I am a Ph.D. student working on the project “The effects of protection on the reproductive biology of the Dusky grouper, Epinephelus marginatus (Lowe, 1834)”.
My Ph.D. is jointly supervised (co-tutelle) by Professors Carlotta Mazzoldi (University of Padova, Italy) and Paolo Guidetti (University Nice Sophia Antipolis, France). For my project I will also collaborate with Dr Lucia Di Iorio, belonging to CHORUS research group (Grenoble INP Foundation – GIPSA-lab, Grenoble, France). The study will be carried out at the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Tavolara – Punta Coda Cavallo (north-western Sardegna, Italy).
My research focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of Tavolara MPA in protecting dusky groupers’ spawning aggregations. The MPA efficacy evaluation will be based on the comparison between protected vs non-protected spawning grounds. Practically, I am going to:
- Reconstruct occurrences of spawning aggregations and abundance/size distribution patterns in the past, inside as well as outside Tavolara MPA, by conducting semi-structured interviews focused on local ecological knowledge of fishermen;
- Identify where reproductive aggregations are more likely to occur thanks to the study of physical habitat characteristics and the corresponding biological communities;
- Collect quantitative and qualitative data about reproductive behaviour (visual courtship displays and vocalizations) of dusky groupers’ aggregations by means of Underwater Visual Census (UVC) and Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM);
- Assess the contribution of protected spawning aggregations to depleted dusky grouper stocks, in terms of total reproductive output and related economic value.
This project will provide multifaceted key information about dusky grouper reproductive biology, spawning-related sound production, and behaviour. It will have major implications for evaluating the effectiveness of Tavolara MPA in protecting the most vulnerable life stage of this valuable endangered species.