Working place: PhD Student
Department: Department of Organisms and Ecosystems Research
My research focuses on understanding the coexistence of different species that use their habitats in similar ways. For this purpose, I have chosen the model organisms Horvath's rock lizard (Iberolacerta horvathi) and the common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis). Using these two species as models, I am trying to understand how, why and when species coexist, what this coexistence means for their lives, and how this system may change under the pressures of global climate change and habitat loss or alteration. I work through a combination of fieldwork and labwork. The field part consists of collecting samples of DNA, blood, faeces and many anatomical measurements of the animals. I process the data collected in the field in the laboratory, where I focus on modern methods in genetics such as metabarcoding, which can be used to rapidly and accurately determine the presence of organisms in the environment, I am primarily interested in lizard diets. In addition, I also workin on unicellular parasites of lizards and how they affect their hosts.
The main part of my PhD is devoted to ecological modelling, combining mechanistic (dynamic energy budget theory) and correlative models in order to gain a deeper understanding of the abiotic and biotic factors that influence the distribution of species and the conditions that allow them to coexist. This work relies on my skills in R and Matlab. Such models allow us to calculate the energy and mass balances of species based on measurable animal traits (size, weight, etc.) and subsequently place them in the realistic context of the microenvironment in which they live.
Alongside my PhD thesis, I am also involved in many other Slovenian and international projects. Among others, we are working on lizards (Gallotia galloti) in Tenerife and their physiological adaptations, Portuguese salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) and the links between the colouration of organisms and physiology, the search for and development of modern methods to identify the presence of the Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata), adaptations of ectothermic organisms to mountain environments, and the population genetics of the alpine newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris) and its relict populations in the Slovenian Alps.