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

Four research groups (Marine Benthos, Marine Microbes, Estuarine & Coastal Phytoplankton Ecology, and Marine & Estuarine Zooplankton) develop their activities in the field of marine ecology and are joining efforts to provide PiE-UPV/EHU with wide scoped viewpoint, conceptual framework and toolbox to continue exploring the quality and health of marine ecosystems as well as to launch a programme of bioexploration aimed at obtaining novel resources from the ocean.

Marine Benthos Research Group (MBRG). Since the early 1980s, MBRG has focused on anthropogenic effects on the structure of rocky marine benthic communities, identifying indicators of ecological quality, measuring significant changes induced by climate change, and selecting species with potential biotechnological properties. Its main activities include: (a) effect of climate change on marine communities of the Basque coast; (b) effects assessment of the Port of Bilbao enlargement works; (c) long-term effect assessment of the effluent from the Petronor refinery; (d) long-term assessment of the incidence of sanitation sewage plans on the Abra de Bilbao; and (e) effect assessment of sewage discharge from several treatment plants along the Basque coast.


Marine Microbes Research Group (MMRG). MMRG focuses on the microbial planktonic communities in the marine environment. Its field of expertise is the analysis of the links between the structure, composition and diversity of the prokaryotic communities and their activity and role in the transformation of marine organic material, such as the consumption of organic compounds, the growth and respiration rates, and the release of carbon dioxide. In this sense, the group is particularly involved in the determination of the temperature dependence of the microbes and of their response to global warming, both at the costal and oceanic levels. In addition, other research topics are the interrelationships between protozoa and bacteria such as predator-prey system (resistance to predation, use of chemical cues), the importance of D-amino acids as indicators of productivity in the ocean, and the relationship between the bacterial community composition and the growth efficiency. While most of the research is carried out in a sampling station located on the coast of Bizkaia (Armintza, East Cantabrian Sea), the group has joined microbial oceanography cruises conducted in waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the global Ocean (Southern, Atlantic, Pacific & Indian oceans).

Estuarine & Coastal Phytoplankton Ecology (FITEAC) CRG. FITEAC is recognized since 2001 as CRG (Type “B”). Main research lines include: influence of radiation and temperature on growth of estuarine and coastal phytoplankton, identification of phytoplankton species (harmful algae and blooms); and phytoplankton communities of reference for EU directives on water quality.

Marine & Estuarine Zooplankton (MarEsPlank) CRG. MarEsPlank is mainly devoted to the study of estuarine and marine zooplankton, its response to environmental changes at different scales of variability and its function in the ecosystem. The group has ample experience in zooplankton taxonomic identification, field and laboratory experiments for copepod egg production and zooplankton grazing, and taxonomic analyses of fish larvae gut contents. Recent ongoing research is mainly focused on the bioindication of long-term natural and anthropogenic environmental changes in estuarine and marine environments including those related to changes in climatic factors and also to large spatial scale modes of climate-ocean variability. The group participates actively in the ICES Working Group on Zooplankton Ecology (WGZE).


Marine Molecular Ecology, Biotechnology & Biomedicine Research Area

Three research groups (Tuna Lab RG, Cell Biophysics Joint Lab, and Ecology & Molecular Biology of Vibrio RG) develop their activities in the field of marine molecular ecology and its applications for fisheries, food biotechnology and biomedical research.

Tuna Lab Research Group (Seafood Quality & Safety). Tuna Lab RG was established at PiE-UPV/EHU by Dr I Martinez when she incorporated into UPV/EHU as Ikerbasque Research Professor in 2012. The main research lines within fisheries and aquaculture are i) the application of systems engineering methods to seafood production, including the development of fast non-invasive methods to detect alterations on the farming conditions (i.e., contaminants, fish welfare), ii) identification and characterization of the effects of Se compounds on fish (effect on MeHg toxicity), and iii) the development of methods for seafood authentication. The Tuna lab research group is currently developing non-invasive, fast, reliable, robust and affordable tools to detect the presence of undesirable substances during seafood production. The tools are based on the principles of systems engineering and use the fish themselves as sensors of the biological warning system.

Cell Biophysics PiE-UB Joint laboratory (CBJL Lab). CBJL Lab is located at PiE-UPV/EHU. It is equipped with an automated multiple frequency domain fluorescence lifetime imaging microscope (mf-FLIM) as well as a two-photon time FLIM (2photon-FLIM). These instruments are exploited to detect molecular interactions by time resolved FRET in single cells as well as fixed tissue. The mf-FLIM has also TIRF capabilities (total internal reflection)- TIRF is used for detecting molecular dynamics and interaction near the plasma membrane of cells. Cell Biophysics laboratory has set up close collaborations with the Universities of Bath and Bristol where postdocs, undergraduates and PhD students are being recruited since September 2015.

Ecology & Molecular Biology of Vibrio RG. The EMBV research group (studies physiological responses and strategies enabling marine bacteria (primarily Vibrio sp.) to survive in natural aquatic systems under adverse conditions. In addition to defining the survival strategies and interrelationships between bacterivorous protists and bacteria populations 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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