- Area of Study Ecology, Behavior & Evolution
I have always been interested in animal social behavior. In fact, for both theses of Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees I worked on social animals -specifically, social insects- at Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy. In my first thesis, using various experiments of manipulation in the laboratory, I studied visual recognition among nest mates of Polistes dominula paper wasps. The subject of the master thesis, instead, was the study of social network structures of the same species. In addition to my interest for the study of social behavior, in the same way, I always had great interest in marine biology and marine ecology since I was young. In fact, I have kept aquariums for many years and I started to dive very young. So I learned to recognize aquatic species of the reef (both fish and invertebrates) at a very young age and at the age of 14 I achieved my first SCUBA dive qualification. My passion for marine biology and ecology led me to travel and dive in many parts of the world and in different areas of the Mediterranean. Then, growing up, I started to combine diving with underwater photography and portraiture, through various drawing techniques of marine species.
Reading the publications that both my current advisors Prof. Peter Buston (Boston University) and Dr. Marian Wong (University of Wollongong, Australia) have published, I gained a great interest in the prospect that the study of habitat-specialist reef fishes presented the opportunity to test the various hypotheses for the evolution and maintenance of different social systems perhaps even better than the insects that I have studied for several years. For this reason, I chose to submit the application to BU to work at the Buston Lab. Given my experiences in the study of social behavior and the evolution of group living, in addition to my enormous interest to marine biology, this PhD position arrived at an excellent time as it provided me with the opportunity to step ahead in my career in the research area- the evolution of sociality- that I love, combining the study of social behavior (which I have already dealt with during my previous studies) and marine animals (about which I have always been interested). The main objective of my current research at BU is to investigate the effect of social and ecological variables on conflict animal social networks, using both observational and experimental approaches, using the coral-dwelling damselfish Dascyllus aruanus as a model species. These questions are important because conflictive behaviors have profound effects on individual reproductive success and group productivity, and hence on the persistence of societies over time. So far, all my fieldwork has always been conducted at Lizard Island Research Station, Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
Working at BU has offered me a suite of different and exciting teaching opportunities in the field of marine biology (such as Marine Megaufanal Ecology – Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, MA-, Coral Reef Resilience & Restoration and Coral Reef Dynamics – Calabash Caye Field Station, Belize) and, additionally, the possibility to receive some stimulating rewards such as a Dean’s Fellowship (BU), two Warren McLeod Summer Research Fellowships (BU) and two SMAH URC SMALL PROJECT GRANTS SCHEME (Branconi, Buston and Wong; Wollongong University, Australia).