Research and Projects

Our current work lays at the interface between microbial ecology, microbial evolution and geochemistry. We integrate classic microbiology techniques with cutting-the-edge molecular and computational tools in order to investigate the role of microbes in shaping the environment, their interactions with abiotic factors and the drivers of evolution and adaptation.

We are particularly focused on extreme environments, for a number of different reasons. Extreme environments are hot spots of prokaryotic diversity and they are believed to significantly contribute to global biogeochemical budgets. The majority of the metabolic diversity of our planet is present in different extreme environments, where diverse redox conditions allow for a variety of elements and compounds to be cycled by microbes. The study of the prokaryotic diversity in extreme environments potentially holds the key to a better understanding of the functioning of our planet, both in an ecological and evolutionary context. Additionally, some extreme environments resemble conditions found early on our planet history, and might help in understanding the emergence and evolution of life and inform us on the search for life on other planets. For a recent review about the way I think about extremophiles and the search for life check out this paper, while an account of our most recent work on geothermal environments read this article appeared in Eos. Our approach to evolution and adaptation is esemplified by our work on the emergence on pathogenesis, and you can read more about this on a broad stroke article appeared in The Biochemist.

The majority of our work is focused on geothermal influenced environments, both terrestrial and marine, but we have ongoing projects on a variety of different environments. At the moment we are focusing on: i) the role of trace element availability in controlling microbial functional diversity; ii) the reconstruction of the emergence and evolution of energy conserving redox reactions in metabolism; and iii) the microbiology of geothermally-active tectonic settings, looking at the effect of microbiology on volatile cycling.

We also collaborate on several side projects, and new ideas jump-start in the lab anytime. Below you’ll find a list of present and past project, both funded and yet-to-be-funded, for which I am/was (Co)-PI or to which I participated as named collaborator. Contact me in case you are interested in having more info! Among the interesting things we do, I have highlighted a few below.

We have recently developed a new type of charts to visualized multivariate ranges (min-max-average). The Polygons plot is currently in beta version and we are working to develop a full R package. You can read more about the Polygons plot here.

The first polygons plot appeared in Merino et al. 2019 Frontiers in Microbiology. If you find the plot interesting or useful, consider citing the Merino et al. 2019 paper. More information about how to cite the Polygon plot are available at the section how to cite of the website.

All our protocols are being deposited into a GitHub repository, served through ReadTheDocs and released as a Zenodo object with a DOI every time we submit a new preprint. You can see our online protocols heading to the Giovannelli Lab protocol repository. Additionally, the data and the code used for a paper are also released in GitHub with a Zenodo assigned DOI. This is designed to increase science reproducibility, providing the exact version of the laboratory protocols used to obtain the data, the data and the code to reproduce the analysis. We are strong supporters of the FAIR principles, and we invest significant time and effort to ensure high standards of data management and sharing.

To this end, we have recently started to develop a geo-referenced database to host all our data and cross linking to public domain specific repositories. The project, called CoEvolve Database it still in its infancy but we hope to get the database online soon(ish) and release the code so that anyone can reuse and adapt the database architecture.

Soon we will also upload pages specific to our laboratory capabilities and to the 3D printing of laboratory and field material. Check back in the new few months for updates.

Finally, we have recently launched our new CoEvolve project website, containing all the updates and information related to the ERC Starting grant funded project. Head to the website if you are interested in the latest about the project.


Not-yet-funded current projects

the Polygons plot

The microbial diversity of the Campania Region geothermal sites

The CoEvolve Database development


Current funded projects:

2021 Giovannelli D (PI). Italian Arctic Program (PRA). “Melting-ICE: ”Impact of climate change-induced permafrost and ice melting on the biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of Arctic environments”

2020 Giovannelli D (PI). ERC Starting Grant 2020. “CoEvolve: ”Coevolution of Life and Planet: role of trace metal availability in the evolution of biogeochemically relevant redox metalloenzymes”


Past Projects

2016 Barry P (PI), de Moor M, Giovannelli D, Hummer D, Lloyd K, Lopez T and Pratt K (Co-PIs). Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Biology Meets Subduction: A Collaborative and Multi-disciplinary Deep Carbon Field Initiative”

2016 Colwell F (PI) , Giovannelli D, Morgan L, Pratt K, Reysenbach AL, Shanks P (Co-PIs). Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The second Deep Carbon Observatory Summer School

2015 Vetriani C (PI), Fostoukos D (PI) and Giovannelli D (Co-PI). NSF Molecular and Cellular Biosciences: Collaborative Research “Carbon fixation, anaerobic respiration and ROS detoxification in the anaerobic vent bacterium, Thermovibrio ammonificans”

2015 Collaborator: NASA Exobiology Exo/Evo program (Frank Robb and Costantino Vetriani PIs): Sentinel Microbes that Utilize Carbon Monoxide as Energy and Carbon Source

2014 Bongioni L (PI), Viaroli P, Sfriso A, Pallavicini A, Giovannelli D (Co-Pis). Lifewatch-Italy, distributed Laboratory of Molecular Biodiversity, “Responses of benthic microbial diversity and functioning to the recent invasion of Gracilaria vermiculophylla in the lagoon of Venice”

2013 C-DEBI postdoctoral fellowship for the study of “Alternative carbon fixation strategies in Thermovibrio ammonificans: a model system to study energy limitation in the deep biosphere” – http://www.darkenergybiosphere.org/

2011 – 2014. Collaborator: NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity, Collaborative Research (Costantino Vetriani, S. Sievert and D. Foustoukos): An integrated study of energy metabolism, carbon fixation, and colonization mechanisms in chemosynthetic microbial communities at deep-sea vents

2011 – 2014. Collaborator: NSF Biological Oceanography, Collaborative Research (Costantino Vetriani, S. Sievert and D. Foustoukos): Autotrophic carbon fixation at a shallow-water hydrothermal system: Constraining microbial activity, isotopic and geochemical regimes

2014 Giovannelli D (PI), Cox A, Hummer D, Pratt K, Sheik C, Thomas D, Viveiros F (Co-Pis). Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The second Deep Carbon Observatory Early Career Scientist Workshop – www.tinyurl.com/DCOEarlyCareer

2010 Giovannelli D (PI). PNRA (National Antarctic Research Program of Italy) Young Researcher Project “Diversity and functioning of Prokaryotic communities in shallow Antarctic waters, pre and post ice melting” 2010/C1.03

2008 – 2010. Collaborator: European Science Foundation project BIOFUN (BIOdiversity and ecosystem FUNctioning in deep seas)

2006 – 2008. Collaborator: EU founded project REEFRES (Developing Ubiquitous Restoration Practices for Indo-Pacific Coral Reefs; FPV1)