CURRENT LAB MEMBERS
Cene Fišer – Assistant Professor, Group Leader
I am studying phenotype diversity and diversification within the subterranean amphipod genus Niphargus. A part of my research is dedicated to the on-going taxonomic revision of the genus, the other part to studying mechanisms underlying its evolutionary radiation.
Peter Trontelj – Professor of Evolutionary Biology
I am interested in the evolution of subterranean biodiversity at the phenotypic as well as the molecular level. Currently, with my PhD students and collaborators, I work on the question of adaptive radiation within extreme environments like caves, and on the processes that drive diversification and speciation in those environments.
Rudi Verovnik – Assistant Professor of Zoology
My main interest in cave organisms is connected with our model organism Asellus aquaticus and its phylogeograpy, speciation and adaptation to the subterranean environment. I am currently working also on the phylogeny and phylogeography of isopods in the genus Monolistra. In addition, I am involved in butterfly studies and conservation at national and European level.
Maja Zagmajster – Assistant Professor of Zoology, Researcher
My research is directed toward understanding patterns of biodiversity and distribution of subterranean species, from local to large scales (macroecology). I am managing the database SubBioDB. I am interested in general ecology and conservation of subterranean species, but also work on projects, related to distribution, ecology and conservation of bats.
Žiga Fišer – Teaching assistant
Caves are a unique ecological theater wherein evolutionary plays of adaptation and speciation get particularly dramatic. I study patterns and mechanisms of these two processes in the freshwater isopod Asellus aquaticus, famous for its mini-explosion of independent cave populations acros Europe. My focus is on behavioral ecology and I enjoy developing phenotyping pipelines using open-source hardware and software tools related to computer vision. However, I spend most of my time with students: I teach practical courses in evolution as well as vertebrate and invertebrate zoology.
Gregor Bračko – Independent Expert Associate
I work as an Independent Expert Associate in the SubBioLab, where I am involved with various practical courses for students and maintenance of our SubBio Database. Otherwise, my main interests are ants, especially faunistics of Balkan ants.
Špela Borko – PhD Student
My first steps into subterranean biology were via deep caves: I studied how subterranean fauna changes through the karst massif. In my PhD I will analyse evolutionary dynamics of target groups of subterranean crustaceans in the Dinarides. I am also interested in Alpine karst, its speleogenesis and subterranean fauna.
Knowing that there is a global hotspot of subterranean biodiversity in my garden, in the Dinarides, made me consider the possible reasons underlying it. Slowly, I started exploring the subterranean world and its inhabitants, and got interested in all the scales of research, from basic taxonomy and faunistics to biogeography and evolutionary processes.
I am interested in phylogeography, diversification and biogeographic patterns of subterranean fauna. Currently, my research is focused on different taxa: cave shrimps (Troglocaris and other atyids), the cave tube worm Marifugia cavatica, amphipods in the genus Niphargus and the European cave salamander Proteus anguinus. I am also interested in buterflies and their conservation.
Hans Recknagel – Post-doctoral Research Fellow
My research focuses on how major phenotypic changes arise repeatedly through molecular evolutionary processes. The transition from surface to caves is a famous example of convergent evolution, and I focus on Proteus cave salamanders to understand the genetic and selective forces at play resulting in the “cave phenotype”.
Behare Rexhepi – Researcher
Although a caver for longer time, I just recently became fully involved in speleobiology. After finishing lab training, with the onset of 2021 I’ve got an opportunity to continue my research in the subterranean domain. I am currently working in a molecular laboratory, but in the forthcoming period I will further broaden my working area in the field of microscopy.
Anja Pekolj – Researcher
I am a researcher on the project Life NarcIS – NAtuRe Conservation Information System. In my master thesis I studied morphometric differences between surface and cave populations of Synurella ambulans. Because I come from karst area I was always a bit fascinated by karst phenomena, especially by caves. Otherwise, my main interest is herpetology.
Luka Močivnik – Researcher
My work mostly focuses on the bioinformatic part of establishing Niphargus phlyogeny using exon capture and analysis of Proteus genome, searching for genetic foundations for its unique characteristics. My main interests currently lie in the bioinformatic and data aspects of research, in which I got interested during my masters studies and thesis. Apart from that I also have interest in image analysis.
Grega Benko – Researcher
My PhD research on cave parasites offered me a glimpse into the subterranean world. I am thrilled to continue my journey and unravel further mysteries of this captivating environment while contributing to the development of cave monitoring protocols as part of the LIFE-IP NATURA.SI project.
Vit Kukolja – Researcher
I have been interested in nature conservation since I was a child, and during my studies and my first job, I mostly dealt with invasive alien species. I previously worked on the Life-IP Natura.si project at the Fisheries Research Institute of Slovenia and joined SubBioLab in 2023 to work on various activities within Life NarcIS project, but with a focus on citizen science.
Iva Špilak – Researcher
I am an ecologist interested in intertwining of human and nature coexistence, with a focus on nature conservation agricultural systems. The core of my work involves restoration ecology. In the group I am working within ULTRA Biodiverziteta project, where I mostly explore restoration of agricultural landscape.
Currently, my main job is to develop microsatellite genetic markers for cave and surface populations of the freshwater isopod Asellus aquaticus. With this tool at hand, I plan to evaluate underground dispersal of aquatic organisms in karst landscapes. I also help with data acquisition for other subterranean animals and keep the molecular genetic laboratory clean and functional. Besides, I am interested in the biology and conservation of large carnivores.
Simona Prevorčnik – Assistant Professor
The main objects of my taxonomical work were isopod crustaceans from the genera Asellus and Monolistra. I was using morphometry and multivariate statistical tools to study their diversity and mechanisms of speciation.
Martin Turjak – PhD Student 2007-2012
During his PhD Martin developped a new “Hennigean” method for evaluating taxic synapomorphies on phylogenetic trees (Turjak & Trontelj 2012). He was also working on the SubBio Database and programming the user interface for the online version of the database (read more on the database page).
Professor Sket was one of the pioneering speleobiologists in Slovenia. As a professor at University of Ljubljana, he has been exploring all aspects of cave fauna since 1950ies and can be considered as a founder of SubBio Lab. His research opus encompass taxonomy, phylogeny, ecology, biogeography and conservation of different groups of crustaceans, leeches, cnidarians, clams, snails and Proteus. He also brought speleobiology to University curriculum. Unfortunately dr. Boris Sket passed away on 7. 5. 2023.