Research groups

Researchers at PiE-UPV/EHU are organized on (a) Research Groups (RG), (b) Consolidated Research Groups (CRGs; according to Basque Government quality standards), and (c) Research & Formation Units (UFIs, in Spanish) which comprise aggregation of RGs and CRGs with common research and training objectives. These groups have long-lasting experience and expertise and carry out their research in different Research Areas:

Environmental Toxicology Research Area

Cell Biology in Environmental Toxicology (CBET) CRG. Since 1983, CBET CRG develops research and teaching activities within environmental toxicology, and is recognized since 2001 as CRG (Type “A”). Its main field of expertise is developing early warning cell and molecular markers of pollution exposure and effects. The group measures routinely several well-established biomarkers of pollution (lysosomal stability and enlargement, EROD activity, metallothionein-MT levels, antioxidant enzymes and oxidative stress, vitellogenin-Vtg levels, DNA damage, histopathology) and participates in inter-calibration trials (BEEP, BEQUALM, UNEP-MEDPOL). The group has been involved in monitoring of biological effects of pollution along the Basque coast, Mediterranean coast, North Sea, and Caribbean mangroves.

 

Environmental & Analytical Chemistry Research Area

Analytical Research & Innovation (IBeA) CRG. IBeA CRG has been working since 1987 in many basic research lines and in several innovative and applied activities with surrounding companies. The main research activities are linked with the development and application of analytical methodologies in environmental and cultural heritage issues. IBeA develops methods to analyse pollutants and determine their environmental distribution and the availability and effects for living organisms. The most innovative aspects deal with (a) developing multiresidues analysis for screening of emerging pollutants; (b) applying passive sampling methods for assessing ecotoxicological effects of pollutants (e.g. through metabolomics); (c) changes in water (acidification) and sediment due to global change; and (d) hyperspectral analysis by combining microscopy with spectroscopic techniques (IR, Raman, NIR), atomic force microscopy (AFM) or electron microscopy and elemental analysis (STEM/EDS).

 

Marine ecology research area

Marine and Estuarine Plankton Ecology (MEPE) CRG. The MEPE CRG assembles the previous groups of Zooplankton Ecology (MarEsPlank) and Phytoplankton Ecology (FITEAC) since 2019. The group has experts in phytoplankton and zooplankton taxonomy, microalgae culturing and pigment analysis, and advanced statistical processing of ecological data. The main research lines deal with plankton responses to natural and anthropogenic environmental changes at different scales of variability, including long-term changes in relation to climate and main regional modes of climate-ocean variability, the assessment of harmful algae, zooplankton invasions and ballast water risks, and the bioprospecting for natural products from microalgae. The group is responsible for a time-series programme initiated in 1997 for the monitoring of the water environment and plankton of two contrasting estuaries of the Basque coast (https://www.ehu.eus/en/web/marineestuarineplankton/bilbao-urdaibai-time-series), and also collaborates in studies on small pelagic fish ecology and shellfish farming. The group participates actively in ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) Working Groups, collaborates with the IGMETS (International Group of Marine Ecological Time Series) and the ICES-NOAA’s collaborative project COPEPOD, for the analysis and synthesis of global marine ecological changes and provides baselines for EU directives on water quality.

 

Environment resilience of marine systems

Resilient Seafood Production. It has two main Research Lines: the first one dealing with circularity in seafood production and the second one with resilience in fish production systems.

Research Line 1 – Circularity in seafood production.

Bacteria from fish gut as source of antioxidants: These activities will be carried out in close collaboration with the Department of Analytical Chemistry (UPV/EHU), in particular Dr José Antonio Carrero and Prof Nestor Etxebarria. We are also grateful for the collaboration of the tuna fishing industry.

This research line addresses sustainability by contributing to the circularity in the production of safe and healthy seafood using currently discarded material namely, tuna intestines, as a source of valuable probiotics and of food and feed antioxidant ingredients. We will focus on the production of antioxidants and Se-containing metabolites that may counteract Hg-toxicity. This will contribute to increasing the sustainability of fisheries by allowing to carry out an optimal evaluation of the potential Hg toxicity from fish (given that it has been repeatedly demonstrated that Hg-content alone is not a suitable parameter to estimate the toxicity and therefore the recommended daily intake of some tuna species) and to circularity, by allowing the optimal use of their intestinal microorganisms as sources of valuable probiotics and antioxidants.

Inactivation of parasites for the safe use of fish fillets

This second sub-line of research will be developed with Prof Mercedes Careche (ICTAN-CSIC), an expert in thermal processing of fish and leader of the project MINECO PID2020-119201RB-I00 “Mapping the effect of heating regimes on Anisakis death and fate of their allergens in fish muscle. Development of a decision support tool for optimal processing (HEATSAKIS)” in which Iciar Martinez is the leader of Work Package 4 (Fate of Anisakis allergens in hake muscle) and Harkaitz Eguiraun is the leader of Work package 6 (To develop and validate a support decision tool for hake processing).

Research Line 2 – Resilience in fish farming systems

This activity is a continuation of our research on Biological Warning Systems and Intelligent Aquaculture with a new twist: identify or develop non-invasive methods and markers to identify resilient fish systems in aquaculture, suitable to be implemented in Intelligent Aquaculture/Precision Fish Farming systems both in Recirculating Aquaculture (RAS) and in open sea settings. Our objective is to develop a practical tool and identify which variables are the best predictors for the system´s resilience and to which stressors, in order to further develop the practical decision support systems (and additional intelligent tools as deemed necessary) to optimize the production under different environments and with different expected environmental challenges.

 

Bacterial Resistance to Stress. The research group studies morphological and physiological responses that define the patterns of adaptation and survival to changing aquatic systems of marine bacteria (primarily Vibrio sp.). In addition to study the survival strategies and interrelationships between bacteria populations and bacterivorous protists or marine invertebrate animals under changing environmental conditions, the group also deals with the molecular mechanisms underlying the persistence and adaptation of marine bacteria in adverse environments. The group regularly collects sample along the Biscay coast in the East Cantabrian Sea to determine the seasonal presence and diversity of Vibrio species.

Global Environment Observatory (BEGI)

BEGI aims at contributing with data and research on remote sensing, analysis of long-term trends and climate change in remote sensing data, meteorological models, coastal sediment dynamics and downscaling of meteorological, physicochemical, ecological and biological- effects parameters.

Meteorology & Modelling (M&M) CRG. M&M CRG. Its main research topics include analysis of climate data from numerical models and observations, use of mesoscale models of the atmosphere both with and without variational assimilation and statistical downscaling of temperature, precipitation, wind or wave energy flux, all these topics applied to climate, seasonal and operational forecasting of different marine and atmospheric data, including renewable energy resources. Prof. MB Collins is founding editor-in-chief of Continental Shelf Research & Hellenic Oceanographic Society Award 2015. He is acting as world ambassador of the PiE- UPV/EHU and is contributing to develop links with Greece, China, Australia and Brazil.

IEO RG. In 2016, the BEGI Joint Research Unit was created at PiE-UPV/EHU by agreement between the Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO) and the UPV/EHU. Prof. C Garcia-Soto incorporated into PiE-UPV/EHU as associated researcher through preliminary general agreement with the IEO in 2012 and developed reserach in the field of remote sensing and its applications to biological oceanography (mainly primary production) and global and climate change.

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