Elena Valsecchi

Elena Valsecchi
Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca | UNIMIB · Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

PhD in Molecular Ecology
For decades I have been involved in the study of marine mammals, based on their DNA... lately on their eDNA!

About

64
Publications
5,317
Reads
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921
Citations
Citations since 2017
11 Research Items
220 Citations
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Additional affiliations
October 2016 - June 2022
Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca
Position
  • Senior Lecturer
Description
  • MARINE VERTEBRATE ZOOLOGY (within "MARINE SCIENCES" master course)
October 2011 - June 2014
Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca
Position
  • Senior Lecturer
Description
  • STUDY AND MANAGEMENT OF WILDLIFE COMMUNITIES
October 2010 - June 2012
Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca
Position
  • Professor (Associate)
Description
  • ADVANCED TECHNIQUES IN ECOLOGY
Education
February 1991 - December 1996
University of Cambridge
Field of study
  • Molecular Ecology
September 1986 - February 1990
University of Pavia
Field of study
  • Degree in Biological Sciences, thesis on “Echolocation in captive dolphins” (full mark,110/110eL)

Publications

Publications (64)
Article
Full-text available
Although predictable in its areas of occurrence, many aspects of humpback whale migration are still poorly understood. Nuclear DNA analysis has revealed a low level of relatedness among whales using the same migratory corridor, and has shown that closely related individuals tend not to travel in spatial association. Yet it still remains uncertain w...
Article
Full-text available
Metabarcoding studies using environmental DNA (eDNA) and high‐throughput sequencing (HTS) are rapidly becoming an important tool for assessing and monitoring marine biodiversity, detecting invasive species, and supporting basic ecological research. Several barcode loci targeting teleost fish and elasmobranchs have previously been developed, but to...
Preprint
Full-text available
Marine environmental DNA (eDNA) is an important tool for biodiversity research and monitoring but challenges remain in scaling surveys over large spatial areas, and increasing the frequency of sampling in remote locations at reasonable cost. Here we demonstrate the feasibility of sampling from commercial vessels (Mediterranean ferries) while underw...
Article
Full-text available
The monk seal is the most endangered pinniped worldwide and the only one found in the Mediterranean, where its distribution and abundance have suffered a drastic decline in the last few decades. The limited understanding of the population demographics and conservation status of this species are due to both its rarity and evasiveness, with records b...
Article
Full-text available
Microsatellites are one of the most important classes of nuclear genetic markers and offer many advantages for the study of marine mammals. Here we describe the isolation and characterization of 12 cetacean microsatellites which are then tested across 30 different cetacean species. For around half the species tested, five or more polymorphic loci w...
Preprint
Full-text available
Collecting fine-scale occurrence data for marine species across large spatial scales is logistically challenging, but is important to determine species distributions and for conservation planning. Inaccurate descriptions of species ranges could result in designating protected areas with inappropriate locations or boundaries. Optimising sampling str...
Preprint
The monk seal, the most endangered pinniped worldwide and the only one found in the Mediterranean, has suffered a drastic decline in the last few decades. Nowadays molecular techniques allow to detect minute amounts of DNA released in the environment (eDNA) by any organism. We present three qPCR-assays targeting the monk seal mitogenome. The assays...
Article
Full-text available
Fifteen franciscanas, including four members of a putative social group, were genetically typed in order to: (1) obtain insights into the social organisation of this poorly known dolphin species; and (2) clarify its population sub-structure across the species range. Samples were screened for 10 nuclear markers (microsatellites) and sequenced for 26...
Article
Full-text available
Marine environmental DNA (eDNA) is an important tool for biodiversity research and monitoring but challenges remain in scaling surveys over large spatial areas, and increasing the frequency of sampling in remote locations at reasonable cost. Here we demonstrate the feasibility of sampling from commercial vessels (Mediterranean ferries) while underw...
Article
Full-text available
Molecular-based approaches for species identification and delimitation strongly relies, in terms of universality and efficiency, on the selected markers. Conventionally, when adopting a DNA barcoding approach to discriminate (or identify) metazoans species, the marker choice falls on the 658 base pair region at the 5’ end of the mitochondrial COI g...
Preprint
Full-text available
The monk seal is the most endangered pinniped worldwide and the only one found in the Mediterranean, where its distribution and abundance have suffered a drastic decline in the last few decades. Data on its status are scattered due to both its rarity and evasiveness, and records are biased towards occasional, mostly coastal, encounters. Nowadays mo...
Preprint
Full-text available
This paper presents four novel primer sets targeting 12S and 16S vertebrate mitogenome regions, with a particular focus on marine mammals. Using a combination of ‘in silico’ validation, and application to eDNA samples from aquarium communities with known species composition, we show the loci to have high potential for metabarcoding and eDNA studies...
Article
Full-text available
In this study we describe a new set of primers specifically designed for the amplification of the mitochondrial control region in skates of the Rajinae subfamily. The suitability of the amplified region as molecular marker was tested on three Mediterranean skates species of commercial interest (Raja clavata, Raja asterias and Raja miraletus). Fifty...
Article
Full-text available
Rajidae (colloquially known as skates and rays) experienced multiple and parallel adaptive radiations allowing high species diversity and great differences of species composition between regional faunas. Nevertheless, they show considerable conservation of bio-ecological, morphological and reproductive traits. The evolutionary history and dispersal...
Article
Between 1990 and 1992, Mediterranean striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) suffered high mortality due to a morbillivirus epidemic. Ten highly variable microsatellite markers were used to assess the population structure of a sample of these stranded animals and to assess the genetic consequences of the epizootic on present stocks. We found littl...
Article
Full-text available
Although largely solitary, humpback whales exhibit a number of behaviours where individuals co-operate with one another, for example during bubble net feeding. Such cases could be due to reciprocal altruism brought on by exceptional circumstances, for example the presence of abundant shoaling fish. An alternative explanation is that these behaviour...
Article
We describe the cloning and characterization of five highly polymorphic microsatellite loci cloned from aduncus dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) from Western Australia. Five polymorphic microsatellite loci were isolated and tested on up to 350 animals, showing 7–23 alleles and expected heterozygosity values from 0.68 to 0.89. We also tested the loci on...
Article
Full-text available
Sloughed whale skin contains enough DNA for genetic analysis, and offers a non-intrusive method for collecting tissue. Here, we examine the efficiency of sloughed skin sampling using 1460 samples collected from free-ranging humpback whales. Samples were sexed and screened for up to 10 microsatellite markers. The vast majority of samples appear gene...
Article
Full-text available
Mitochondrial DNA haplotypes of humpback whales show strong segregation between oceanic populations and between feeding grounds within oceans, but this highly structured pattern does not exclude the possibility of extensive nuclear gene flow. Here we present allele frequency data for four microsatellite loci typed across samples from four major oce...

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Projects

Projects (6)
Project
The LIFE CONCEPTU MARIS project aims at improving the conservation status of species of cetaceans and pelagic sea turtles (CEPTU), listed in Annex II-IV of the EU Habitats Directive, in the Mediterranean Sea. It will do this by filling the information gap on spatiotemporal ecological needs, to identify important offshore marine sites, and by establishing an internationally-agreed approach to support and further develop the surveillance of CEPTU conservation status and to assess the maritime traffic and marine litter impact. In particular, the project aims at: - collect information on the ecological needs of the target species for the mapping of areas important for their conservation; - collect information on the main threats for the mapping of high-risk areas / seasons in which the application of conservation measures will be a priority; - define an effective standard approach for the long-term surveillance of the conservation status of the different species in their range; - foster international cooperation for the development and adoption of shared procedures in order to support the identification of important areas and for the long-term surveillance of the conservation status of the target species and for the identification of the most suitable mechanism to meet the species conservation needs. Eleven scientific partners collaborate to implement the project: ISPRA - Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (Beneficiary coordinator), Milano Bicocca University, Centro Euro-Mediterraneo Cambiamenti Climatici (CMCC), Palermo University, Capo Carbonara MPA, Triton Research Srl, Stazione Zoologica A.Dohrn (SZN), Universitat de Valencia, EcoOceàn Institut, Turin University, CIMA Foundation. https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/life/publicWebsite/project/details/5707 https://www.isprambiente.gov.it/en/projects/biodiversity/conceptu-maris-201cconservation-of-cetaceans-and-pelagic-sea-turtles-in-med-managing-actions-for-their-recovery-in-sustainability201d?set_language=en
Project
We are proudly a partner of this ambitious multidisciplinary project, funded by EU, just launched and of the duration of 4 years (2022-2026). We will be in charge of organizing, coordinating and carry out the marine environmental DNA collection/analysis over 16 Mediterranean ferry routes. Molecular data will be used synergistically with other approaches (e.g. direct observation, stable isotope analysis, use of multi-scale sensors for real-time environmental data collection, remote sensing and development of model based products) for the long-term surveillance of CEPTU species (cetaceans and pelagic turtles) and the identification of important offshore marine sites deserving attention and dedicated conservation measures to be implemented. Read here for more details about the project: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/life/publicWebsite/project/details/5707
Project
Develop species specific qPCR assays able to intercept minute traces of monk seal DNA within marine water samples.