Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
I am an Assistant Professor at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. My research focuses on the role of bacterial endosymbionts on different insects through molecular genetic analysis. Microbes have crucial impacts on the ecology and evolution of their host and are therefore important factors in their biology. In particular I am interested in understanding the dynamics of how economically harmful pest insects are introduced into new areas and how the new environment influences their bacterial endosymbionts.
My primary study system has been two Tephritid fruit flies in the genus Rhagoletis that have recently invaded or are quarantine pests in Europe. I characterized the endosymbionts for these two Rhagoletis species that attack walnuts and cherries and compared them with populations in their native ranges in the USA. I have also described endosymbionts in a third Rhagoletis species that is a pest of apples in the USA but has yet to reach Europe. Further, I study the importance of the parasitoid community in different Rhagoletis species as a source of vectoring endosymbionts.
Beside Rhagoletis, I currently characterize the microbial community of Cacopsylla species, important vectors of phytoplasmas. Moreover I adress the question what causes different phytoplasma transmission efficiencies in insect vectors using the Cacopsylla-phytoplasma pathosystem as a model. By utilizing population genomic tools I am currently studying the tripartite interaction between the phytoplasma, the vector, and its microbiome.
Finally, I am involved in the study of phylogeographic as well as genomic projects of spruce bark beetle species in Europe and the role of endosymbionts in haplodiploid and diploid bark and ambrosia beetles and gall wasps.
New grant accepted!
Our project Population genomics of factors influencing Phytoplasma transmission was accepted by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the Province of Bozen-Bolzano. In collaboration with Christian Stauffer (coPI - Boku, Vienna), Katrin Janik (Research Centre Laimburg), Rosemarie Tedeschi (University of Turin) and Omar Rota-Stabelli (Fondazione Edmund Mach) we will perform a population genetic analysis of psyllids, their bacterial symbionts and the phytoplasma to understand the factors that are influencing the transmission efficiency of phytoplasmas.
Three postdoctoral positions are available: One postdoc will be based in Vienna in the lab of Christian Stauffer, two postdocs in my group here in Bolzano. Informal inquiries can be directed to me and Christian.