Research Projects

Current project

Food web and ecology of deep sea sponge grounds at the Karasik Seamount, Arctic.
During the Polarstern expedition PS101 a giant assemblage of bacteriosponges, mostly dominated by Demospongiae Geodia spp. and Stelletta spp., was discovered at about 600 m depth at the Karasik Seamounts. My role is to investigate the mechanisms that facilitate the presence and stability of such dense sponge assemblage in such oligotrophic condition. 
Sponges are active filter feeders; they depend on hydrodynamics and water column processes for their feeding. In order to understand what sponges feed and how they can survive in such low productivity area, environmental samples as organic matter, fecal pellet, zooplankton and water samples for bacteria counts and nutrient analysis are examined to quantify potential sources of food available for sponges. Simultaneously, C and N isotope analysis on sponge tissue, water and sediment samples and lipid content in sponge tissue allow to reconstruct the diet, examine the food web dynamic and trophic ecology of these benthic inhabitants. 
Sponges at the Arctic seafloor.
Sponge community at the Arctic seafloor.
Source: AWI OFOBS team

Outreach project

I am a co-founder of the start up greensoeasy/CO2ntreebute based in Berlin. Our project starts as social game for students (8-20 years old); they compete between teams within the same class and also among different schools to reduce their personal CO2 footprint.

We have developed a web app, which represents an easy tool to make students understand how they can reduce their carbon footprint in three easy steps. Firstly, we provide (personally at schools, further on through on-line video presentations) a general introduction about what is climate change, the causes and consequences, to contextualize the project and provide them a general knowledge on this issue. Secondly, the web app provides them every day one easy solution (activity) to reduce their personal carbon footprint. The activities include changing some daily habits (e.g. going to school by bike, eat vegetarian, have a cold shower), as well as suggesting the parents to switch to green energy or drawing what for you is the “Climate Change”. Thirdly, once they have sent the proof (usually pictures) of the performed activity, the amount of CO2 saved is then fed back into our system. In this way the students can be informed in real time on their personal achievements and competition rank. After two weeks the team that manages to save more CO2 wins. Making it fun, students actively participate, and they share their experiences with friends or parents.

This project follows the goal set by the Climate Action Plan 2050 from the German Federal Ministry of Environment, and personal footprint achievements are based on the German short-term target of CO2 emission reduction of 55% by 2030.

Previous projects

2011-2016 EN-CHANGES, Environment changes and mass mortality events: underlying causes and mechanisms in Mediterranean gorgonians and sponges. Funded by Ministerio de Ciencias y Innovación, project leader Dr. Rafel Coma.
2004-2007 BioMART- Atlante della Biodiversità (Atlas of Biodiversity). Funded by Tuscany Region.


Field work experience


Seasonal scuba diving fieldwork at the “Parc Natural Del Montgrí, les Illes Medes i el Baix Ter”, and “Parc Natural del Cap de Creus”, Catalunya, Spain

Aim: assess the energy budget (feeding-respiration-pumping) of the main representative sponge species in NW Mediterranean Sea


Seasonal scuba diving fieldwork at the Tuscany Archipelago for the BioMart project

Aim: biomonitoring rocky benthic organisms


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