The four curricula composing the Doctoral Program in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, including PhDs in Botany, Ecological Sciences, Animal Biology, and Anthropology, have been designed in order to combine the use of innovative experimental protocols with the need of developing approaches which integrate different fields of biological and environmental research. They cover a wide range of topics: taxonomy and systematics, morpho-anatomy, human paleontology and anthropology, molecular genetics, evolutionary biology, biochemistry and physiology, applied biology, ecology, ethology, conservation biology and ecological modeling. Consistent with the well-known Dobzhansky’s axiom "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution", all these research fields move in the framework of evolution. They are also strongly interconnected with each other, due to the complex system of structural and functional relationships existing between humans, plants, animals and the abiotic environment. The body of disciplines and fields of research of the Doctoral program fit into in a broad and novel vision of biological research, where natural terrestrial and marine ecosystems are also investigated in relation to their fundamental role of providers of Ecosystem Services (ESs) which contribute significantly to human health and wellbeing, complementing and making more effective the present strategies for natural resource conservation. It is recognized by the European Biodiversity Strategy, and by a lot of experiences on land management, that project plans based on the recovery and restoration of habitats, and natural processes, are much more effective in terms of losses/profits than those insisting on merely technological approaches. In this new framework, the scientific community has become aware of the importance of counteracting environmental degradation by a concerted analysis of all the structural parameters involved, e.g., morpho- functional and evolutionary flora, fauna and other natural components of biodiversity, including human populations. This integrated approach will take into consideration the processes of ecosystem functioning, their relationships with demographic and environmental changes, and all possible integrated solutions for preservation and recovery of natural ecosystems and landscape. In order to properly manage and use land resources, and design innovative projects as well, a number of integrated wide-ranging skills need to be developed. They come from the analysis of flora and fauna, and the definition of their taxonomic and systematic status, to a comparative analysis at different levels of observation (morphological, anatomical, biochemical, chorological, reproductive and populational, and at ecosystem level), up to an integrated biological defense approach, and the identification and use of biologically active products obtained from renewable sources.
In this holistic vision, teaching experiences and research activities of the PhD students will be developed in an interdisciplinary and internationally competitive context. This will allow our students to achieve a complete professional skill, suitable for system-approach engagements in the environmental context.
Curriculum “Ecological Sciences”
(Curriculum coordinator: Prof. Marcello Vitale)
The "Ecological Sciences" Curriculum of the Ph.D. in "Environmental and Evolutionary Biology" aims to offer, in the frame of a high postgraduate scientific knowledge, an excellent qualification in the field of environmental complexity. Particular attention is paid to the analysis, monitoring, representation and model simulation of the structural characteristics, mechanisms and processes underlying to the functioning of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The PhD aims to train highly qualified professionals, able of performing both basic and applied researches and planning in the field of the Ecological Sciences, also in implementation of national and international regulations. These studies cover aspects related to the 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.
Curriculum “Animal Biology”
(Curriculum coordinator: Dr. Luigi Maiorano)
In the framework of the Doctorate in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, the Curriculum in “Animal Biology” aims at builging skills at the highest professional level on the main topics of modern animal biology. A special focus is devoted to those concerning animal phylogeny, the theory and practice of biological systematics, micro- and macroevolution, the description of the functional level (general morphology and comparative anatomy, of invertebrates and vertebrates) and its interpretation in an adaptive framework. The issues of population biology are also covered, with studies on the genetic structures of populations, the speciation processes, the geographical distribution models, as well as the issues of the structure and dynamics of zoocoenoses, and the implementation of methodologies for conservation and management of natural populations and for the evaluation of the environmental impact. Animal developmental biology is studied with special regards to cytodifferentiation and moprhogenesis, in the framework of gametogenesis, embryogenesis, post-embryonic development and regeneration.
(Curriculum coordinator: Prof. Giorgio Manzi)
The Anthropology Curriculum is concerned with the natural history of the human species, with a focus on the aspects regarding our origins 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 extant and extinct human populations using methods derived from anthropometry and molecular anthropology; the relationships between environmental and cultural factors and genetic structure of human populations; biodemography; archaeo-anthropology or 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 naturalisitc aspects) and human-environment relations, comparative aspects of ontogenetic development in this case human, 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 museological field and for educational and scientific dissemination.