From 27th to 29th June, twenty-five students of the Degree course in Biology of the Disit of Alessandria carried out ecological observations, botanical relevés and censuses of fauna in the Alpi Cozie, as part of an agreement between the Monviso Park and the University of Eastern Piedmont.
The students appreciated the direct contact with aspects of the biology they had only seen in books, followed for the botanical part by Prof. Graziella Berta and Prof. Guido Lingua and for zoological and ecological issues by Prof. Stefano Fenoglio. In addition to the UPO staff (Donata Vigani for logistical support, Dr. Irene Pellegrino for ornithological surveys, Prof. Mauro Patrone for some biochemical aspects and Prof Davide Porporato for an interesting anthropological classification of the area), there were several contributions from external technicians, such as the experts of ungulate censuses of CACN1 and CACN2, the ichthyologists of the Province of Cuneo, technicians of the Park and researchers of the University of Turin.
Professors Fenoglio, Lingua and Porporato are part of the ITALIAN MOUNTAIN LAB project, a MIUR project activated by UNIMONT, the University of Eastern Piedmont and the University of Tuscia. After a first introductory day in the territory of Crissolo, dedicated to river ecosystems, larch woods and hypogeal systems, the second day was characterized by a long excursion from the source of the Po river to Lake Chiaretto, with observations on the ecology of glacial lakes, on pioneer species and some endemisms such as the black Salamander of Lanza (“captured” with a beautiful color contrast on our official backpack!!!)
The last day was spent in the upper Varaita valley in the Bosco dell’Alevé, a unique Arolla Pine forest, characterized by trees up to five hundred years old, small ponds containing endemic crustaceans and large clearings where ungulates can be found. The students discovered that carnivorous plants and orchids live in the Italian Alps, together with insects of very ancient origins and new arrivals, such as the wolf. Seeing and experimenting directly in the field what had so far often only been learned in a classroom or laboratory made for an extremely interesting experience of great educational importance for future professionals who will be working in the environment.