Roberto Cazzolla Gatti
Roberto Cazzolla Gatti
Roberto Cazzolla Gatti in a 2015 expedition in Gabon (Africa)
|Born||February 11, 1984|
Noci (BA), Italy
|Alma mater||University of Bari|
University of Tuscia
|Known for||autocatalysis of biodiversity, species-volume relationship, animal self-awareness, endogenosymbiosis, avoidance of competition, evolution of Gaia|
|Awards||Best Researcher 2016 TSU Award, Best e-learning course 2017 TSU Award|
|Institutions||University of Tuscia Italy |
Tomsk State University Russia
Purdue University USA
Roberto Cazzolla Gatti (born February 11, 1984) is an Italian environmental and evolutionary biologist, and biodiversity researcher who studies the evolution and the ecology of life on Earth. He serves as the Head and Scientific Coordinator of the MSc Program in Biodiversity and as an Associate Professor of Ecology and Biodiversity at the Biological Institute of the Tomsk State University, Russia.
He is also a Research Associate at the Forest Advanced Computing & Artificial Intelligence (FACAI) Lab and Coordinator of the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative (GFBI) Hub, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources of the Purdue University, USA.
He works as a freelance documentary photographer and wildlife filmmaker and coordinates geographic and scientific explorations of some of the most remote places on Earth.
He graduated in Biology (Bachelor's Degree), defending a thesis in Marine Ecology and in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology (Master's Degree, Hons) at the University of Bari, Italy, defending a thesis in Zoology and Anthropology ("Primate visual system and stereopsis"). He holds a Ph.D. in Forest Ecology earned at the University of Tuscia in Viterbo (Italy), studying the tropical forests of Africa and their biodiversity. He also holds a II Level master's degree (Hons) in International Policies and Global Environmental Protection earned at the University of Tuscia, defending a thesis on "Africa: biodiversity and climate change". He also received a diploma from the School in "Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services" at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany with a training in Peyresq, Alpes de Haute-Provence, France. He served for many years as a scientific advisor for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Italy and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN). He is a member of the CEM (Commission on Ecosystem Management), the SSC (Species Survival Commission) and the WCPA (World Commission on Protected Areas) of the IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature).
Besides conducting field research studies (he worked 5 years in the Mediterranean steppes and shrublands of southern Italy and the Balkans, 6 years in the tropical Africa, India, Indonesia and Australia, 3 years in Siberia), he is best known for arguing that biodiversity is an autocatalytic ecological and evolutionary process  and for providing evidence of non-primate animal self-awareness (for instance, studying dog's cognition with a novel "Sniff-test" ).
He also suggested several innovative hypotheses and theories in ecology and evolution such as the endogenosymbiotic origin of biodiversity, the canopy height-biodiversity relationship  (proposing the existence of a Species-Volume Relationship in ecology), the coexistence of species through the "avoidance of competition", and the fractal nature of the latitudinal biodiversity gradient.
He strongly advocates against considering competition as the main driver of evolution and endorses a reconsideration of the importance of cooperative/mutualistic relationships to explain the existence of biological diversity. In 2011, he proposed the "Biodiversity-related Niches Differentiation Theory (BNDT)" in which he argued that the number of niches in an ecosystem depends on the number of species present in a particular moment and that the species themselves allow the enhancement of niches in terms of space and number. He found that using a three-dimensional model as an ecological hypervolume and testing the theory on different ecosystems it is possible to demonstrate that each species plays a fundamental role in facilitating the colonization by other species by simply modifying the environment and exponentially increasing the available niches. The BNDT stresses the evidence that the process of niche differentiation is strictly addressed by species. This approach has various consequences, first in the reconsideration of the patterns of species coexistence and second in terms of a better understanding of the actual importance of cooperation and competition in the evolution of biological diversity.
In 2013, he wrote the novel-essay "The paradox of civilization" (in Italian: "Il paradosso della civiltà"). The book is inspired by his journeys in tropical areas, the encounters with African Pygmies and the life in the wild and narrates the abuses of civilised societies over the environment and indigenous people.
In 2018, in a paper entitled “Is Gaia alive? The future of a symbiotic planet” – published in the scientific journal “Futures” – he described different situations according to which “Gaia”, our Earth, would be able to reproduce and to transfer her planetary genome to other uninhabited or inhabited planets. Prof. Cazzolla Gatti argued that our species could act as a germinal cell carrying a specific planetary genome, but it is unlikely for Homo sapiens sapiens to reproduce (or survive disconnected from Earth) on another Gaian system. In what is considered a breakthrough in astrobiology, the Italian scientist hypothesised that human beings will reproduce Earth’s biosphere in the universe. ''However - he said - as a spermatozoon, which loses its flagellum and acrosome while entering into the egg of another body, therefore changing its identity, a human being can be considered just as a carrier of its body’s (i.e., Gaia’s) genetic information, not of himself: a means more than an aim''.
Books and monographs
- Biodiversity in Time and Space, Nova Science Publishing, New York, 352 pp., 2018
- Animali non umani. Una nuova coscienza: Saggi scelti e racconti, Key Editore, Vicalvi (FR), 154 pp., 2016
- Biodiversità, in teoria e in pratica, LibreriaUniversitaria.it Edizioni, Padova, 360 pp., 2014
- Il paradosso della civiltà, Adda Editore, 242 pp., 2013
- Ambienti, flora e fauna delle Murge di sud-est, Adda Editore, Bari, 520 pp. 2011
- Andrade A. P., Herrera B. F. and Cazzolla Gatti R., Building Resilience to Climate Change: Ecosystem-based adaptation and lessons from the field, IUCN, Gland (Switzerland), 164 pp., 2010
- Indonesia, il regno della bellezza, Villaggio Globale Editore, 72 pp., 63 photos, 2013
- India, i colori dell'anima, Villaggio Globale Editore, pp. 119, 111 photos, 2013
- Australia, l'enciclopedia della vita, Villaggio Globale Editore, 178 pp., 168 photos, 2014
- Africa, dove popoli e natura s'incontrano, Villaggio Globale Editore, 150 pp., 140 photos, 2014
- Itinerari naturalistici nella Puglia delle Murge. Escursioni e passeggiate tra Bari e Taranto, 3 volumi, 247 pp., 2013
References and selected publications
- Cazzolla Gatti, R., Hordijk, W., & Kauffman, S. (2017). Biodiversity is autocatalytic. Ecological Modelling, 346, 70-76.
- Cazzolla Gatti, R. (2016). Self-consciousness: beyond the looking-glass and what dogs found there. Ethology Ecology & Evolution, 28(2), 232-240.
- Cazzolla Gatti, R., Di Paola, A., Bombelli, A., Noce, S., & Valentini, R. (2017). Exploring the relationship between canopy height and terrestrial plant diversity. Plant Ecology, 218(7), 899-908.
- Cazzolla Gatti, R. (2016). A conceptual model of new hypothesis on the evolution of biodiversity. Biologia, 71(3), 343-351.
- Cazzolla Gatti, R. (2016). The fractal nature of the latitudinal biodiversity gradient. Biologia, 71(6), 669-672.
- Cazzolla Gatti, R. (2011). Evolution is a cooperative process: the biodiversity-related niches differentiation theory (BNDT) can explain why. Theoretical Biology Forum 104(1), 35-43
- Cazzolla Gatti, Roberto. "Is Gaia alive? The future of a symbiotic planet". Futures. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2018.07.010. ISSN 0016-3287.
- "Gaia, our planet, is alive and we are its spermatozoon, a new study suggests". Villaggio Globale.