P1-0386 – Conservation biology, from molecules to ecosystem


1. 1. 2018 – 31. 12. 2023

Lead partner:

University of Primorska, Faculty of Health Sciences

Project partners:

University of Primorska Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies

Principal Researcher:

Prof. Darja Barlič Maganja (SICRIS, ResearchGate)

Team at UP FHS:

Assoc. Prof. Zala Jenko Pražnikar (SICRIS, ResearchGate)
Assoc. Prof. Mihaela Jurdana (SICRIS, ResearchGate)
Assist. Prof. Ana Petelin (SICRIS, ResearchGate)
Assist. Prof. Saša Kenig (SICRIS, ResearchGate)



Overexploitation of natural resources and other man-driven changes in the ecosystem result in the massive biodiversity loss and in the alteration of ecosystem’s structure and function. For understanding ecosystem functioning and for planning their conservation, the interdisciplinary scientific approach is needed which include different fields such as taxonomy, applied ecology, genetics, transcriptomics, molecular and cellular biology and public health. We are investigating both, natural and anthropogenic Mediterranean habitats as drivers of both positive and negative impacts on human health. The research program is organized into three work packages: 1) conservation ecology 2) conservation genetics and 3) healthy Mediterranean ecosystem. In the field of conservation ecology, the research is focused on ecology of endangered natural and human-disturbed terrestrial systems; and conservation ecology of marine systems. Studies include different taxa of plants and animals, which are either endangered or can serve as bioindicators of human-induced changes. Ecological data are upgraded with genetic and population studies using various molecular technologies. The special attention is given to local adaptation and genetic differentiation between populations. In the field of healthy Mediterranean ecosystem the multidisciplinary research is focused on health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The increasing demand for natural antioxidants, together with the introduction of new technologies to meet the new quality standards, justifies the search for new sources of natural bioactive compounds. Our studies include plant metabolism and physiology through identification of biomarkers, investigation of metabolic pathways, study of stress tolerance mechanisms, and analysis of food. Using molecular and biological tools different bioactive compounds among plants are determined, their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity as well as health benefits and their use for new commercial dietary products are investigated. Particular attention is drawn to the use of by-products as a source material, which will allow us to reduce the burden to the environment and optimize economical value of particular crops. The research program includes various methods: sampling of plant and animal material in selected habitats, tissue sampling for genetic, skeletocronological and ecotoxicological analyses, microscopy, morphometric, genetic and chemical analyses, methods of cell biology, microbiology and molecular biology and clinical interventional studies.

The authors acknowledge the financial support from the Slovenian Research Agency  – research core funding No. P1-0386.