Research team

Najla Baković, PhD Student, MSc in Environmental Sciences

My main topic of interest are protozoa (Protista: Protozoa) with a special emphasis on testate amoebas (Testace). In my research, I am trying to develop a methodology that could show their true biodiversity and help us to better understand trophic relationships in the subterranean habitats. Important part of these researcher is understanding the factors that influence protozoa biodiversity such as: hydrological conditions, water quality, the presence of bats etc., which is why I am trying to cooperate with various scientists and experts. Besides protozoa, I am also interested in the research of lampenflora invasive potential and accompanying heterotrophic and saprophytic organisms in the context of protection of subterranean ecosystems.

Helena Bilandžija, PhD

In 2005, I graduated with a degree in ecology from the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb. My undergraduate thesis involved research on the Ogulin cave sponge Eunapius subterraneus. In 2007, I started a PhD program at the Laboratory for molecular genetics at the Rudjer Boskovic Institute, under the supervision of Helena Ćetković. In 2013, I defended a dissertation on „Molecular evolution of cave animals“. In 2015, I was awarded a Newfelpro fellowship from the Marie Currie fund and joined the group of Professor William Jeffery at the University of Maryland. There I worked mainly on the model cave fish Astyanax mexicanus.
My research interests are in the processes of colonization and adaptation to subterranean lifestyle in cave-adapted animals. Currently, my main focus is the molecular and evolutionary mechanisms of the loss of pigmentation, one of the hallmarks of cave-dwelling animals. For that purpose, I have been using various methodologies (developmental, molecular, genetic and genomic) and numerous cave organisms (from sponges, planaria, mollusks, arthropods to fish).
I joined CBSS in 2002 and since then have been actively involved in many of its activities, both research and educational. I am an author of several research papers, books, educational booklets and exhibits and I have delivered numerous scientific and popular scientific lectures.

Petra Bregović, PhD

I was interested in biospeleology since the beginning of my college days, and become an active member of CBSS in 2006. During my master thesis, I started to work on subterranean beetles, studying the taxonomy and distribution of the two cholevid genera (Anthroherpon and Leptomeson) in Croatia. As part of the thesis, five new species for science were described. After that, I got enrolled in a doctoral study in Ljubljana, where I still work on understanding the biodiversity patterns of subterranean beetles of Dinarides. Inside CBSS I am active on many projects, and I manage the collection of the subterranean beetles.

Kristijan Cindrić, MSc in Experimental Biology

Growing up in the city of Ogulin, I developed a strong connection with the karst environment. During biology studies at the Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb, I gained interest in the subterranean habitats and life within. I’ve finished my caving course and joined Croatian Biospeleological Society in 2014. Through fieldwork, subterranean snails (Gastropoda) caught my attention and as a result becamethe main subject of my master thesis where, among other things, I researched the distribution of the superfamily Rissooidea in the surrounding area of Ogulin. Besides biogeography and biology of subterranean snails, I’m interested in an interdisciplinary approach in the exploration of cave habitats. I believe that education is equally important as research, so I’m involved in projects where the main goal is the education of youth and the general public.

Hrvoje Cvitanović

I have been a member of CBSS since 1997. During this long period, I have participated in numerous biospeleological research from which I would point out the research of the island of Mljet, Biokovo Mt., Dubrovnik area and Papuk. In the field, I usually collect fauna, map the caves, participate in speleological research and photograph. In the lab, I sort out the samples collected in the field, edit images and digitalize cave maps. I participate in the scientific and popular publication of the CBSS and, as an editor of speleological journal Subterranea Croatica, encourage publishing papers that deal with subterranean fauna and habitats.

Tamara Čuković, MSc in Ecology

I was born in Zagreb in 1986. I attained a Master’s degree in 2011 in Ecology and Environmental Protection at the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb with the thesis “Diversity and distribution of cave springtail on Mt. Velebit”. As an active member and associate biologist in the Croatian Biospeleological Society, I participated in numerous projects through research of cave fauna and its habitat, biospeleological monitoring, laboratory work and analysis, and participation in scientific conferences. I am also a leader of projects dealing with research and protection of underground ecosystems as well as those aiming to raise public awareness of the importance of conservation of cave fauna and habitats. I am one of the authors of „The cave type localities Atlas of Croatian fauna“ and “National Monitoring Programs for Congeria kusceri, Congeria jalzici and Leptodirus hochenwartii in Croatia”, and other popular, professional and scientific publications. In my professional carrier, I work in nature protection.

Iva Čupić, MSc in Environmental Sciences

Due to my great interest in the invertebrate fauna, I enrolled in the Faculty of Science and completed my graduate studies with the topic “Diversity of spiders (Arachnida, Araneae) in the urban habitats of Zagreb”. Through my studies, I find myself in field research on the fauna of our areas and the education of the general public. At the end of my studies, I started participating in the projects of the Croatian Biospeleological Society, where I was attracted by the diversity of subterranean spiders. I finished speleological school in Breganja in 2021, and since then I have been participating in field research on subterranean biodiversity with CBSS. In cabinet work, I participate in the determination of the spiders and help with managing the collection.

Anđela Ćukušić, PhD

I attained a Master’s degree in Ecology and Environmental Protection at the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb with the thesis „Faunistics, ecology and biogeography of the cave-dwelling spiders of the families Nesticidae and Agelenidae (Araneae) in Croatia“. Now, as a PhD student, I am using DNA barcoding methodology to study biodiversity and phylogenetic of caddisfly fauna (Insecta, Trichoptera) in Croatia. I became a member of the CBSS in 2009, and since then have participated in research on the subterranean biodiversity, but also took part in activities dealing with raising public awareness and conservation of cave species and habitats. Interest in biospeleology and speleology started when I finished speleological school in 2007. Through plenty of speleological expedition and research, I fulfill my desire for exploration. I enjoy drawing little-known cave species, drawings that usually end up on T-shirts, logos of the CBSS or educational material. I also work on the digitalization of cave maps. As the most significant contribution to the CBSS activities, I would point out the collecting of cave fauna on numerous expeditions and the work on „The cave type localities Atlas of Croatian fauna“.

Teo Delić, PhD

While studying biology in Ljubljana, Slovenia, I first met with caves and speleobiology, and got stuck with both ever since. The hows and whys of the questions underlying speciation, biogeographic patterns, morphological adaptations and interactions of specialized subterranean animals – troglobiotic amphipods and beetles – became my main points of interest. In 2017, I gained the PhD on the topic of the role of ecological niches in speciation of subterranean amphipod genus Niphargus.

Asst. Prof. Tvrtko Dražina

Biospeleology started to interest me during college and I become an active member of CBSS in 2002. Since 2006, I have been working on the diplopods (Diplopoda) taxonomy. I participate in numerous projects of inventory and monitoring of underground fauna in Croatia. Also, I manage the CBSS’s diplopod collection. Since 2014, I have been a mentor of the Biospeleological section of the Association of Biology Students – BIUS. As an employee of the Division of Zoology, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science at the University of Zagreb, I professionally work on karst freshwater ecology, with a special interest in meiofauna and rotifers (Rotifera). In 2012, I defended my doctoral thesis from that scientific field entitled “Functional role of meiofauna in bryophytic microhabitats of karst running waters”.

Dora Hlebec, PhD Student, MEd in Biology and Chemistry

I graduated from the Faculty of Science in 2017. Since 2019, I have been a PhD student within the project DNA barcoding of Croatian faunal biodiversity. Using an integrative approach (molecular methods and morphological determination), my doctoral thesis is focused on pseudoscorpions (Arachnida: Pseudoscorpiones). I am exploring biodiversity patterns of pseudoscorpions in Croatia (with an emphasis on the Dinaric karst), taxonomy and phylogeny, and the study of mechanisms for speciation. I have been a member of the Croatian Biospeleological Society since 2020, and I participate in the analysis of pseudoscorpion fauna on numerous projects of inventorying and monitoring of subterranean fauna. In 2021, I received a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) scholarship for one-year training at the Museum of Nature – Hamburg, under the supervision of Dr. Danilo Harms. For additional financial support, I received three scholarships: LinnéSys: Systematics Research Fund, AraGes Student Grant and Oscar and Jan Francke Student Research Fund.

Mateja Jagić, PhD Student, MSc in Molecular Biology

I became a member of Croatian Biospeleological Society in 2014. Since then I’ve been active in various projects related to the inventory and monitoring of the subterranean fauna. I coordinate and participate in activities of the CBSS dealing with the education of young people and promotion of biospeleology through numerous workshops and annual events on science and biology. I work as a teaching and research assistant at Division of Molecular Biology, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science at the University of Zagreb, where I am doing my PhD thesis in the field of developmental plant biology. I participate in biospeleological surveys and field trips of the CBSS where I collect fauna and photograph.

Marina Kipson, PhD

My interest in bats started early on when I enrolled in my biology studies at the Faculty of Science in Zagreb. I wished to dedicate most of my free time to the research of bats, and therefore in 2006 I became a member of the bat team at CBSS. After participating in numerous bat monitoring projects, I started to lead my own projects within CBSS, namely „Blind for bats“ in 2011 and „Monitoring of bats in caves of Plitvice Lakes National Park“ (from 2015 till 2018). During my studies and work in the CBSS, I have participated in numerous European symposiums on bats, and later on became a member of the scientific and organizing committee of the 13th European Bat Research Symposium, organized by CBSS in Šibenik (2014). After I finished my studies in Croatia, I went on to my second Master’s degree on biodiversity conservation in England, and am currently finishing my PhD in Prague on the topic of „Ecology and synanthropisation of bats in the Mediterranean region in comparison to Central European region“. Furthermore, from 2015 I have been working in the Czech Society for Ornithology on the coordination of the second European breeding bird atlas.

Alen Kirin

I have been in speleology since 2008. In my speleological career, I participated in the organization of many speleological research, from which I would single out the speleodiving expedition Lukina jama – siphon 2013. I participated in numerous speleological, speleodiving and biospeleological research in Croatia and abroad. I have been a member of CBSS since 2009 and to this day I have participated in many projects related to research and monitoring of cave fauna and habitats. In the field, I equip the caves, collect fauna and photograph.

Ana Komerički, MSc in Ecology

During my biology studies at the Faculty of Science in Zagreb, I finished speleological school and started going on field research with CBSS, which was also decisive in choosing the topic of my master thesis. I have been developing my interest and knowledge about biospeleology as a member of CBSS since 2009. I deal with the taxonomy of Chilopoda related to the cave habitats of the Dinarides and Europe, and their biodiversity. I participated in and led numerous CBSS projects and took part in several speleological expeditions. During 2014 and 2015, I was a scholarship holder of the program for young experts in the field of nature protection and regional development NatuRegio_Balkans – Alfred Toepfer Naturschutzt Akademie (DEU), Germany, as part of which I implemented a project to protect the type localities of Popovo polje in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I actively participate in the work of the IUCN SSC Cave Invertebrate Specialist Group, an international expert working group for cave invertebrates.

Boris Krstinić, professional photographer and filmmaker

I was born on February 11, 1952, in Zagreb. Since 1996, I have specialized in filming nature and natural phenomena.
Production of the TV show “Eko Echo” for the national TV station “HRT” from 2000 to 2003. Director and videographer of the show. Client: “Ministry of Environmental Protection”
Author of the photo monograph “Dan kao godina”, about the Lonjsko polje Nature Park. The book was declared the most beautiful photo monograph about nature in Europe in 2006 and entered the collection of the book museum in Leipzig.
Filming of a movie about the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park in 2007 for “Life” (a financial instrument of the European Union)
Author of photographs for “Marine Atlas”: United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Bahrain and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
I am the author of many photographs for posters, brochures, magazines, and books in the field of biodiversity in Croatia and abroad. As a photographer, I have been actively participating in the Croatian Biospeleological Society on bat monitoring since 2009.

Nikolina Kuharić, MSc in Environmental Sciences

A lover of karst. In 2015 I graduated from Environmental Sciences at Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb. During my studies, I become interested in biospeleology, and in 2012 I finished the speleological school and became a CBSS member. My interest lies in microwhip scorpions (Palpigradida) and mites (Acari). Along with the biospeleological research, I consider raising public awareness and education of people living in the karst area to be important for the conservation of the subterranean habitats in Dinarides. Thus, apart from participating in various biospeleological projects, I am the project leader of several educational projects for children and adults.

Petra Kutleša, MSc in Environmental Sciences

My research interest lies in the field of biodiversity of subterranean fauna, especially stygobiotic fauna in the Dinaric karst. I am involved in various CBSS’s projects focusing on the inventory and monitoring of subterranean fauna in Croatia. Currently, I am coordinating the project „The Cave Type Localities Atlas of Croatian Fauna, Volume 3“.

Marko Lukić, PhD

I’ve been a member of the CBSS since 2003. In 2007, I graduated from the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb with the thesis “Biodiversity and distribution of cave Collembola on Biokovo Mt”. Since then I manage Collembola collection of the CBSS, and taxonomy and phylogeny of cave Collembola become my primary scientific interest. I have published several scientific papers on cave Collembola and participated in numerous international conferences. I did my PhD thesis on Biotechnical Faculty in Ljubljana on systematics and biogeography of the genus Verhoeffiella (Collembola) in the Dinaric Karst. I have been a project leader and participated in numerous CBSS projects dealing with subterranean biodiversity research, raising public awareness and conservation of subterranean habitats and species. With the aim of popularizing the little know subterranean species, I mastered filming and macro photography. I am a co-author of numerous exhibitions, leaflets and publications of the CBSS.

Kazimir Miculinić, PhD

Although I am a palentologist, through the many years in speleology and membership in the Croatian Biospeleological Society I felt the need to contribute to a better knowledge of the cave fauna outside of field research. This has resulted in the selection of taxonomic studies of a neglected group of two-pronged bristletails (Diplura), under the mentorship of Alberto Sendra.

Ivana Mišerić, MSc in Experimental Biology

In 2017 I graduated experimental biology from the Faculty of Science in Zagreb. I have been a member of the Croatian Biospeleological Society since 2015 when I finished speleological school at PDS Velebit. During my studies, I was an active member of the Biology Students Association – BIUS, where I learned about biospeleology through the association’s Biospeleology section. Numerous student fields showed me the beauty of karst and the importance of preserving the natural habitat. I participated in many workshops and educational classes for children and the local population, as well as on numerous speleological field trips, and a few years ago I started leading several projects in cooperation with public institutions and companies within Croatia.

Martina Pavlek, PhD

I’ve been an active member of the CBSS since 2003. In 2006, I graduated from the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb with the thesis “Faunistic, ecological and biogeographic characteristics of the cave-dwelling spiders of the genus Troglohyphantes in Croatia”. Since then I have been managing the CBSS’s spider collection, and cave spiders became my primary scientific interest. Currently, I am employed as a research associate at the Ruđer Bošković Institute in Zagreb where I did my PhD thesis “Mechanisms of satellite DNA sequence dynamics in complex genomes”. I was a PI on the research project “Genome evolution of cave dwelling fauna” funded by the European Social Fund. I did a two-year postdoc in the lab of prof. Miquel Arnedo at the University of Barcelona on the HiddenLife project that was funded by Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions. The goal of the project was to resolve the phylogenetic relationships of three groups of cave-dwelling spiders in the Dinarides, predict the effects of global climatic changes on their populations, and assess their sensibility. Currently, I am working on similar topics. I took part in many research field trips organized by the CBSS, presented my work at several international conferences, and co-authored many exhibitions, leaflets, articles, and books focused on biodiversity, protection and popularization of cave fauna and caves in general.

Tin Rožman

I went through my speleological course in 2013, and became interested in biospeleology a year later when I had my first experience with such research. That is when I became a member of the CBSS. Since then, I have actively participated in the fieldwork of many projects and my areas of interest include cave mapping, fauna macrophotography and cave photography. I also participate in the sorting of biological specimens, identifying spiders and I help manage the CBSS spider collection. As a graphic designer, I design the popular and scientific publications published by CBSS.

Natalija Sudar

From an early age, I was a lover of nature and digging, but life took me down the other path. At the end of 2015 I finished speleological school and 3 years later decided to devote myself to field research. Those choices led me to who I am today, a geology student at the Faculty of Science in Zagreb, interested in Quaternary geology and paleontology as well as the distribution of cave species in Croatia. As a member of CBSS and other speleological associations and clubs, I get to participate in and lead various speleology and biospeleology field research projects as well as projects related to the protection and popularization of cave ecosystems. In my opinion, the key to popularizing science, especially speleology, is interdisciplinarity and teaching younger generations that there is so much more to science than what is being taught in schools.

Vedran Sudar, PhD Student, MSc in Geology

I was born on April 22, 1989 in Zagreb, where I completed high school (the Geodetic Technical School) and later university – the graduate study of geology, course geology of mineral resources and geophysical explorations at the Faculty of Mining, Geology and Petroleum Engineering.
As a geology student, I began going on field research with the CBSS in 2014. I participated in numerous CBSS projects where I started sampling underground fauna and participating in geological research. In field work, I am mainly oriented on the mapping of caves. I also participated in the organization of the 1st Biospeleological Expedition on Biokovo as its leader, and I am interested in geological research that link geology and speleology. Currently, I’m conducting a project “Exploring sedimentary, mineral and geochemical characteristics of recent sediments in the cave Miljacka I”.

Vida Zrnčić, MSc in Ecology

I am interested in bats, their ecology, distribution and protection, and mostly their ectoparasites. I was intrigued by this topic even during my studies when I was researching the species of ectoparasites present in bats from Croatia for my graduation thesis. So far, I have participated in numerous research related to the inventory and monitoring of the condition of the bat fauna. I am currently participating in research on the presence of rabies in bats, and I am collecting and determining all types of their ectoparasites collected during numerous researches.