The Research Centre for Experimental Marine Biology and Biotechnology "Plentziako Itsas Estazioa" (PiE-UPV/EHU; Plentzia Marine Station) is an institution without juridical entity created by the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).

The centre is devoted to scientific and technological research; it also carries out teaching activities of specialised education (e.g., postgraduate studies and doctorates), science dissemination; and it might provide technical advice in the field of its expertise in order to transfer to industry and administration those scientific and technological outcomes developed in the areas of interaction between the Ocean and ecosystem and human health and in related disciplines.

Scientific background

The promoters of this initiative in the UPV/EHU have been conducting research of excellence in diverse aspects (Cellular Biology, Ecology, Analytical Chemistry, etc.) of the interactions between environment (chemical substances and other environmental agents) and living organisms over the last 20 years. Two of these research groups have been recognised as Consolidated Groups "A" and two as Consolidated Groups "B" (BOPV 27-11-07), and are integrated in two Formation and Research Units (UFIs: UFI11/37 “Ecosystem Health Protection (UFIPSE)” and UFI11/26 “Global Change and Heritage”).

In parallel to the research work carried out, big efforts have been addressed to formation (postgraduate and doctorate education, specialization courses, etc.) and dissemination on diverse aspects related to terrestrial and marine ecosystems' health. Thus, two Official Postgraduate Masters with Mention of Quality (“European MSc in Marine Environment and Resources” - Erasmus Mundus - and “Environmental Contamination and Toxicology”) are offered as a part of the UPV/EHU Postgraduate Programme. In addition, the Doctoral programmes “Marine Environment and Resources” and “Environmental Contamination and Toxicology” have been recognized with the Mention towards Excellence of the Ministry of Education (2011-to date).

Finally, given the increasing general interest on these subjects and their repercussion on human welfare, a program of dissemination activities has been designed, addressed to master students, doctoral candidates, professionals, secondary school students and overall citizens.

History of the PiE-UPV/EHU initiative

In July 23rd 2007, the Vice-rector of the Campus of Bizkaia of the UPV/EHU declares the interest of the Universidad del País Vasco /Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea to support the project “Plentziako Itsas Estazioa /Estación Marina de Plentzia” (PiE-UPV/EHU). Such declaration is aimed at enhancing research and education activities in the framework of Marine and Environmental Bio(tecno)logy and at facilitating the dissemination of scientific knowledge. Concretely, the interest to launch a service of experimentation in marine Biology is recognised: PiE-UPV/EHU provides the possibility to handle great volumes of seawater, which allows the accomplishment of experiments otherwise unthinkable but necessary for consolidated research groups of excellence. Remarkable mention is made to the inclusion in the project of a permanent seminar of environmental education including postgraduate formation (international official masters of quality), congresses, university specialist courses (LLL), dissemination activities, etc.; which, together with research, shape the marine station as an extension of the university. In summary, the project of the PiE-UPV/EHU marine station is considered of great strategic interest for the UPV/EHU and, in general, for the technological agents of the Basque Country that work in the area of Marine and Environmental Bio(tecno)logy; to whom the PiE-UPV/EHU will give an opportunity to settle at the front line of research and university education at international level.

Since this date, the project begins to embody, thanks to the support provided by institutions (Bizkaia Province Government, Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa, City council of Plentzia, UPV/EHU, Delegation of Coasts, Basque Government), and becomes into today's reality. Besides the building remodeling, a Strategic Plan has been designed and alliances and collaborations have been settled down to sustain the PiE-UPV/EHU's functioning and to pursue that it develops into a center of excellence in scientific research and high level university formation.

The origin of this initiative is very much earlier; it is the result of the restlessness and needs of UPV/EHU teaching staff and researchers that in the mid 90's perceived the possibilities offered by the building of the Plentzia sanatorium. In 2001, a proposal is made for the first time to the City council of Plentzia, the BBK and the UPV/EHU; and although it is considered seriously it does not come about. Two years later, the Prestige oil spill wakes up the interest by the initiative that finally would take off throughout 2006-2007.

The Sanatorium of Plentzia

The building that host the Plentzia Marine Station was constructed by 1923, when the former Caja de Ahorros Vizcaína turned it a heliotherapy sanatorium for bone tuberculosis patients. During decades it was owned by BBK, now incorporated to Kutxabank. The financial entity granted the building to the City council of Plentzia that finally transfers it to the UPV/EHU to carry out this project. The investment carried out for remodeling, conditioning and equipment of the building has been financed almost in its totality by the Province Government of Bizkaia.

Plencia sanatorium photo