“There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea.” – Joseph Conrad

False Bay Water Quality Project


In this project we aim to understand the role of mussels in controlling water quality in South African coastal areas, focusing on False Bay, Africa largest natural bay. Our main hypothesis is that intertidal filter feeders play a fundamental role in mitigating anthropogenic inputs to impacted coastal areas, thus helping to maintain good water quality. Investigation into the role of mussels will be augmented by measurements of water chemistry (e.g., nutrients) and isotopes (e.g., of dissolved nitrate, which provides information about different nitrogen source (pollutant and natural)) to the bay, as well as how long they persist and how they are processed, as well as rates of important nitrogen and carbon cycle processes.

This project involves collaboration with my advisor Dr Sarah Fawcett from UCT, Dr Francesca Porri from the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB), and Dr David Walker and Dr Conrad Sparks from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

Southern Ocean and South African coastline Offshore Research

I have been working on a project at the Southern Ocean Prince Edward Islands (PEI) as part of the South African National Antarctic Program (SANAP). The project mainly focuses on understanding trophic dynamics of benthic populations around the PEI in relation to climate changes, using fatty acid and stable isotope analyses. The work was conducted during two annual cruises to the PEIs (2015, 2016), where I was the lead researcher for benthic collections in both voyages and group leader for the UCT Oceanography team in 2016, overseeing four postgraduate students each year. 

Sampling benthic deep sea fauna using a dredge on board of the SA Agulhas II

Gaimardia trapesina


Another project conducted still at the PEI aims to provide information on the ecology and distribution of the mussels Gaimardia trapesina. This research is conducted in collaboration with Dr Charles von der Meden.

On a similar line, I established a collaboration with the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina), in which we are looking at circumpolar genetics of populations of this species.




I am collaborating in several South African projects which are part of the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP). The projects aim to increase the present knowledge of water circulation along the coast of South Africa, with the aim to establish new marine protected areas (MPAs).  In these projects, I am collaborating with researchers from the Department of Environmental Affairs of South Africa (DEA), the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) and the SCRIPPS Institute of Oceanography. 


Intertidal Research

The barnacle Chthamalus dentatus


This comparison investigates the trophic relationship between mussels and their associate epibiont barnacles. In particular this study focuses on the mussels Perna perna and the barnacles Chthamalus dentatus



The mussel Perna perna



This investigation aims to evaluate the effect of upwelling on the stable isotope signatures of the mussels Perna perna and Mytilus galloprovincialis from several countries by comparing recognised upwelling centres and downstream sites. The study is conducted in South Africa, Morocco, Brazil and Oman.





Example of temperature logger deployed on the rocky shore


Another aspect of my research involves the use of temperature loggers on the rocky shore in order to characterize the frequency and intensity of upwelling events. This research is conducted in collaboration with Dr Nicolas Weiberg.





Urbanized rocky shore- Durban, South Africa



Part of my research focuses on the ecology and trophic relationships of intertidal filter feeders, with particular interest in the effects of upwelling, proximity to rivers, biogeographic regions and urbanization on the dietary regime of two mussels species (Mytilus galloprovincialisPerna perna) and three barnacles species (Octomeris angulosaChthamalus dentatusTetraclita serrata) along the south African rocky shore. This research is conducted with the use of fatty acid and stable isotope analyses.




Mytilus galloprovicialis and Perna perna on the South Africa soth coast


The present study aims to investigate if the diets of the invasive mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis on the South African coastand the indigenous Perna perna differ where they co-occur in mixed-species mussel beds. In particular, we aim to assess if the two species rely on different food using fatty acid and stable isotope approaches.




In this experiment we evaluated the combined effects of disturbance events with different characteristics of intensity and duration, crossed with the loss of a canopy-forming alga and its replacement by a dominant one, on cover and diversity of Italian rock pool assemblages. 




Rockpool manipulated

Plates used for manipulating algae diversity, richness and density 

This research investigated the role of biodiversity in the functioning of ecosystems. In particular, the study was part of a European project (BIOFUSE) within the network of excellence MARBEF. In the study we manipulated algal populations, to test the hypothesis that changes in richness, identity and density of algae can influence the colonization of the substratum and the diversity of other species.