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The Center hosts high-level research symposia, fosters exchanges with the international scientific community, and provides regular opportunities to raise awareness about human-induced climate change and environmental sustainability within the AUP and broader Paris communities. The Center’s research, directed by Professor Elena Berg, includes projects in the fields of evolutionary biology, animal behavior, systematics and climate change and provides opportunities for student–faculty research collaborations.


In the past, research at the Center focused primarily on terrestrial beetles and freshwater invertebrates. More recently, we have phased out the work on freshwater invertebrates and expanded instead to include marine sea molluscs.

We house several populations of seed beetles (Callosobruchus maculatus) in three state-of the-art climate chambers, which maintain precise temperature, humidity and daylight conditions and can be used to investigate a wide variety of questions in evolutionary biology and to study climate-driven differentiation among species.

Our upcoming work on biofluorescence in sea molluscs will be conducted in our research lab in collaboration with the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, CNRS, and the Aquarium de Paris. Below, you’ll find links to some of our student-centered research projects.

Kin but Less Than Kind: Within-Group Male Relatedness Does Not Increase Female Fitness in Seed Beetles

Over the course of two years, undergraduate Shannon Monahan and Professor Berg conducted an experiment examining the impact of male kinship patterns on female reproductive success. This study is now published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (see full text here).

Inbreeding Reduces Fitness of Seed Beetles Under Thermal Stress

Human-induced environmental change can influence populations both at the global level through climatic warming and at the local level through the fragmentation or destruction of habitats. As populations become more isolated, they can suffer from high levels of inbreeding, which can contribute to a reduction in the health and number of offspring. This reduction in reproductive health, or “fitness,” is termed inbreeding depression. However, it is still unclear if this increase in inbreeding also results in a corresponding increase in sensitivity to stressful conditions, which could intensify the already damaging effects of environmental warming.

In a series of experiments conducted in the spring and fall of 2019, Professor Berg, lab technician Sophie Bricout, AUP undergraduate Victoria Candela, and two collaborators from the University of East Anglia assessed the life-long impact of increased mutation load and elevated temperature on key life-history traits in the seed beetle. They found that beetles raised at higher temperatures had far-reduced fitness and survival than beetles from control temperatures. Importantly, these negative effects were exacerbated in inbred beetles as a result of increased mutation load, with further detrimental effects manifesting on individual hatching probability and lifetime reproductive success.

These results reveal the harmful impact that increasing temperatures, and the increasing likelihood of habitat fragmentation due to anthropogenetic changes in environmental conditions, could have on populations of organisms worldwide. The study is now published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology (full article available here).

Impacts of Projected Climate Change on the Evolution of Behavior and Life History of Seed Beetles

Professor Berg and Professor Claudio Piani are conducting a long-term experiment on the impacts of climate change (increased and more variable temperatures) on seed beetle reproduction, development and body size. The first phase of the experiment is complete and will be submitted for publication shortly. The second phase is underway and should be completed by the end of 2023.

Bioluminescence in Sea Molluscs

Professor Manuel Caballer Gutierrez and Professor Berg are designing a behavioral experiment on fluorescent marine molluscs, which they intend to carry out in 2022–23. Specifically, it will examine how heterobranch sea slugs (molluscs without a shell) from the genus Berghia respond under different light conditions. This group of molluscs was selected because they possess fluorescent pigments, the function of which is unknown, but which may play a role in species recognition.

Caballer and Berg have been working with Olivier Fauvarque and Justin Rouxel from IFREMER (Centre de Bretagne, Laboratoire Détection, Capteurs et Mesures, Plouzané, France) to design and construct a specialized UV lighting system; with Etienne Bourgouin from the Aquarium de Paris to house and breed the study specimens (pictured below); and with Marcel Koken (Labocea – CNRS, Plouzané, France), an expert in fluorescence, to design the experiments that will be carried out at the AUP laboratory with the help of undergraduate students and lab technician Sophie Bricout.

Fine Water: A Blind Taste Test

In 2018, Professor Berg collaborated with economics professor Kevin Capehart (CSU Fresno) on a taste test experiment. With the help of our economics and science students, we examined whether people could consistently tell the difference between different brands of high-end mineral water. Results of that experiment suggested that consumers might not be very good at telling the difference between waters with similar mineral concentrations. The study is now published in the Journal of Wine Economics. Among other projects, Berg and Capehart are working on a follow-up experiment using waters with more varied mineral concentrations.


The Center is also involved in outreach about environmental issues, primarily within the AUP community. Since its inauguration in 2016, the Center has organized international conferences, research symposia, lectures and panel discussions with invited speakers (often in collaboration with various student clubs), as well as film screenings.

In two courses with particularly close ties to the Center’s objectives – SC2010 Contemporary Environmental Issues and SC/CM3091 Communicating Science – students propose and carry out projects related to campus sustainability or the communication of environmental issues on campus.

The Center also works with the Advisory Board on Environmental Sustainability (ABES). ABES reports directly to the President and Provost and is composed of undergraduate and graduate students as well as staff members and faculty. It meets every two weeks during the semester to organize and support campus projects and events related to environmental sustainability. For more information on ABES, please visit its AUP Engage page.