Il museo dà ampio spazio alla ricerca scientifica, finanziando studi sull'ambiente
naturale della Valle d'Aosta.
Negli anni sono stati sviluppate ricerche faunistiche (ungulati, chirotteri, avifauna,
lepidotteri, ecc.), floristiche (flora vascolare, licheni, macromiceti), limnologiche e
Quasi tutte le ricerche sono state pubblicate sulla Revue Valdôtaine d'Histoire Naturelle
o sulle Monografie del Museo.
Creation of the Aosta Valley Seed Bank
Genetic characterization of local plant species to support the creation of the Aosta Valley Seed Bank
Principal Investigator: Dr Fabio GUGLIELMO. Project duration: 2 years (8th March 2013 - 7th March 2015).
In accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), the present project is aimed at creating the first Seed Bank in Aosta Valley for the ex situ conservation of alpine plant species. Since Seed Bank accessions should be representative of the genetic variability of the native habitat, it is pivotal, for each plant species, to detect the population structure and diversity. For this purpose, the project includes a preliminary DNA barcoding and DNA genotyping study to identify at a specific and sub-specific level the plant species to be conserved.
Plant species, whose selection is based on their rarity, vulnerability and endemicity, will be sampled in different collection sites throughout the Aosta Valley areas. Each sample will be geo-referenced through GIS-GPS.
The DNA barcoding method is based on the sequencing of two plastidic gene: rbcL (gene encoding for the large subunit of the enzyme rubilose-1,5-biphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase) and matK (gene encoding for the enzyme maturase), as reported in the CBOL (Consortium for the Barcode of Life) guidelines. We will assess the diagnostic ability at an inter and intra-specific level of the selected DNA barcodes through softwares for sequence alignment. The DNA sequences will be shared with the CBOL and uploaded in GenBank.
The DNA genotyping protocol for the assessment of the intraspecific variability will be based on the analysis of SSRs (Simple Sequence Repeats) or microsatellite loci . For each selected species, SSR loci will be isolated and characterized through the construction of a small insert genomic library enriched in microsatellites, and reliable protocol of analysis will be developed,through the design of specific primers. We will define the population structure of each species using appropriate analysis softwares. Results will be useful to establish the most appropriate sampling strategy, as well as they will allow improving the knowledge on biological, ecological and genetic aspects of each species.
Each detected population will represent a Seed Bank accession. An appropriate seed sampling will be performed for each accession following the guidelines of the ENSCONET Curation Protocols and Recommendations (2012). The collected samples will be subjected to a pre-treatment in a storage room, which includes the phytosanitary control and the analysis of different parameters. A part of the batch will be addressed to a long-term conservation (10 years) and the other one will represent the active collection, to be used in a short period for the in situ operations or reintroductions. We will assess the most appropriate parameters for the long-term conservation of each species, through the analysis of the seed vitality after different treatments (freezing at -18°C, lyophilization, crioconservation).
Once the first accessions will be collected, the first Seed Bank of the Aosta Valley will be officially established.
DNA barcoding for the study of the Aosta Valley wildlife biodiversity
DNA barcoding for the study of the Aosta Valley wildlife biodiversity: a new approach to investigate and monitor the Insecta and for the fight against the poaching.
Principal Investigator: Dr Velca Botti. Project duration: 2 years (8th March 2013 - 7th March 2015)
The conservation of biodiversity is a prerogative of the International Convention on Biological Diversity (Rio de Janeiro, 1992).
The Regione Autonoma Valle d'Aosta has been already involved in the protection of biodiversity and natural resources, launching studies to promote the development of local protected areas.
This project represents an innovative approach to the investigation and monitoring of the biodiversity value of the alpine landscape, mainly using DNA barcoding techniques.
The DNA barcoding allows a rapid and automated identification of animal species, through DNA sequencing, overcoming the limitations of traditional morphological approach, such as, for example, the misidentification of taxa, due to a phenotypic plasticity of studied tract or to the existence of morphologically cryptic taxa, how "sister species" (morphologically identical species but genetically different).
The objectives of this project are: i) to investigate the Insecta and Arachnida class, integrating the entomological data with genomic ones, with particular attention to beetles (Carabidae and Staphylinidae), Lepidoptera (Ropalocerae), Hymenoptera (Formicidae) and Araneidae; ii) to develop protocols for genetic identification of vertebrate of interest for hunting, for the fight against poaching, with particular attention to the protected species Capra ibex.
The animal samples will be collected on the Aosta Valley, mainly within the National Park of Gran Paradiso and Mont Avic Park and they will be examined by DNA barcoding technique analysing a portion of the mitochondrial gene COI (Cytochrome c Oxidase I). This sequence has been proposed as a barcode (DNA barcode) for eukaryotic cells, allowing to identify the animals, at species-level, and to assess their biodiversity.
The DNA fingerprinting technique can then be used to identify individual organisms and the DNA genotyping can be used to determine the genetic variability of the studied animal species.
Bioinformatic tools will be essential to process the obtained data.
This project aims to increase the knowledge on the Aosta Valley alpine fauna biodiversity, in order to improve its protection and management, and to develop protocols for DNA analysis.
For the Insecta and Arachnida classes, the project is aimed at creating the first Aosta Valley gene bank, thus determining possible new ecotypes and species.
The results will then be used to participate at national and international consortia, to submit research articles to scientific journals ,and to make the Aosta Valley public more conscious of the animal biodiversity. Through the new approach of investigation of DNA new school training program will be promoted.
The Corpo Forestale, the Museum of Natural Sciences and Parks and nature reserves can profit by the developed operating protocols for the identification of animal speciesof interest, for the study of museum collections and for the management and conservation of the biodiversity, respectively.
Metabolic patterns of the lichen communities in the Valle d’Aosta
“Experimental investigations into metabolic patterns of the lichen communities in the Valle d’Aosta as indicators of UV radiation”
European Social Fund Research Grant of Enrica Matteucci
This study helps to expand knowledge about the biodiversity of areas hitherto little investigated in the Valle d’Aosta specifically regarding the lichens.
The research is particularly focused on studying incident UV radiation in the Alps as an environmental factor of considerable scientific interest for its indirect effects on the health and quality of life of the human and animal population.
The study specifically aims to characterise the rock lichen communities by a qualitative-quantitative analysis and examining the diversity of content of the secondary metabolites, an innovative wide scale biological indicator of different levels of exposure to incident UV radiation.
The survey of lichen diversity is associated with the analysis of secondary metabolites using advanced spectroscopy and chromatography techniques.
The physiological response of model lichen species to UV radiation is subsequently examined at molecular level in terms of variation of the expression of genes involved in the response to environmental stress factors and in the synthesis of secondary metabolites.
Protocol for monitoring biodiversity “Development of a protocol for monitoring biodiversity in some of the Natura 2000 sites in the Valle d’Aosta by a qualitative-quantitative investigation of the faunal community of meso- and micro-mammals”
ESF Research Grant of PhD Lolita Bizzarri,
Head of Research Prof. Marco Apollonio of the University of Sassari.
Subjects involved in the research: University of Sassari – Department of Zoology and Evolutionary Genetics; University of Perugia – Department of Cellular and Environmental Biology; University of Catania – Department of Animal Biology; Mont Avic Regional Park; Natural History Museum Meldola.
The aim of this research project is to create a protocol for monitoring biodiversity by investigating the presence, distribution and abundance of meso- and macro-mammals within the Natura 2000 Sites of Valle d’Aosta, achieved through methods for collecting, handling and analysis of innovative data.
In Italy, Meso-mammals are considered all wild species of adult size ranging from the fox (Vulpes vulpes) to the weasel (Mustela nivalis). As regards macro-mammals, the focus will be particularly on the wolf and lynx, two large carnivores present permanently or sporadically in Valle d'Aosta.
The study area is the same as the Natura 2000 Sites: Mont Avic Mont Emilius – SPA (special protection area) IT1202020; Val Ferret – SPA IT1204030; Glacial environments of Monte Rosa – SPA IT1204220; Wetland of Les Iles di Saint Marcel – SPA IT1205070.
The field survey includes:
· research and analysis of indicators of presence (IP) of the above species along sample routes within the study area, covered by foot and/or by car, repeated at regular intervals. The IP can be detected indirectly by collecting and studying stools, footprints, traces, tracks, remains of food or other indicators that can be objectively diagnosed and attributed to a species, or directly by observing and/or listening to living animals and collecting and studying dead animals.
For some IP, specific attributing may be carried out by genetic analysis.
· camera trapping, a minimally invasive method in which special cameras with sensors are used, able to automatically trigger when a body passes.
These devices are generally distributed in points where the target species is forced to pass and/or in combination with food or smell baits. They can be checked weekly or twice a week, depending on the weather conditions, battery life, and the fauna and morphological characteristics of the area.
This method makes it possible to photograph the species present in the study area and find out their numbers if it is possible to individually recognise them.
Each device can be combined with hair-traps for subsequently genetically analysing the fur to identify the species in ambiguous situations, a particularly useful procedure for those morphologically very similar species such as the marten and beech marten and the wild and domestic cat.
Spiders of the wetlands of Valle d'Aosta
Research grant of the Fondazione Goria – Master of Talents 2011, awarded to Dr Mauro Paschetta. Head of Science: Dr Marco Isaia of the Department of Animal and Human Biology, University of Turin.
The Regional Museum of Natural Sciences is the body hosting and co-funding this research focused on the ecological aspects of the araneo-fauna in humid environments, aimed at determining the presence and distribution of the species, with particular attention to the rarest and most vulnerable and to their potential use as bio-diagnostic instruments for identifying sites of particular wildlife and conservation interest and of any environmental problems.
The study involves preparing a check-list, creating a museum collection for scientific use, production of specific photographic material, basic training of the museum’s staff and defining guidelines for monitoring the species and managing the sites. The fieldwork will include capturing the specimens in fall traps, which are then ascertained in the laboratory.
The study will concentrate on the six regional nature reserves of the Valle d’Aosta wetlands, specifically Marais, Lolair, Les Iles, Lake Lozon, Lake Villa and the Holay tarn.
The Eagle Owl in Valle d'Aosta
(by Gianna Bosio)
To comply with the Memorandum of Understanding adopted in 2006 (Regional Council Decision 1819, 23 June 2006) between the Autonomous Region of Valle d’Aosta, the Gran Paradiso National Park Authority, the Mont Avic Nature Park Authority and the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences to perform a study on the presence of the Eagle Own in Valle d’Aosta, a species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive (79/409 EEC) and for which special conservation measures must be applied for their habitat to ensure their survival and their reproduction in their area of distribution, since 2007 the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences has been monitoring the presence of this bird in Valle d’Aosta with the help of specialists. The Museum engaged Dr Roberto Facchini and Dr Gianna Bosio for the tasks of monitoring and study in the 2008-2010 period, in which it was revealed that the Eagle Owl is present in the Valle d’Aosta and possible nesting sites were located. During 2008, the most western side of the Valley was monitored, specifically La Valdigne and the side valleys of Valgrisenche, La Thuile, Ferret and Veny and the Great St. Bernard valley. In 2009, the lower valley area of the Dora Baltea was analysed, between the municipalities of Châtillon and Pré-Saint-Didier up to a height of 1200 metres. Lastly, in 2010, to complete the activities of earlier years, the sites in the valley floor areas and some sites in the Valle di Ayas and the valley of Saint-Barthelémy were monitored. From the research performed, it emerged that the species is only present in high numbers in the lower valley, and is discontinuous or lacking in the remaining portion of the valley floor which crosses the medium and upper valley. The studies also made it possible to analyse the threats to the survival of the species and the main mortality factors (changes to the habitat, reduction in prey, poisoning from chemicals, collisions with vehicles, trains, aerial wires, electrocution, disturbances caused by sports, indirect killing) and to define useful guidelines for measuring conservation aimed primarily at mitigating the impact of electricity lines positioned close to nesting sites and limiting and regulating sports activities on the nesting areas of rock faces. In order to promote public awareness of the issues relating to the fascinating world of nocturnal birds of prey, as part of the same research, the Museum organised an evening for informing about the Eagle Owl in the summer of 2009.