PhD Programme in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology
Dottorato in Biologia Ambientale ed Evoluzionistica

In a modern scenario of integrated scientific approach, the four Curricula composing the PhD Programme in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, respectively of Botany, Ecological Sciences, Animal Biology, and Anthropology, described below, include research projects in the field of taxonomy and systematics, morpho-anatomy, anthropology and palaeoanthropology, molecular genetics, evolutionary biology, biochemistry and physiology, applied biology, ecology, ethology, conservation biology and ecological modelling, ecosystem services, environmental sustainability and agri-food studies. The research topics addressed range within a common evolutionary frame and are strongly interconnected, especially in the light of the complex system of structural and functional relationships between humans, plants, animals, micro-organisms and the abiotic environment.
In this holistic vision, teaching experiences and research activities of the PhD students, developed in an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary environment with a high scientific profile, provide for international collaborations and professional qualification, suitable for the multiple work activities in the environmental and agri-food context.

Ecological Sciences
(Curriculum coordinator: Prof. Marcello Vitale)
The Curriculum aims to offer an excellent qualification in the field of environmental complexity, in the frame of a high postgraduate scientific knowledge. Particular attention is paid to the analysis, monitoring, representation and model simulation of the structural characteristics, mechanisms and processes underlying the functioning of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The PhD aims to train highly qualified professionals, able of performing both basic and applied research and planning in the field of the Ecological Sciences, also in implementation of national and international regulations. These studies cover aspects related to population and community dynamics, processes at the ecosystem level and issues of ecological sustainability and environmental restoration. The basic training of students will be devoted mainly to studies and analyses of the relationships between the biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems. The experimental approach will be aimed at an integrated understanding of the structural and functional aspects that link the different levels of biological organization, from the organism to the landscape. The students will benefit of a theoretical and practical training, aimed at achieving a final thesis on specific issues.

(Curriculum coordinator Prof. M.M. Altamura)
The Curriculum is aimed to provide experimental knowledge in specialized fields of Botany, covering a wide range of interests, from plant biotechnology innovation for environment and human health, to plant pathology and biosystematics of modern and fossil plants. Research fields include plant cell biology and histology, plant responses to biotic and abiotic stress, embryogenesis, plant development, geobotany, reproductive biology, palaeobotany, palynology, pharmaceutical botany, plant taxonomy and evolution, phycology, mycology, and applied plant sciences. It also involves applications of plant biotechnology and general biology across all industrial sectors. This curriculum includes applications in agriculture, horticulture, pharmaceuticals, phytoremediation, non-food use of plants and industrial crops, and early detection of food quality. The research carried out in these fields is aimed to preserve plant biodiversity, to improve plant adaptation to environmental changes, and to sustain plant health. The Curriculum for “Botany” prepares qualified plant researchers for academic, scientific and technological Institutions, in Italy and abroad, who are able to work in autonomy and to manage innovative research.

Animal Biology
(Curriculum coordinator: Prof. Luigi Maiorano)
The Curriculum promotes scientific excellence on topics concerning the main aspects of modern animal biology, in particular problems relating to animal phylogeny, theory and practice of biological systematics, micro- and macroevolution, descriptive aspects of the functional level and interpretative approaches based on adaptation (general morphology and comparative anatomy, of invertebrates and vertebrates). The problems of animal developmental biology, with particular regard to cyto-differentiation and morphogenesis, are addressed in the field of gametogenesis, embryogenesis, post-embryonic development, and regeneration. In the context of the biology of animal populations, the topics covered include the study of the genetic structure of populations, speciation processes, patterns of geographical distribution as well as structure and dynamics of zoocenoses and the implementation of methodologies for conservation and management of natural populations and for environmental impact assessment. On a regional and global scale, issues related to global changes are addressed, including the risk of extinction of species and the identification of conservation priorities, also through scenarios and predictive models.

(Curriculum coordinator: Prof. Giorgio Manzi)
The Curriculum is concerned with the natural history of the human species, with a focus on the aspects regarding our origin and biological evolution, as seen in the context of the variability of the order Primates and interaction with human cultures and environmental factors.
The issues addressed in the curriculum of Anthropology include: the study of the variability of modern and sub-modern human populations using methods derived from anthropometry and molecular anthropology; the relationships between environmental and cultural factors and the genetic structure of human populations; biodemography; archaeo-anthropology and biology of ancient human populations, including paleodemography and paleopathology; the analysis and interpretation of the fossil record in relation to the origins and human evolution; the reconstruction of the history of human settlement during the Quaternary through the study of morphological and molecular markers; the origin and evolution of subsistence strategies and human cultures (in their natural aspects) as well as human-environment relations; comparative aspects of ontogenetic development of the human species, in an evo-devo perspective; the study of the systematics, phylogeny and biology of primates, in order to understand the natural history of humans; the ethical implications of anthropology; the applications of anthropological disciplines in the field of museology and for educational and scientific dissemination.


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