Doctoral Programme on Marine Ecosystem Health and Conservation
 The MARES Researchers and their Research

Our MARES Researchers

MARES has 5 Editions running since September 2011 with each Edition counting between nine to five Erasmus Mundus funded researchers, expanded with some non-Erasmus Mundus funded doctoral candidates. The Fifth and last Edition fellowshipholders started their research from September 2015 onwards.

Graduated Researchers

News Update - December 15th 2017

We are very happy to announce that Renata Mamede da Silva Alves has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "Spatial structure and temporal dynamics of an intertidal population of the marine ecosytem engineering worm Lanice conchilega (Pallas, 1766)". This was a joint research project between Ghent University in Belgium, Stichting Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut voor Zeeonderzoek (NIOZ) in the Netherlands and Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) in France.

News Update - November 30th 2017

It is a great pleasure for us to announce that Veronica Lo has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "Effects of human pressures on ecosystem structure, functioning and services in salt marshes". This was a research project between University of Bologna in Italy, Stichting Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut voor Zeeonderzoek (NIOZ) in the Netherlands and University of Ghent in Belgium. 

News Update - October 30th 2017

We are very happy to announce that Sofia Ramalho has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "Tolerance of deep-sea benthic ecosustems to trawling disturbance". This was a joint research project between Avero University in Portugal and Ghent University in the Belgium.

News Update - September 29th 2017

With great pleasure we can announce that Christina Pavloudi has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "Microbial community functioning at hypoxic sediments revealed by targeted metagenomics and RNA Stable Isotope Probing". This was a research project between Bremen University in Germany and Ghent University in Belgium.

News Update - April 20th 2017

With great pleasure we can announce that Roberto Buonomo has succesfully defended his doctoral thesis "Genetic background, range shifts and associated microbial responses of canopy algae under changing environment". This was a research project between Bologna University in Italy and Algarve University in Portugal.

News Update - January 9th 2017

We are very happy to announce that Valentina Filimonova has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "The effects of anthropogenic stressors on the food quality in estuarine systems". This was a joint research project between Aveiro University in Portugal and Ghent University in Belgium.

News Update - December 19th 2016

With great pleasure we can announce that Christoph Mensens has succesfully defended his doctoral thesis "Biodiversity and ecosystem funtioning in stressed environments: primary producers and consumers at the basis of marine food webs". This was a research project between Ghent University in Belgium and Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France . 

News Update - December 2nd 2016

It is a great pleasure for us to announce that Martina Maric has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "Non-indigenous species in the Mediterranean marine protected areas : diversity, distribution and impacts". This was a research project between University of Klaipeda in Lithuania, University of Pavia in Italy and University of Ghent in Belgium. 

News Update - September 28th 2016

We are very happy to announce that Joy Smith has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "The effects of ocean acidification on demersal Zooplankton using natural carbon dioxide seeps as windows into the future". This was a joint research project between Bremen University in Germany and Plymouth University in the UK.

News Update - July 26th 2016

We are very happy to announce that Joanna Pilczynska has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "Clonal propagation, microbial community composition and genetic structure in the red gorgonian Paramuricea clavata". This was a joint research project between Aveiro University  in Portugal and Pavia University in Italy.

News Update - June 14th 2016

With great pleasure we can announce that Noelle Lucey has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "Improving our understanding of evolutionary persistence in an increasingly high CO2 world: Insight from marine polychaetes at a low pH vent system". This was a research project between Pavia University in Italy and University of Plymouth in the UK. 

News Update - December 15th 2015

We are very happy to announce that Lisa Sztukowski has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "Foraging ecology of the Campbell Albatross: individuel specialisation and fishery interactions". This was a joint research project between Plymouth University  in the UK and Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France.

News Update - November 11th 2015

We are very happy to announce the first Second Edition MARES Researcher Mariana Padron has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "Evaluation of conservation efficiency for gorgonian species at a regional scale based on an existing Marine Protected Area network and modeling accounting for hydrodynamical connectivity". This was a research project between Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France and University of Bologna in Italy.

News Update - October 29th 2015

It is a great pleasure for us to announce that Farahnaz Solomon has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "Connectivity patterns and early life history of the black-faced blenny Tripterygion delaisi (Cadenat and Blache, 1970)". This was a research project between University of Algarve in Portugal and Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France. 

News Update - September 2nd 2015

We are very happy to announce that Marina Zure has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "Biogeography of Rhodopirellula: physiological traits determining the biotope increment". This was a joint research project between Bremen University in Germany and Plymouth University in the UK. 

News Update - July 3rd 2015

We are very happy to announce that Christophe Vieira has succesfully defended his doctoral thesis "Lobophora: biotic interactions and diversification". This was a joint research project between Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France and Ghent University in Belgium.

News Update - June 29th 2015

It is a great pleasure for us to announce that today two MARES researchers have succesfully defended their doctoral research: 

Gregory Neils Puncher defended his project "Assessment of the population structure and temporal changes in spatial dynamics and genetic characteristics of the atlantic bluefin tuna udner a fishery independent framework". This was a research project between Bologna Univesity in Italy, Ghent University in Belgium and AZTI in Spain. 

Joanne Xiao Wen Wong defended her project "Analysis of cumulative effects of multiple stressors on saltmarshes and consideration of management options". This was a research project between Bologna University in Italy, Ghent University in Belgium and The Nature Conservancy in the US. 

News Update - February 6th 2015

We are very happy to announce that Mareike Volkenandt has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "Exploration of the links between baleen whales and forage fish in the Celtic Sea: assessing spatial distribution and energy content". This was a research project between the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology in Ireland and Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France.  

News Update - February 2nd 2015

We are very happy to announce that Cecilia Baggini has succesfully defended her doctoral thesis "Assessing the effects of long-term ocean acidification on benthic communities at CO2 seeps". This was a research project between Plymouth University in the UK, Bremen University in Germany and the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research in Greece. 

News Update - Sept 24th 2014

It is with great pleasure that we announce our very first MARES graduate: Doctor Sven Laming

Sven Laming successfully defended his PhD last Wednesday September 24th 2014 after a three year research project on “Aspects of development, reproductive biology, and symbioses in deep-sea chemosymbiotic mussels from reducing environments”. A research project between l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France and Universidade de Aveiro in Portugal. 

We are very proud in being able to announce his successful defence and graduation and we wish Sven all the best in his future endeavours. 


Current Researchers

Below you will find an overview of all the MARES Researchers and the research they're working on (in alphabetical order). 


First Edition Researchers:



Doctoral Research: MARES_25_2010 : Assessing the effects of long-term ocean acidification at CO2 vents off Methana Greece. 

Mobility: Plymouth (UK) - HCMR (Greece) - Bremen (Germany)

Summarized abstract: 
Carbon dioxide emissions from human sources are changing seawater chemistry worldwide, a phenomenon termed “ocean acidification”. Ocean acidification has the potential to greatly affect marine ecosystems, but its effects have mostly been studied on single species in laboratory experiments. In this project, I am using two shallow Mediterranean volcanic vents, which naturally increase CO2 levels, to answer these key questions: 1) How do seaweed communities and the invertebrates associated with them change as CO2 levels increase? 2) Are these changes directly caused by CO2, or do biological processes such as herbivory play a role as well? 3) Have the most common seaweed species changed their physiology to cope with the increase in CO2?



Doctoral Research: MARES_15_2010 : Development of social-ecological system indicators of marine health and management effectiveness (SESIM)

Mobility: UPMC (France) - Bologna (Italy)

Summarized abstract: 
My PhD aims at analysing the links between the benefits supplied by marine ecosystems (ecosystem services, such as food production) and human uses and impacts (e.g. fishery and pollution), to better inform the management of marine systems. I propose three main steps to achieve this. First, develop a conceptual framework connecting the social actors and institutions involved in the decision-making process with the ecosystem’s capacity to sustain human uses in coastal and marine zones. Then, review the ecosystem services provided by marine coastal ecosystems, and analyse how the loss of natural habitats impairs the provision of such services and human uses. Finally, develop an index of sustainable exploitation based on current human uses, and integrate it to other regional to global indices of marine ecosystem health. The case studies are the North-Western Adriatic Sea, Italy, and the Gulf of Lyons, France.


(United Kingdom)

Doctoral Research: MARES_16_2010 : Dispersal capabilities and symbiont acquisition in deep-sea chemosynthetic metazoans

Mobility: UPMC (France) - Aveiro (Portugal)

Summarized abstract: 
I’m examining the developmental biology of deep-sea mussels (genus Idas) that inhabit sulphidic sunken timber and whale bones on the seabed and methane-rich cold seeps (methane and other hydrocarbons seeping from the sea floor). Courtesy of symbiotic bacteria which process these compounds and turn them into energy for the host, these environments are rendered habitable. As a consequence of this mussel’s size and habitat, it’s poorly studied. My work aims to better understand the biology of the larvae and juveniles of this species... which are even smaller! Challenging stuff!

Gregory Neils PUNCHER


Doctoral Research: MARES_18_2010 : Assessing and modelling population recruitment dynamics in the mediterranean and eastern atlantic bluefin tuna under a fishery-independent research framework

Mobility: Bologna (Italy) - AZTI (Spain) - Ghent (Belgium)

Summarized abstract: 
Atlantic bluefin tuna (ABFT) are a highly prized fish whose migrations can bridge the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Under pressure from both legitimate and clandestine fisheries, historical stocks of ABFT have disappeared from the Black Sea (1983), North Sea (1963) and coastal waters of Brazil (1970s). In the last 50 years, the number of ABFT in the ocean has reduced by more than 70% and their geographic range has contracted by 53%. Fishing pressure has also caused significant changes within existing ABFT populations, such as decreased age at maturity, reduced proportion of older individuals and fewer repeat spawners. Using new molecular techniques, my work aims to define the current population structure of ABFT as well as reveal evolutionary changes resulting from a century of fishing pressure and climate change. Ultimately, these findings will be used to develop a novel conservation approach for the species.

Farahnaz SOLOMON

(Trinidad & Tobago) 

Doctoral Research: MARES_22_2010 : Connectivity patterns of temperate reef fish applied to MPA management

Mobility: Algarve (Portugal) - UPMC (France)

Summarized abstract:
This project aims to examine connectivity patterns of the black-faced blenny (Tripterygion delaisi) between the Arrabida Marine Park and the nearby rocky areas of Sines and Cascais along the Portuguese coast. T. delaisi which is a small demersal fish found in shallow nearshore rocky habitats is of particular interest because several of its life history characteristics suggests that it may exhibit a high degree of self recruitment i.e. the majority of larvae remain close to or never leave their population. Genetic markers (microsatellites) will be used to investigate population structure of the different developmental stages (adults, juveniles and larvae) at a very small spatial scale and the ear stones (otoliths) will be used to examine early life history traits and possible carryover effects that can affect the recruitment success of this species. 


(United States)

Doctoral Research: MARES_27_2010 : Individual foraging specialisation and seabird fishery interactions: Implications for albatross conservation

Mobility: Plymouth (UK) - UPMC (France)

Summarized abstract: 
Seabirds, particularly pelagic species, are becoming threatened at a faster rate than any other avian species group (BirdLife International, Croxall et al. 2012). Within pelagic species, all 22 species of albatross are listed as vulnerable, near threatened, or endangered. Threats include fisheries-related mortality and competition, pollution, environmental changes, habitat loss, and non-native species. However the effects of these threats are not uniformly distributed across and vary by individual. Understanding such individual-level responses has population-level consequences, and could greatly improve the management of mutually co-existing fisheries and seabird populations. Thus, this project will examine for individual foraging specialisations in the endemic Campbell Albatross (Thalassarche impavida), with particular focus on interactions with commercial fisheries. In additional to determining consistency vs. plasticity of foraging movements and interactions with fisheries vessel, stable isotope analysis will investigate the degree of inter- and intra-individual variation in isotope signatures in very fine detail.

Christophe William VIEIRA


Doctoral Research: MARES_x45_2010 : Algal-coral interactions on coral reef ecosystem across multiple algal species and functional groups.

Mobility: UPMC (France) - Ghent (Belgium) - IRD (New Caledonia)

Summarized abstract: 
As a marine ecologist, I am interested in the competitive interactions between marine organisms on tropical reefs from an ecological and evolutionary perspective. Macroalgae represent a major competitor for space against corals and consequently they are strongly found together in interactions. However, the mechanisms behind these interactions are still poorly understood and only recent studies have shown that macroalgae are waging chemical warfare on coral reefs. My doctoral research work focuses on (1) documenting the diversity and typologies of macroalgal-coral interactions in New Caledonia; (2) exploring the role of chemical mediation behind these interactions; and (3) investigating how the competitive interactions between macroalgae and corals could represent a significant selective pressure contributing to algal speciation and thus corroborating the importance of ecological speciation in marine algae.



Doctoral Research: MARES_20_2010 : Fate of pelagic fish production in the Celtic Sea, partitioning between marine megafauna, birds and fisheries; and the management implications

Mobility: GMIT (Ireland) - UPMC (France) - IWDG (Ireland)

Summarized abstract: 
This PhD project looks at the trophic relations around herring (Clupea harengus), which is a very important fish species in the Irish Celtic Sea. How did the herring stock recover after its big crash in the 1970’s due to overfishing and how is the stock now distributed? Then we will look at the impact on herring its main consumers being sea birds (mainly sea gulls and gannets) and marine mammals (mainly whales and dolphins). How important is herring for their diet and where are the predators distributed? As a final question, we want to model the trophic relations in the Celtic Sea and modify the level of natural mortality used for fishery management, taking the level of sea bird and marine mammal predation into account.

Joanne Xiao Wen WONG


Doctoral Research: MARES_19_2010 : Observing, modelling and testing trade-offs in management options of multiple stressors against both experimental and real world marine systems

Mobility: Bologna (Italy) - Nature Conservancy (USA) - Ghent (Belgium)

Summarized abstract: 
"How do different management options of multiple stressors in saltmarsh systems affect management outcomes? That is the central theme of this research. Our ability to predict management outcomes is often hampered by our incomplete understanding of how different human stressors interact with each other (e.g. coastal eutrophication, coastal development etc.). Yet there is ample evidence from various ecosystems to show that different stressors do indeed interact and can produce unexpected outcomes. Subsequently, the removal/ management of these stressors can also produce unexpected interacting effects. These need to be understood so that management funds are used effectively and desired management outcomes can be achieved. To understand the combined effect of stressors and their management, field manipulations are used to simulate sea level rise & eutrophication, recreational trampling & excessive algal deposits on Spartina, a saltmarsh grass species of conservation value in Europe for habitat creation and protection from erosion."

Marina ZURE


Doctoral Research: MARES_13_2010 : Biogeography of Rhodopirellula: physiological traits determing the biotope increment

Mobility: Bremen (Germany) - Plymouth (UK)

Summarized abstract: 
Marine microbes can be found in all oceanic habitats, from several kilometers below the seafloor to the top millimeter of the ocean surface. Due to the vast metabolic diversity, marine microorganisms have the key role in marine food webs and are responsible for the cycling of the nutrients. Biogeography of microbes was for a long time not existent. "Everything is everywhere, but the environment selects" has been considered as guideline. But in recent years, the biogeography of microorganisms was shown to exist in the form of ecotypes and regional strains. The PhD project will gain insight into the biogeography of attached-living Rhodopirellula strains by culture independent studies of marine surface sediments. The molecular ecology study is expected to provide a high resolution biogeographic map of the actual habitats of closely related Rhodopirellula species in European coastal sediments. Physiological differences between the european Rhodopirellula strains will be investigated by species competition experiments in the changing environmental condition and reveal important physiological traits of the strains.



Second Edition Researchers:


Renata Mamede da Silva ALVES


Doctoral Research: MARES_11_01 : Using coastal ecosystem engineers in marine conservation

Mobility: Ghent (Belgium) - NIOZ (Netherlands) - UPMC (France)

Summarized Abstract:
This project aims at explaining why and how reefs of the tube-building worm Lanice conchilega are created and evolve over time. This organism, also known as sandmason, forms aggregations in the intertidal zones of coasts around the North Sea. These have been classified as reefs and they impact the living organisms around it as well as physical characteristics of the coast. Thus, it is a key species in coastal zones and understanding its ecology and consequences of its presence is important for improving environmental management of coastal resources. This study will identify and characterize the processes that contribute to the maintenance of these reefs’ stability and longevity. It will combine manipulative experimentation with a cost-effective remote sensing technique (kite aerial photography) to build an ecological model explaining and predicting the responses this species will present to changes in the environment.



Doctoral Research: MARES_11_06 : Zooplankton in the Future Ocean: The Effects of Hypoxia on Zooplankton Vertical Distribution, Ecology and Ecophysiology

Mobility: Bremen (Germany) - AZTI (Spain) - Ghent (Belgium)

Summarized Abstract:
Oxygen is necessary for most animals to normally grow, develop and survive. There are several areas in the world’s oceans that have permanent low oxygen concentration zones situated between the surface and seabed, calledOxygen Minimum Zones. Some models have shown that OMZs are spreading both horizontally and vertically as a consequence of global climate changes. How this affects the marine communities, in particularly zooplankton, is the question behind my PhD. The zooplankton that I am studying are small crustaceans, called copepods, an important link in the marine food web. They occupy the water column; some are even found in OMZs. I would like to discover if there are advantages to living in such a harsh environment, what are the costs, and physiological adaptations required to survive in such an environment.

Noelle LUCEY

(United States)

Doctoral Research: MARES_11_19 : The challenge of living in a High CO2 World

Mobility: Pavia (Italy) - Plymouth (UK)

Summarized Abstract:
Currently, human induced ocean acidification and temperature increase are responsible for a wide array of changes within marine life. My research is focused on understanding exactly how marine organisms will adapt to our rapidly changing oceans. To do this, I am using marine worms, or polychaetes, that have demonstrated an ability to cope with and adapt to naturally high CO2 in habitats resembling those of projected ocean conditions (Ischia, Italy). In this research I am looking for the physiological mechanisms responsible for their adaptation. Additionally, I am working to quantify the adaptation capacity of these species by testing for resiliency, tolerance, and what the limits to these trade-offs may be. This work will provide a unique insight into the potential consequences of future oceanic changes at the species and ecosystem levels.

Martina MARIC


Doctoral Research: MARES_11_14 : Assessing impacts of invasive alien species on ecosystem functioning in the Meditteranean Marine Protection Areas

Mobility: Klaipeda (Lithuania) - Pavia (Italy) - Ghent (Belgium)

Summarized Abstract:
Intensive anthropogenic impact on marine environment is causing increasing trends in introduction, establishment and expansion of marine species outside of their natural range. Invasions of alien species can have harmful impacts on biological diversity, ecosystem functioning, economy and human health in invaded areas. The magnitude of the impact may be ranked from no noticeable alterations to massive impacts with irreversible changes.
Aims of my research are to assess the abundance and distribution ranges of target invasive alien species which belong to different taxonomic groups (macroalgae, crustaceans, molluscs and fishes) and to develop species-specific quantitative methods for measurement of their impact on marine communities and ecosystem functioning.



Doctoral Research: MARES_11_13 : Modelling the sustainability and ecosystem services of wildlife ecotourism in remote rural communities

Mobility: Plymouth (UK) - GMIT (Ireland) - IWDG (Ireland)

Summarized Abstract:
Whale watching, a term broadly meaning the recreational observation of cetaceans in the wild, is one of the most important forms of marine-based tourism, and in the last few decades has been providing significant socio-economic benefits to coastal communities. Since the long-term viability of this industry is based on the continued existence of cetacean populations, all those activities which are likely to affect the ecosystems on which these species depend (such as fishing, shipping, pollution, etc.) should be considered and managed together to ensure cetacean conservation and the deriving benefits to rural communities.
The aim of my project is to generate a full understanding of the viability of the whale watching industry by providing an interdisciplinary model that links together anthropogenic activities and their management, cetacean ecology and conservation, and the socio-economics of whale watching. This model will ultimately be used to examine different management scenarios.
My main case study takes place in the Shannon Estuary (Ireland), where a resident bottlenose dolphin population has been supporting a stable dolphin watching industry over the last 20 years.

Christoph MENSENS


Doctoral Research: MARES_11_04 : Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in stressed environments

Mobility: Ghent (Belgium) - NIOZ (Netherlands) - UPMC (France)

Summarized Abstract:
The project aims to examine the effects of stressors (pesticides, heavy metals, hypoxia) on the relation between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning at the basis of the food web. Global biodiversity loss has initiated research showing the importance of biodiversity for sustaining ecosystem functions and services that humans depend on. However, although stressors are the reason underlying the biodiversity loss, their impact on the diversity-functioning relationship is hardly investigated. I test how stressors affect the diversity-functioning relation directly (by affecting the surviving species) and indirectly (by selectively removing sensitive species). Stressor effects on biodiversity and ecosystem functions (biomass production, energy content, reproduction, sediment stabilization) will be quantified in a food web context, for the main primary producers (diatoms) and their consumers (copepods) of the Westerschelde estuary (Netherlands). The experimental data will be synthesized into a model providing in a predictive framework for realistic biodiversity loss at the basis of the intertidal food web.

Mariana PADRON


Doctoral Research: MARES_11_16 : Evaluation of conservation efficiency for gorgonians species at a regional scale based on an existing Marine Protected Areas network in the North Ligurian sea and scenarios modelling accounting for hydrodynamical connectivity

Mobility: UPMC (France) - Bologna (Italy)

Summarized Abstract:
Studies of population connectivity in marine species can provide insights into the patterns and processes that determine and maintain species distribution, and can eventually help inform conservation decisions. My PhD research project broadly focuses on evaluating the conservation efficiency of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for two emblematic gorgonian (soft coral) species in the Ligurian Sea. In order to assess this, I use a combination of genetic and modelling tools to study how the populations of the red coral (Corallium rubrum) and the red gorgonian (Paramuricea clavata) are connected both demographically and genetically at a regional scale. Knowing the extent and variability of connectivity allows us to obtain a predictive understanding of the regional population dynamics, as it is required for the effective management and conservation of the MPAs.



Doctoral Research: MARES_11_20 : Genetic structure, connectivity and clonal propagation in Mediterranean gorgonian populations affected by mortalities related to climate change

Mobility: Aveiro (Portugal) - Pavia (Italy)

Summarized Abstract:
My target species is Paramuricea clavata – a soft coral common on vertical rocky shores between 15 and 35 m depth in Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. In NW Mediterranean Sea the species was recently affected by mass mortality events connected with increased water temperature. The aim of my study is to investigate if increased mortality affected mode of corals reproduction. In normal conditions this species reproduce sexually, but after the disturbance asexual reproduction may play greater role in Paramuricea clavata recovery. Additionally I will investigate microbial community associated with my target species. In my research I will compare coral populations which suffered from mass mortality with healthy ones.


(United States)

Doctoral Research: MARES_11_07 : The effects of ocean acidification on demersal zooplankton in coral reefs: Using natural CO2 seeps in Papua New Guinea as a window into the future.

Mobility: Bremen (Germany) - Plymouth (UK)

Summarized Abstract:
Nearly one-third of all the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by humans gets absorbed by the oceans causing them to be more acidic. Many types of marine life may face dire consequences as a result, especially for those with calcifying shells or skeletons like coral reefs. I study the effects of ocean acidification on zooplankton within coral reefs. Zooplankton are tiny animals that help form the basis of the food chain and are not only important for larger organisms like fish, but they also provide required nutrients for growth in several species of corals. Subsequently, changes in zooplankton may affect the surrounding marine ecosystem. This study aims to examine changes in the zooplankton community along seep sites in Papua New Guinea where high levels of CO2 are being emitted naturally. Adaptation of zooplankton exposed to high CO2 levels at these seeps may provide insight into future communities.


Third Edition Researchers:




Doctoral Research: MARES_12_03: Habitat loss and ecological restoration: understanding dispersal, recruitment ecology and genetics to maintain resilience in forests of canopy-forming algae

Mobility: Bologna (Italy) - Algarve (Portugal)

Summarized Abstract:
Forests of canopy-forming algae are important habitats which provide essential services and play a key role in the ecosystem. However these habitats are rapidly decreasing worldwide. With this PhD project we aim to understand in-deep ecology and genetics of fucoids algae populations to help identify factors that facilitate the recovery or active restoration of damaged forests. In addition, we will try to understand how they will respond to climate change stress, recognize what factors influence these responses and what are the interactions with human pressures. Understand how and if this ecosystem will be able to adapt to future climate conditions is essential to help to meet conservation goals.



Doctoral Research: MARES_12_15 : Population dynamics and connectivity in the soft-shell clam Mya arenaria: coupling ecology, genetics and biogeochemical approaches

Mobility: Gdansk (Poland) - UPMC (France)

Summarized Abstract:
The soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria is considered an ancient invasive marine species in Europe that originate from the Atlantic coasts of Northern America. This research project aims to better understand the dynamics and connectivity of M. arenaria populations in the Southern Baltic Sea. Integrative approach will be employed to elucidate the factors or processes that influence the demography and genetic variations of this species. Methods include a detailed monitoring of the population including recruitment and larval supply. Genetic analysis of adults and recruits will also be done to test if there is large variance in the individual reproductive success of M. arenaria. Experiments will also be conducted to determine population connectivity by tracking the origin of newly-settled juveniles based on the chemical signatures in the larval shells. This research would contribute insights on the role of demographic processes and connectivity in marine realm on genetics and persistence of invasive populations.

Roxanne DUNCAN

(Trinidad & Tobago)

Doctoral Research: MARES_12_11 : Population and sub-population structure of albacore tuna in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean

Mobility: GMIT (Ireland) - AZTI (Spain) - Bologna (Italy)

Summarized Abstract:
In the North Atlantic and Mediterranean, Albacore tuna is an economically important species in the fishing industry and is exploited by various methods ranging from purse seining to sport-fishing. Studies have shown that both fish stocks are genetically distinct and within the two stocks, there may be separate sub-populations. Without a clear understanding of the components and structure of this crucial fish species, the potential to overfish and deplete the stocks of important sub-populations are a real possibility. The objective of this project is to understand the differences within the North Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks and to investigate different management strategies. This will be accomplished through compositional analysis of fish ear bones, collection of growth and life-history data and with simulation modeling of management strategies and stock structure scenarios. The information will provide the knowledge needed to accurately assess the two population structures and enable their proper management.

Valentina Filimonova


Doctoral Research: MARES_12_08: The effects of anthropogenic stressors on the food quality in estuarine systems

Mobility: Aveiro (Portugal) - Ghent (Belgium)

Summarized Abstract:
Nowadays aquatic systems are under the pressure of different anthropogenic stressors, among them metals and organic pollutants (e.g. inorganic fertilizers and pesticides). Little is known about how natural ecosystems respond to chronic exposure to these contaminants, many of which, especially metals, are non-degradable and therefore accumulate in nature.
This PhD research aims to estimate the influence of anthropogenic stressors (the herbicide Primextra® Gold TZ and copper as metal pollution) on the food webs and, thus, on food quality in estuarine system of Mondego estuary in Portugal. The diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii and the copepod Acartia tonsa as two main estuarine planktonic groups and main representative of different trophic levels (primary producer and primary consumer, respectively) are chosen to constitute a simple trophic food chain and to get exposure by these pollutants under laboratory conditions. Laboratory experiments will be performed to assess individual and mixture effects of the herbicide Primextra® Gold TZ and copper on biochemical composition of species and thus along the trophic food chain. Biochemical composition will include fatty acid (FA) profiles, proteins’ composition and enzymatic activity. Since some of proteins and fatty acids can only be obtained from food and therefore referred to as ‘essential nutrients’ they proved to be useful trophic markers.
At the end of the PhD program the ecotoxicological model will be developed in order to predict potential changes on aquatic food web, and thus on food quality, caused by anthropogenic activities, and to determine the level and type of pollution in estuarine systems.



Doctoral Research: MARES_12_14 : Biological valuation and connectivity assessments: tools to establish representative networks of Marine Protected Areas

Mobility: Aveiro (Portugal) - Ghent (Belgium)

Summarized Abstract:
The proposed research will look at scientific methodologies used to assess the effectiveness of two Portuguese Marine Protected Areas (Arrabida and Berlengas MPAs). Using the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis as a model species, we will investigate spatial distribution of larval sources and population connectivity (U.Aveiro). In addition, biological valuation maps for the Portuguese continental shelf will be generated, to identify hotspots of ecological significance (U.Ghent). By relating this information we seek to provide answers on adequate reserve systems capable of meeting conservation goals.

Veronica LO


Doctoral Research: MARES_12_02 : Recovery pathways of damaged ecosystems: identifying relationships between ecosystem attributes (diversity, functioning and services) and human pressures in saltmarshes

Mobility: Bologna (Italy) - NIOZ (Netherlands) - Ghent (Belgium)

Summarized Abstract:
The objective of our research is to assess the interactive impacts of, and recovery pathways from multiple human pressures in degraded saltmarshes. We will identify potential options for restoration, based on alleviating stressors such as nutrient inputs, soil permeability, trampling or marine litter. We will test the effectiveness of these interventions experimentally, in terms of biogeochemical functions (e.g. storage of carbon, nitrogen,) and biological structure (patch habitat size, primary production, biodiversity, etc). An analysis of socio-economic tradeoffs of restoration options will follow. This project will be a joint initiative of The University of Bologna, the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and the University of Ghent.

Amrit Kumar MISHRA


Doctoral Research: MARES_12_04: Global change effects on the carbon metabolism of seagrasses and on their role as carbon sinks

Mobility: Algarve (Portugal) - Plymouth (UK)

Summarized Abstract:
My PhD research is on the topic “Global change effects on the carbon metabolism of seagrasses and on their role as carbon sinks”. Seagrasses form an important component of coastal ecosystems worldwide, being an important global sink of carbon and understanding of their sensitivity to ocean acidification and warming is important in planning for the wider impacts of global environmental change on coastal ecosystems. A combination of laboratory and field experiments have revealed that ocean warming and acidification will likely cause a major reorganization of seagrass communities along the coastlines of Europe since fundamental processes like photosynthesis, nutrient uptake, growth and reproduction are affected. Little is known about the consequences of these changes for ecosystem function although it has been suggested that seagrass habitats may help combat acidification, as their photosynthesis makes water less corrosive to calcified organisms. On the other hand, global change effects might weaken the role of seagrass ecosystems as carbon sinks. The proposed studentship will address these questions using a combination of laboratory and field experiments.
So my doctoral research work will address various questions on the ecophysiological response of seagrass to short and long term CO2 enrichment, effect of increasing levels of CO2 on functioning of seagrass beds and the role of seagrass ecosystem in combating ocean acidification. This work will include methodologies of sample collection from the field sites and laboratory experiments on various parameters at the Center of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) of the University of Algarve, Portugal and Plymouth University.

Christina Pavloudi


Doctoral Research: MARES_12_13: Microbial community functioning at hypoxia: identification of the key players of nitrogen and sulfur cycles and their role in the ecosystem with manipulation experiments

Mobility: HCMR (Greece) - Bremen (Germany) - Ghent (Belgium)

Summarized Abstract:
My PhD thesis is entitled: “Microbial community functioning at hypoxia: identification of the key players of nitrogen and sulfur cycles and their role in the ecosystem with manipulation experiments”
Severe oxygen depletion (hypoxia) can be responsible for the killing of invertebrates, like worms and clams, and fish. Also, it can lead to the production of hydrogen sulfide, which can be poisonous to life forms when found in high concentrations. Microorganisms, and in particular a certain group known as chemolithotrophic, are known to use hydrogen sulfide or ammonia as energy sources, thus having a great impact on the cycling of these elements. 
For this project, I will investigate the contribution of different species of chemolithotrophic prokaryotes on the removal of hydrogen sulfide in hypoxic marine environments and their possible competition towards the different energy sources. The area under study is a wetland system (Amvrakikos Gulf) in Western Greece, protected under national and international treaties.

Doctoral Research: MARES_12_10 : Tolerance of deep-sea benthic ecosystems to trawling disturbance 

Mobility: Aveiro (Portugal) - Ghent (Belgium) - HCMR (Greece)

Summarized Abstract:
Human activities related with exploitation and waste dumping in the deep-sea ecosystems seems to have a negative impact in the benthos, although the information available it still limited.
The aim of this PhD. project is to study the tolerance of deep-sea benthic fauna to trawling activities at the Southwest coast of Portugal. We will investigate how different size components of benthic fauna (micro-, meio-, macro- and megafauna) are altered in terms of biodiversity and function when regularly subjected to disturbance. This information may contribute to develop tools for the sustainable management of the margin ecosystems.

Francesco Paolo MANCUSO


Doctoral Research: Managing for multiple stressors in threatened marine habitats: Experimental analysis of factors enhancing the resilience of forests of canopy algae

Mobility: Bologna (Italy) - Ghent (Belgium) - NIOZ (Netherlands)

Summarized Abstract:
Marine canopy-forming algae are among the most important habitat-forming species along temperate and polar rocky coasts. They form diverse, productive and valuable “forest” habitats that play a key role in coastal primary production, nutrient cycling and disturbance regulation, and facilitate abundant plant and animal communities. They are also some of the most heavily impacted coastal habitats, and they face increasing pressures from urban sprawl, pollution, overfishing and climatic instabilities.
The aim of my PhD is to understand the dynamics and long-term fate of canopy-forming algae populations in a changing environment under different future climate projection and management scenarios. My approach will be based on a combination of hypothesis driven observational experiments and small-scale, field manipulative experiments. I aim to understand how algal forests change from extensive to fragmented and backwards, and what factors can enhance the ability of forests to withstand or recover from stressors.


Fourth Edition Researchers:




Doctoral Research: MARES_13_10 : Impact of non-indigenous species introduced for aquaculture on the functioning of coastal marine ecosystems

Mobility: Klaipeda (Lithuania) - Ghent (Belgium)

Summarized Abstract:
As fish farming is rapidly developing, the effluents are released into environment and cause problems to coastal ecosystems. Under this context, integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) farming methods have been proposed where fishes are co-cultured with “extractive” species (i.e. suspension feeders, deposit feeders, macro-algae). But little is known about the energy pathways in this system. In addition, by changing the communities and food sources of native species, introduced non-indigenous species (NIS) for aquaculture have caused negative impacts to nature ecosystem. So assessing ecological role of NIS in early stage would be important. I would use IMTA system in China as a typical case where NIS and native species co-occur. Nutrient cycling and food web of IMTA system would be determined to see whether trophic relationships was utilized to alleviate waste loadings and to assess the impact of NIS on food web in this coastal ecosystem


Doctoral Research:  MARES_13_09 : Living in multi-stressed sediments: behavioral consequences for the functioning and diversity in coastal habitats

Mobility: Ghent (Belgium) - Plymouth (UK)

Summarized Abstract:
Shallow coastal habitats are one of our most important and valued ecosystems, however, they are increasingly stressed by three interacting stressors namely hypoxia, rising seawater temperature and ocean acidification. These three stressors could impact many marine organisms and thus affect the overall ecosystem functioning and stability. To examine the effects of single and combined effects of these interactive stressors on the behavioural response of coastal ecosystem key species, laboratory experiments will be conducted on the common cockle (C. edule), Baltic clam (M. baltica) and marine worm (N. diversicolor) under different conditions of seawater temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen. This investigation will definitely provide valuable insights on the potential effects of the future ocean conditions on coastal species and ecosystems. 



Doctoral Research: MARES_13_13 : Zooplankton performance in a changing ocean: Adaptive capacities to a shifting food regime in the North Sea

Mobility: Bremen (Germany ) - Ghent (Belgium)

Summarized Abstract:
Changing seawater temperatures alter the bloom dynamics and succession patterns of monocellular algal species, which are the base of the food pyramid, likely altering the complex trophic structures in their ecosystems. At the Helgoland station in the North Sea, warmer waters have been delaying diatom blooms. Zooplankton growth and reproductive activity is closely linked to bloom events, such that changes in phytoplankton availability and nutritional quality directly influence their population dynamics. In that sense, zooplankton must be able to cope with changes in both timing of occurrence (match/mismatch) and food item quality and quantity. This project will investigate the effects of a changing food regime on the performance of dominant copepod and meroplankton by quantifying the energy budget in relation to food quality and temperature and by evaluating the allocation of dietary components, thus tackling the question whether and how late or failed diatom blooms affect zooplankton growth and reproduction.



Doctoral Research: MARES_13_03 : Organic nitrogen uptake by marine algae : consequences for marine ecosystem functioning and biodiversity

Mobility: Plymouth (UK) - Université Pierre et Marie Curie (France)

Summarized Abstract:
Human pressures have increased nitrogen inputs to coastal waters. Nitrogen plays an essential role in the biological productivity of aquatic ecosystems. However, its industrial production and global use in artificial fertilizers have led to a host of environmental problems.
Organic nitrogen (e.g. proteins) can comprise the major fraction of the nitrogen pool. As this pool is complex, consisting of many different molecules, its behavior is poorly understood. This project will advance our understanding of the importance of organic nitrogen to algal productivity, and potential contribution to environmental degradation and reduced biodiversity. This will be achieved by measuring how different algal species use organic nitrogen in monospecific cultures, and then by measuring rates of organic nitrogen uptake when the species are in competition with each other. Finally, these data will be compared with measurements of algal species and organic nitrogen in water samples from the English Channel during a bloom period.



Doctoral Research: MARES_13_08 : Acclimation and Adaptation of invasive seaweeds

Mobility: Algarve (Portugal) - Université Pierre et Marie Curie (France)

Summarized Abstract:
Introduction of invasive alien species makes inevitable impact on natural communities worldwide, threatening biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Among all aquatic aliens recorded in Europe, seaweeds represent one of the largest groups and constitute between 20 and 29 % of all marine non-native species. While there is an urgent need to assess the potential for future spread and evolution of invasiveness, understanding the mechanisms and estimating the speed of acclimation and adaptation of alien species into their new range may represent a great challenge. The proposed research will examine the effects of acclimation and adaptation on the success of invasive seaweeds with Sargassum muticum as model species. This will be achieved through assessing the role of genetic vs. epigenetic variation in S. muticum and the role of associated bacterial communities in adaptation and evolution.. 



Doctoral Research: MARES_13_15 : Recreational boating as a vectors of spread of marine non-indigenous species in the Mediterranean Sea: biological and socio-economic analysis

Mobility: Pavia (Italy) - UPMC (France) - HCMR (Greece)

Summarized Abstract:
The Mediterranean Sea is a hot-spot for both boating and biodiversity, and is increasingly at risk of losing many of its native species. Non-indigenous species (NIS) are currently one of the major threats facing biodiversity as they are known to out-compete local species for resources, which upsets the natural balance. The majority of NIS in the Mediterranean stem from the Red Sea, which, as waters continue to warm, have been enlarging their distribution. New species have arrived through aquaculture farming, via ballast water or fouling, but the risk that recreational vessels pose is not yet well-understood.
This research will primarily inventory the most-highly visited marinas across the Mediterranean (France, Italy, Greece and Turkey) to determine which NIS have established themselves on both docks and vessels, and secondarily, to build a model determining the risk of spread by recreational vessels. This latter will be accomplished by surveying Mediterranean boating behaviour and travel history.
Svenja TIDAU

Doctoral Research: MARES_13_05 : Driven to distraction: Behavioural consequences of noise pollution across multiple contexts in the European hermit crab

Mobility: University of Plymouth (UK) - Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (Ireland)

Summarized Abstract: 
Recent studies show that anthropogenic noise can have detrimental effects on animal behaviour, for instance through the masking of important auditory cues and communication or by distraction in non-auditory driven behaviours. This can include disruption or modification of individual and social behaviour, in contexts such as
foraging, predation or predator response and locomotion patterns. For the marine environment the effects of noise pollution have been demonstrated across a range of taxa from mammals, fish and in some cases invertebrates. Crustaceans, however, are understudied in this context. The PhD focusses on the behavioural impacts of ocean noise on the model system Pagurus bernhardus across scales and contexts. We conduct experiments on behaviours involving resource assessment and decision-making processes in P. bernhardus in the laboratory and field. These involve manipulation of the gastropod shell which crabs inhabit, for instance 50% or 80% of their optimal shell size (based on crab weight). The first experiment investigates if the visual presence of a predator affects the shell assessment behaviour and if this effect is impacted by the presence of ship noise (compared against ambient sound control). While the first experiment is conducted in the laboratory, the second takes the design into the field of Galway, Ireland to study the behaviour and likewise, whether the laboratory and field produce the same results. The third experiment could integrate a measure physiological impacts and the behaviour in the context of repeated exposure and the fourth will focus on intra-individual variability in behaviour.


Fifth Edition Researchers:



(United Kingdom)

Doctoral Research: MARES_14_15 : Informing improved management of mixed fisheries through comparative modelling of fleet dynamics

Mobility: GMIT (Ireland) - AZTI (Spain) - UPMC (France)

Summarized Abstract:
Traditionally, fisheries management has applied to each species in isolation (e.g. through quotas) failing to take account of the fact that a number of species are caught at the same time in “mixed fisheries”. This has led to overexploitation (i.e. over quota catches) of the most vulnerable species caught. Taking account of the mixed nature of fisheries requires understanding the dynamics of the biological (i.e. populations) and economic (i.e. fishery) system to explore how multiple objectives (biological, economic and social) can be met simultaneously. My research will develop and compare different fishery modelling approaches that account for how fishers interact with fish populations to predict how fishing effort may be allocated in space and time in response to management. It will then integrate the best method(s) within a bio-economic modelling framework through application to selected case studies in mixed fisheries.

Xiaoyu FANG


Doctoral Research:  MARES_14_13 : Identifying the role of past and current benthos activities for estuarine ecosystem functioning

Mobility: Ghent (Belgium) - Plymouth (UK) - NIOZ (Netherlands)

Summarized Abstract:

With the recognition of the interactions between the benthos activities and suspended matter (SPM) in estuarine ecosystem, there is an increasing demand to produce reliable projections of influences resulted from changing morphology and hydrodynamics through their impact on benthic processes.

The proposed research will focus on the Schelde estuary, which is restoring from severe eutrophication, and the transition to hyper-turbid conditions may be induced by the surpassed SPM concentration. This will be accessed by a combination of the modeling approaches, the field investigations and the rate measurements in mesocosm. The observed data will be utilized to parameterize the occurrence of macrobenthos and the bioactivity indicators. A novel application of quantile-regression model developed from the observed gradient in species and dominance will be utilized to simulate species distribution. When coupled with a 1-D biogeochemical model which illustrates the biogeochemical processes and SPM dynamics, the final integrated model will be capable of gaining the insight how the estuarine ecosystem responses to human-induced hydro-morphological and biogeochemical changes, thus predicting the future scenarios of hydro-morphological changes.

Michelle JEWELL

(United States)

Doctoral Research: MARES_14_03 : Arctic meltdown affects tropical seagrass meadows via migrant shorebird

Mobility: NIOZ (Netherlands) - Aveiro (Portugal) - Gdansk (Poland)

Summarized Abstract:
Climate change is a prominent human impact on the world’s organisms. Although a global problem, some climates are changing more rapidly or drastically than others.  Notably, the Arctic region is warming at unprecedented rates which is a phenomenon called ‘Arctic amplification’. Several migratory shorebird species utilize the Arctic as a breeding ground and spend the rest of the year in coastal habitats. Therefore, climate change impacts rapidly occurring in the Arctic may be being transported to other, seemingly undisturbed, ecosystems by these migrants. Using the red knot Calidris canutus canutus as a model species, we will study how a phenotypic reduction in body size, induced by Arctic amplification; (A) alters the birds’ diet in the non-breeding season, (B) their survival chances, and (C) how this change may induce an ecological cascade in their tropical wintering grounds in Mauritania, West Africa.


(Trinidad & Tobago)

Doctoral Research: MARES_14_02 : Microplastic distribution and ecological interactions across latitudinal gradients

Mobility: GMIT (Ireland) - Plymouth (United Kingdom)

Summarized Abstract:
Plastic debris in the world’s oceans is an issue of global importance due to the negative impacts these substances may have upon ecosystem well being and human health. Recently, there has been growing concern about the impact of microplastics (i.e. plastics < 5 mm) on marine ecosystems. This project therefore focuses on existing knowledge gaps regarding marine microplastic pollution. The project will assess the distribution and abundance of microplastics across latitudinal gradients with attention being directed to areas for which there is a particular paucity of information (e.g. Polar Regions). Reasons for the observed distribution patterns of microplastics across latitudinal gradients (e.g. poleward transport, exclusion from the thermohaline circulation, etc) will be proposed and further investigated by relevant laboratory experiments. The project will also investigate the ecological impact of microplastic pollution by assessing microplastic and associated pollutant levels in biota (e.g. prey species and fish commercially harvested for human consumption).



Doctoral Research: MARES_14_12 : Microbial diversity and its role in the resilience of large brown seaweeds

Mobility: Bologna (Italy) - Ghent (Belgium)

Summarized Abstract:
My research is focus on microbial diversity. Because human activites are causing environmental and ecological changes of global significance. By a variety of direct and indirect mechanisms, anthropogenic pressures on ecosystems contribute to the loss of biodiversity. We describe the diversity of the microbial communites associated with model fucoid algae subject to different stress level. Test hypothese on microbial community assembly by comparing functional composition and phylogenetic diversity. And explore experimentally the interacions between the alga and the microbial communities and how these can be affected by changing environmental conditions and genetic background.. 

Shawn HINZ(United States)

Doctoral Research: Delineating nearshore habitats using remote sensing and advanced ground truthing technologies: a model of survey optimization in the Gulf of Lyon

Mobility: Université Pierre et Marie Curie (France) - Ghent University (Belgium)

Summarized Abstract: 
Physical measurement of seafloor structures is critical to identifying marine habitats. Delineating these habitat and characterizing their structures is fundamental to determining the distribution of benthic and pelagic communities. These habitats also critical components for ecosystem function and have significant implications for conservation and management (Diaz & Martin Solan 2004). Technical solutions to overcome the challenges of nearshore surveys focused on remote sensing technology to expedite broad scale marine habitat mapping. These remote sensing measurements are typically issued from satellite imagery and acoustic measurements from waterborne vessels, and start to be used to characterize nearshore habitat structures. Although these remote sensing measurements provide a much more accurate characterization of the nearshore environments, they often do not provide enough accuracy for the advanced assessment of environmental change nor do they provide representative synoptic spatial observations (Reshitnyk, Maycira, Robinson, & Dearden, 2014) (Clements, Strong, Flanagan, & Service, 2009). This research will focus primarily on evaluating the feasibility, accuracy and quality of two remote sensing techniques; bathymetric Lidar and AUV technology for identifying nearshore habitats. For this, the use of remote sensing technologies will be coupled with ground truthing techniques to optimize data reliability. Secondarily this research will propose a survey assessment approach that researchers can utilize to optimizing nearshore marine studies. The rational for such an approach is based upon a perspective that allows for a progressive data collection and analysis program that can focus on sensitive areas of interest. Evaluation of the proposed remote sensing technologies and development of the survey approach will conducted at three different areas of the Gulf of Lyon, France that vary in physical and biological characteristics.

Jeffrey WILSON
(United States)

Doctoral Research:  Predicting environmental responses in coastal systems using a systembased hydrodynamic modeling approach

Mobility: Université Pierre et Marie Curie (France) - Ghent University (Belgium)

Summarized Abstract:


Doctoral Research: MARES_14_09 : Transcriptional bases of cross-acclimation in an abundant kelp, Saccharina latissima, from temperate to Arctic waters

Mobility: Universität Bremen (Germany) - Université Pierre et Marie Curie (France)

Summarized Abstract:

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