1. EVOLUTION OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM: characterisation of haemocytes and immunosurveillance in tunicates, which are phylogenetically important for their affinity with vertebrates. In particular, the different cell types will be studied by a morphological and functional point of view (phagocytosis, chemotaxis, cytotoxicity, recognition, inflammation) in order to define their role and the differentiation lines starting from undifferentiated pluripotent cells ("stem cells"), which are also under investigation.
2. ANALYSIS OF THE COLONIAL ASCIDIAN CYCLE: colonies of ascidians undergo a periodic weekly regression in breeding conditions, during which the old zooids are replaced by new ones. The phenomenon is interesting for the study of programmed cell death (apoptosis) in the basal Chordates. The colonial cycle will therefore be analysed in relation to changes that occur at the individual, tissue and cellular level during regression and generational change, searching the mechanisms of take-over and expression of pro- and anti-apoptotic genes that, in Vertebrates, characterise the caspase cascade.
3. STUDY OF THE ASCIDIAN COMMUNITY IN THE LAGOON OF VENICE: ecological topic. The ecological succession of hard-substrate macrofouling will be assessed periodically, using various descriptors of biodiversity, on panels of various materials (antifouling paints on the market or new types of coastal protection systems such as geotextiles) immersed in selected stations of the lagoon with various hydrodynamics.
4. ECOTOXICOLOGY: immunotoxicity caused by new antifouling compounds alternatives to organotin compounds in marine invertebrates. The issue of possible immunosuppressive action will be addressed on new antifouling substances recently introduced as alternatives to organotin compounds (TBT, TPT) which were banned worldwide for their high toxicity on non-target marine sessile invertebrates and for the consequent severe damages to coastal marine ecosystems.
5. RESTORATION AND CATALOGING OF COLLECTIONS OF VERTEBRATES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGY: the student will learn the main techniques of conservation, exposition, restoration and cataloguing of a class of Vertebrates concerning taxidermic specimens or preserved in fluid, skeletons and replicas of fossils. Patience, methodicalness, orderliness, initiative and creativity are required.
The student must be seriously motivated and interested, prepared at a constant frequency of laboratory or, in the case of theses in the field, available to regular excursions for analysis and measurements. Exams of Cell Biology, Zoology and Comparative Anatomy are required as a prerequisite. The student:
a) will acquire knowledge and methodologies based on various histological, histochemical, histoenzymatic and immunohistological techniques applied to light, fluorescence, transmission and scanning electron microscopy, which find various applications in the field of biological and natural sciences;
b) will develop independent research in the laboratory and/or in the field following both collection and breeding of the animals and carrying out short-term cell cultures;
c) will use indices of toxicity and descriptors of biodiversity for assessing immunotoxic effects and de-structurating effects on the benthic community, respectively.