Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Naples, Italy


Recipient of Best Student Poster Award


Microplastic ingestion by copepod species in the Gulf of Naples (Western Mediterranean Sea) [poster with lightning talk]

I am a PhD student in environmental biology. This degree was obtained at the University of L'Aquila and Lyon and further developed through a research grant at C.N.R. in Florence. My research interests have focused on copepods since my PhD and early postdoc experiences. Copepods are a key link between primary producers and secondary consumers in both marine and freshwater environments. Therefore, my interest in this extremely diverse group has grown by analyzing their role in ecosystem functioning for the Interreg project “PVT” and environmental risk assessment for the Life project “Aqualife” in both groundwater and surface waters. Understanding the effects of xenobiotics on this taxon is a crucial challenge in developing an early warning system of environmental status. Among the emerging pollutants whose environmental risk is widely recognized are microplastics. My current task is to assess the relevance of microplastics as potential prey for zooplankton under the JPI Oceans MicroplastiX project. Research activities to be carried out in 2022 at SZN include the analysis of hyponeustonic zooplankton taxa collected in the Bay of Naples. The organisms will be digested with chemicals and both abundance and type of microplastics will be assessed for the entire zooplankton community with a species-specific approach. In particular, the zooplankton species most sensitive to microplastic ingestion will be selected for grazing experiments. In particular, I will evaluate how the presence of microplastics affects the feeding behavior and ingestion rates of the selected species. The results of this research will help to understand the extent of the effects of microplastics on the entire trophic system.

Winning the award for best student poster meant a real legitimization of the scientific value of my research topic. I am grateful to the organisers and WAC community for the opportunity given to me. It is a great and prestigious window on the world of research.