Research Group

Fish Ecology and Sustainability

The Fish Ecology and Sustainability team main goal is to understand the ecosystem functioning of coastal and estuarine areas, with special emphasis on plankton and fish communities, and how human actions interfere with the ecosystem’s health, and ultimately with the delivery of services, societal goods and benefits. With this overarching aim, we conduct studies to evaluate ecological functions of coastal areas (e.g. nursery, connectivity, refuge, biodiversity), impacts of human pressures (e.g. pollution, habitat loss and degradation) and climate change, and marine ecosystem services, that allow us to provide scientific support to environmental managers and decision-makers.

Marine litter is one of the human activities that our research team is focused on, namely microplastics pollution and litter derived from fisheries, as abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG). The team is particularly interested in investigating microplastics contamination and their potential effects on aquatic organisms, habitats and ecological functions, to improve the scientific understanding of the impacts of these emergent contaminants.
Addressing questions at levels that range from early life stages to whole ecosystems, the team’s research blends different ecological toolkits including field studies, laboratory experimentation, statistical and mechanistic modeling, as well as new approaches for environmental assessments, including participatory approaches to capitalize local stakeholder’s knowledge (Local Ecological Knowledge; Fishers Ecological Knowledge). And, through ongoing collaborations with national and international multidisciplinary teams, we aim to contribute to the development of reliable and efficient tools to address the scientific challenge of promoting conservation and sustainable use of marine ecosystems.

Principal Investigator

Team Leader

I’m a biologist and the leader of the Fish Ecology and Sustainability research team. My primary research area is marine ecology, specifically concerning fish communities. I’m particularly interested in understanding how human activities, including marine litter and microplastics, impact ecosystems and their ability to provide services and societal benefits. In my research, I’ve been employing innovative approaches to leverage stakeholder knowledge, as Fishers Ecological Knowledge, and provide scientific support to environmental managers and decision-makers. Throughout my career, I’ve bridged the gap between science and society, advocating for stakeholder integration in science, fostering collaborative solutions for environmental issues, and promoting Ocean Literacy.


Research Projects
























Group members

PhD student

Celso Domingos holds a BSc in Biological Sciences from Estácio de Sá University (2014) and a MSc in Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (2016). Currently he is a student of the Doctoral Program in Marine Science, Technology and Management (Do*Mar) at the University of Porto, and a Blue Young Talent (BYT) fellow. His main research interests are on taxonomy, systematics and biogeography of sponges, with a focus on glass sponges (class Hexactinellida). He addresses these and other questions of this group using integrative approaches that combine morphological, molecular and ecological data and in the use of this information to support conservation strategies and sustainable use of the natural resources.

MSc Student

Cláudia Moura has a degree in Biology from the University of Aveiro and is currently enrolled in the Master’s degree in Environmental Contamination and Toxicology at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto and the Abel Salazar Institute of Medical Sciences. Currently, She is working on her master’s dissertation at CIIMAR on “Seasonal Assessment of Microplastic Contamination in Farmed Oysters (Crassostrea gigas) from the Lima River Estuary and the Effectiveness of Depuration”.

PhD student

Diogo Silva graduated in Biology in 2005 at Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto, and holds a MSc in Marine Sciences-Marine Resources from ICBAS – University of Porto. Diogo participated in different projects at CIIMAR (e.g. Benefits, MYTAG, OMARE), and contributed as an author for the publication of several scientific papers published in international journals, three as a main author. Currently, Diogo is working as a PhD student (Aquatic Sciences – Biology and Ecology, from ICBAS) at CIIMAR, in an investigation related with microplastics in seafood.

PhD student

Jacinto Cunha has a degree B.S in Biology, a Master in Master in Ecology, Environment, and Territory and a postgraduate degree in Remote Sensing from the University of Porto. He is a broad-spectrum ecologist working on different aspects of coastal and marine ecology,and is currently pursuing his PhD, focusing on the study of coastal and marine ecosystem services through multidisciplinary approaches. His main research area is coastal and marine ecology and management, focused on ecosystem services and the impacts of human activities on ecosystems. He is also a remote sensing and geospatial enthusiast, applying spatial and modelling approaches to solve ecological and environmental challenges.


Lisa P. Sousa holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Engineering from the University of Aveiro. Her work has focused on spatial planning and management, particularly of marine and coastal areas. She has been involved in several national and international research projects, but also in technical studies for governmental administrations, focusing on maritime spatial planning, transboundary cooperation, cumulative impacts, adaptation to climate change, coastal and estuarine ecosystem services. She also has skills in Geographic Information Systems and spatial analysis, stakeholders’ involvement, and scientific knowledge-transfer. Currently she is responsible for the NETTAG+ project management.

MSc Student

Maria Francisca Espincho has a BSc in Biochemistry obtained from the Faculty of Sciences of University of Porto (FCUP) and the Abel Salazar Institute of Medical Sciences (ICBAS). Currently, Francisca is enrolled on the Master’s Degree in Environmental Contamination and Toxicology at ICBAS and FCUP and developing her master’s dissertation at CIIMAR, studying zooplankton and microplastic interferences on two Portuguese estuaries.

PhD student

Rúben took his BSc in Biology at FCUP and holds a MSc in Marine Sciences – Marine Resources from ICBAS, both institutions from the University of Porto. Currently he is working as a PhD student at CIIMAR in the Fish ecology and sustainability group, studying the impacts of microplastic contamination on primary producers and associated ecosystem services.

PhD student

Sabrina Rodrigues is graduated in Biology from Science Faculty (Porto University) and holds a MSc in Marine Sciences – Marine Resources from ICBAS (Porto University). Sabrina participated in different projects at CIIMAR, namely, MYTAG, OMARE, NetTag and Ocean3R. Currently, SM Rodrigues is doing her PhD in bioavailability and effects of microplastics on fish larvae at CIIMAR and Hull University (UK). Her research interests focus on the early life stages of fishes and contamination in aquatic environments, namely estuarine and coastal areas.


Vânia Freitas is a researcher at CIIMAR, holding a Ph.D. in Ecology from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and a B.S. in Biology from the University of Porto. Her research centers on the ecology of shallow coastal and estuarine ecosystems. She conducts environmental monitoring and modeling to evaluate the impact of stressors, including those driven by humans, on habitat quality and species performance. Much of her work involves assessing growth conditions for juvenile fish in nursery areas. Additionally, she’s delved into bivalve physiology, employing predictive models to forecast growth under changing environmental conditions, to support the aquaculture industry.

MSc Student
Human Resources

Zaíra has a B.A. in Biological Sciences from the Federal University of Ceará, Brazil. During this period, much of the work was dedicated to environmental education, data collection, and internship experiences with sea turtles. She studies at the University of Porto for a master’s in Environmental Economics and Management. At the moment, the main research topics are Ecosystem Services from the blue forests of kelp.

Main publications

Microplastics Contamination in large migratory fishes collected in the open Atlantic Ocean.

Pereira, R., Rodrigues, S.M., Silva, D., Freitas, V., Almeida, C.M.R., Ramos, S.

2023Marine Pollution Bulletin 186, 114454
Optimization of an Analytical Protocol for the Extraction of Microplastics from Seafood Samples with Different Levels of Fat.

Silva, D.M., Almeida, C.M.R., Guardiola, F., Rodrigues, S.M., Ramos, S.

2022Molecules 27, 5172
Microplastics and plankton: Knowledge from laboratory and field studies to distinguish contamination from pollution.

Rodrigues, S. M., Elliott, M., Almeida, C. M. R., Ramos, S.

2021Journal of Hazardous Materials, 417, 126057
Microplastics contamination in an urban estuary: abundance and distribution of microplastics and fish larvae in the Douro estuary.

Rodrigues, S.M., Almeida, C.M.R., Silva, D., Cunha, J., Antunes, C., Freitas, V., Ramos, S.

2019Science of the Total Environment, 659: 1071-1081