of the Natura 2000 network, also as a consequence of well conserved Dinaric area. We will monitor some species included in this network, but at the same time we aim to surpass the existing schemes by conducting yet missing basic ecological studies. Obtained empirical information will affect the development of multipurpose sustainable use of forests. We will establish connections between basic research on species and their environment and its transfer in nature conservation, while including human as a user and manager of the environment. Only such complex protection strategy can avoid unnecessary collisions between nature protection and land use. Ecotoxicological studies will help us to understand the self-cleaning potential of subterranean waters. Identification of the model organisms and establishment of the water quality control will have long term consequences for the subterranean and surface fauna, as well as people and public health. Such knowledge will facilitate more efficient conservation and management policies. The Slovenian and Dinaric endemics hold a big potential for promotion of Slovenia (e.g. the Carniolan bee, proteus, slenderneck cave beetle, butterflies). Our studies will contribute to better recognition of the country, which is important for tourism, development of trademarks and sustaining national identity. The detailed studies on Carniolian bee will present a sample case of concern for bees, important plant pollinators and honey producers. Resarch of mineralized biological matrices is important for the development of biomimetic materials. Understanding the role of microorganisms in mineralizations of living organisms will help to explain the pathology of biomineralizations in medicine and related processes in the environment and microbial biofilms. The program will be closely connected with higher education. New discoveries will be directly incorporated in the undergraduate and postgraduate curricula involving students in the research program.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2015, interim report, final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2015, interim report, final report
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