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Staff Profile of Dr Giulia Zancolli

Dr Giulia Zancolli
Research Officer
01248 383822
3rd Floor, ECW Building, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Deiniol Road, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2UW, UK


Variation in venom composition is ubiquitous in snakes, and causes grave problems to snakebite treatment. The underlying drivers and mechanisms of this variation remain poorly understood, particularly the relative importance of diet and gene flow between populations, and the underlying genetic (gene/genome level) mechanisms.

In southwestern USA, the Mohave rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) provides an ideal model system as it displays extreme variation in venom composition across a continuous range. Most populations have venoms rich in highly lethal Mohave toxin (MTX; venom type A), however, some central populations lack MTX but are rich in metalloproteinases (SVMP; type B). Intermediate venom phenotypes are also found (A+B). How and why this variation arises remains insufficiently understood. Together with Wolfgang Wüster and John Mulley, we aim to explore the interaction between venom variation, diet and gene flow, and the underlying genetic mechanisms, particularly whether differences are caused by the presence of absence of toxin genes, or by differences in their expression as toxins.




Quick CV


2010 – 2013 Doctorate degree at the University of Würzburg (Germany). PhD thesis: “Amphibian diversity along the slope of Mount Kilimanjaro: from species to genes”
2007 – 2009 Master degree in “Conservation and Animal Biodiversity” at the University of Turin (Italy). MSc thesis: “Vulnerability and Conservation of Pelobates fuscus insubricus in Piedmont”
2003 – 2007 Bachelor degree in “Natural Sciences” at the University of Turin (Italy). BSc thesis: “Analysis of the diet of Sardinian brook salamander Euproctus platycephalus

Research experience and training

Jun 2013 Summer School in Bioinformatics. EMBL-EBI Wellcome Trust Center, Hinxton, Cambridge (UK)
Jan - Feb 2013 European Course on Comparative Genomics. Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Lyon (France)
Aug - Nov 2012 Research stay at the Storfer lab, Washington State University. Pullman (WA, USA)
May 2012 GIS workshop. DFG Funded Research Group Kilimanjaro, University of Würzburg (Germany)
May - Aug 2008 Molecular lab technician for the project “Molecular ecology of the elephant seals (genus Mirounga) using microsatellites as molecular markers”. Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, Ensenada (Mexico)
May - Aug 2007 Eco-volunteer in ACE (American Conservation Experience). Flagstaff (AZ, USA)

Field work

  • Southwestern USA
  • Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)
  • Ticino Valley Natural Park (northern Italy)
  • Sardinia (Italy)

Conferences and meetings

  • Vancouver (Canada), 8-14 August 2012. VII World Congress of Herpetology
  • Luxembourg, 25-29 September 2011. 16th European Congress of Herpetology
  • Craheim (Germany), 11-13 June 2010. Graduate School of Life Sciences Fellow Symposium
  • Oristano (Italy), 1-5 October 2008. VII National Congress of the “Societas Herpetologica Italica”


  • Career Development Fellowship (Graduate School of Life Sciences, University of Würzburg), January 2014 – June 2014
  • Travel grant “DAAD PROMOS” from the University of Würzburg Graduate Schools (UWGS) for attendance at the “Joint EMBL-EBI Wellcome Trust Summer School in Bioinformatics” in Cambridge (UK), 2013
  • Travel grant from the Universitätsbund Würzburg for attendance at the World Congress of Herpetology in Vancouver (Canada), 2012
  • DFG Excellence Initiative Fellowship (Graduate School of Life Sciences, University of Würzburg), April 2010 – September 2013


Research Interests

Current Project:

Going with the flow? The genetic and genomic basis for snake venom evolution

Principal investigator(s) of project(s):
Wolfgang Wüster

Co-investigator(s) of project(s):
John Mulley

Funding body of project(s):
The Leverhulme Trust




  • Peters M, Hemp A, Appelhans T, Behler C, Classen A, Detsch F, Ensslin A, Ferger S, Frederiksen S, Gebert F, Haas M, Helbig-Bonitz M, Hemp C, Kindeketa WJ, Mwangomo E, Ngereza C, Otte I,  Röder J, Rutten G, Schellenberger Costa D, Tardanico J, Zancolli G, Deckert J, Eardley C, Peters R, Rödel MO, Schleuning M, Ssymank A, Kakengi V, Zhang J, Böhning-Gaese K, Brandl R, Kalko E, Kleyer M, Nauss T, Tschapka M, Fischer M, Steffan-Dewenter I (accepted) Predictors of elevational biodiversity gradients change from single taxa to the multi-taxa community level. Nature Communications.
  • Zancolli G, Baker TG, Barlow A, Bradley RK, Calvete JJ, Carter KC, de Jager K, Owens JB, Price JF, Sanz L, Scholes-Higham A, Shier L, Wood L, Wüster CE, Wüster W (2016) Is hybridization a source of adaptive venom variation in rattlesnakes? A test, using a Crotalus scutulatus x viridis hybrid zone in southwestern New Mexico. Toxins 8:188, doi:10.3390/toxins8060188.
  • Zancolli G, Mahsberg D, Sickel W, Keller A (2015) Reptiles as reservoirs of bacterial infections: real threat or methodological bias? Microbial Ecology 70:579-584.
  • Zancolli G, Rödel MO, Steffan-Dewenter I, Storfer A (2014) Comparative landscape genetics of two river frog species at different elevations on Mount Kilimanjaro. Molecular Ecology 23:4989-5002.
  • Zancolli G, Steffan-Dewenter I, Rödel MO (2014) Amphibian diversity on the roof of Africa: unveiling the effects of habitat degradation, altitude and biogeography. Diversity and Distributions 20:297-308.
  • Zancolli G, Storfer A, Rödel MO (2013) Detection of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in river frogs (genus Amietia) on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Herpetological Review 44:611-614.
  • Sotgiu G, Zancolli G, Bovero S, Angelini C, Giacoma C (2008) Analisi della dieta di Euproctus platycephalus (“Diet analysis of Euproctus platycephalus”). Herpetologia Sardiniae (ed. Corti C.). Societas Herpetologica Italica / Edizioni Belvedere, Latina, “Le Scienze” (8).

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