Notes on Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”

In 1890, Józef Teodor Nałęcz Konrad Korzeniowski, polish sailor of noble origins, travels in the Congo Free State, colonial enterprise of the king of Belgium. The atrocities he witnesses trouble his mind and conscience to the point that he falls into a depression. Years later (1899), Józef, who has settled down in England and has changed his name in Joseph Conrad, writes and publishes “Heart of Darkness”, in which he faces his demons and crystallizes his pessimism about colonial ventures. Continue reading

Coming next: South Africa (passing by Borneo)

More big news! Some time ago I wrote a research project to test the geographic mosaic of coevolution using some South African plants and their pollinators as model system. The idea is to assess how the community composition of plants and pollinators affect the strength of the ecological interaction between each focus plant and their pollinators, and how this reflects on the tightness of their coevolution. The South Africans (specifically the Leon Foundation) liked it and funded it. After a bit of thinking, the Swiss (SNF) decided that they liked it too, and they funded it as well. So in May I will move to SA to work on my project, together with prof. Bruce Anderson and prof. Steve Johnson, with funding for up to three years and a half.

In the meantime I am spending some of these gap months travelling in Borneo for a personal project which I started thinking about two years ago, the first time I came on the island. On that first visit, Borneo struck me as a land of contrasts, with primeval rainforests threatened by logging and oil palm plantations. Back then I was reading “Stranger in the Forest”, a book that tells the adventures of Eric Hansen, a journalist who in 1982 walked across the island on foot. I am using this book as an inspiration and a reference to see how Borneo changed in the last 30 years. Follow my Bornean walkabout here!

PhD defense!

Public Service Announcement: the coming monday (September 7th) I am defending my PhD thesis “Effects of temperature on the population dynamics, biotic interactions, and diversity of freshwater protists”. The talk starts at 15:00 in room Y34-J-01, Irchel campus, Zurich. More importantly, the apero starts at 17:00 at the greenhouse! See you there! plebani-defense-flyer[get pdf]

Come si comportano le piante per attirare i loro impollinatori

[english version]

Recentemente ho pubblicato, insieme a Olive Imanizabayo, Dennis Hansen, e Scott Armbruster, un articolo dove esaminiamo come il ‘comportamento’ dei fiori possa influenzarne l’impollinazione. Ci siamo concentrati, in particolare, sul movimento di certe strutture extraflorali, e su come questo possa modificare l’accesso ai fiori da parte degli insetti impollinatori. Continue reading