I am interested in host–symbiont interactions and gut microbial ecology. During my Master’s thesis, in order to investigate colonization of lactobacilli in the mouse gut, I optimized several DNA fingerprinting techniques (DGGE, TTGE and SSCP) for the molecular discrimination of Lactobacillus spp. For my Ph.D., I worked on evolutionary and physiological aspects of protozoa–bacteria symbioses in the termite gut, a 1 µl-scale complex system, which offers the best conditions to understand gut microbial ecology.
Currently, I am investigating nitrogen fixation in the Frasassi caves (Italy). Nitrogen fixation by symbionts of Niphargus amphipods and in the cave biofilms will be studied. Sulfur oxidation is considered as the main microbial process inside the caves; however, nothing is known about other physiological roles of the cave bacteria. Preliminary results show that these dark caves are nitrogen limited, strongly suggesting existence of nitrogen fixation in the caves.