My research is focused on understanding the role of biotic interactions in plant functioning. Given that ongoing global change can alter the frequency, intensity and direction of biotic interactions, it is of pressing importance to determine their role in affecting ecosystem function. I am particularly interested in how climate change might induce changes in biotic interactions (plant-herbivore, plant-pollinator, plant-decomposer, plant-plant) and how these changes may affect important ecosystem processes (e.g. litter decomposition, biomass production, energy transfer between plants and their consumers).
During my Phd, I investigated the effect of harsh abiotic factors (e.g. lack of nutrients, increased soil heavy metals) on plant diversity and functional trait composition, while, at the same time, I had the opportunity to collaborate with insect ecologists and to explore the effect of climate change on butterfly, orthoptera and spider communities. These collaborations made me realize the complexity of nature, and thus I decided to direct my research towards interactions of plants with other living organisms. Consequently, during my first postdoc at Temple University (USA), I investigated the effects of climate change and prescribed fire on the distribution of host-plant populations and their interactions with rare butterfly species. Later, on my postdoc position at the University of Calgary (Canada), I investigated the effect of pollinator visitation on plant functioning of a globally important crop, under different plant density, water availability and fertilization treatments. During my recent postdoc at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution – University of Bern (Switzerland), I explored the direct and indirect (through changes on the host-plant functional traits) effects of temperature and soil type on plant-herbivore interactions.