Research on the ecology and phylogenetics of the edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum Cass.) in the Risnjak National Park

This student research project will focus on investigating the phylogeny and pollinator ecology of the strictly protected edelweiss plant.

Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum Cass.) is a herbaceous perennial from the sedge family. It is widespread in parts of Europe and Asia, and in our region it is included in the Ordinance on Strictly Protected Species (OG 144/2013). It is present in several locations in Croatia, including in the area of the Risnjak National Park.

This project was conceived as an analysis of three edelweiss populations on Mount Risnjak. Field trips are scheduled for the period of edelweiss flowering, i.e. at the end of July or beginning of August. Over the course of three days, we will visit three locations where eelgrass
is known to live naturally. All locations are significantly distant from each other and have special microclimatic conditions. Field analyzes will include an inventory of pollinators at the location where plants bloom with a focus on Hymenoptera insects. The inventory will be conducted using entomological nets as a selective method and using pan-traps as a non-selective method of catching Hymenoptera.

We put the insects caught with the net in separate containers and kill them by freezing them. Pollen samples will be taken from these insects and compared with the pollen of the edelweiss plant. With this method, we will enable the determination of the pollinators that pollinate the
researched plant in these locations. The samples collected by pan-traps will give us an insight into the wider spectrum of the insect population at the researched locations. The field trips will also include taking tissue samples, in our case flower heads, which will be
used for genetic analysis and comparison of the three mentioned populations. The collected samples will be stored in silica gel to be dried quickly, which will preserve the DNA. Samples for DNA analysis will be stored until the beginning of the new academic year, when we will isolate DNA in the laboratory and prepare samples for trnL-trnF and ITS1-ITS2 region sequencing. Sequencing will be done in a service that offers this procedure. After obtaining the sequences, the population composition and genetic diversity will be analyzed