Welcome to MARlab!

Marine Research and Environmental Risk Lab (MARlab) brings together transdisciplinary scientists committed to the development of basic and applied research on Ecology, Environmental Toxicology and Risk Assessment to support policy makers on environmental and human health risk assessment and monitoring estuarine and marine pollution. 

MARlab comprises four rearing, brooding and bioassay facilities for aquatic organisms, certified by the Portuguese General Directorate for Veterinary (DGVA) and two fully-equipped laboratories, for Marine Biology and Toxicology. MARlab facilities also meet business and industry communities’ needs through analytical, methodological and consultancy services.

MARlab integrates researchers from MARE-NOVA (Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre) at the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, NOVA School of Sciences and Technology (FCT NOVA). MARE has been classified as an ‘Excellent’ R&D Unit by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT). 

Our research lines are:

Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment 

Coordinators: Maria Helena Costa and Marta Martins

Main goals:

i) Disclose the potential toxicological mechanisms of priority and emerging environmental contaminants (e.g. metals, organic chemicals, nanomaterials, pharmaceuticals, micro and nanoplastics), and their interaction effects on aquatic ecosystems (from cell to organisms, populations and communities), applying in situ, in vivo (marine organisms and zebrafish models) and in vitro models (fish primary cells and human cell lines); 

ii) Develop new knowledge and integrative tools (including new biomarkers and guide-value for contaminant monitoring) to support environmental and human health risk assessment;

iii) Assess the safety of new products to support the blue economy.

The team has expertise on multi-level and integrative approaches from state-of-art genomic and transcriptomic to genotoxicity, histopathology and biochemical assessment.

Biosedimentary Dynamics of coastal environments

Coordinator: Maria Helena Costa

The research aims to:

i) investigate the “bottom-up” interaction effects of the different sediment trophic status, as the biogeochemistry conditions, on food web structure of the benthic assemblages in estuarine and marine sediments of the continental shelf; 

ii) investigate food resources use and trophic position of estuarine macrobenthos and benthic nematodes in Sado estuary and continental Shelf food web under different sediment trophic status, using the natural abundance of stable C and N isotopes;

iii) assess the functional responses of the benthic ecosystem to human pressures;

iv) analyse and integrate the data obtained to provide robust methodologies to assess GES for the specific descriptors D4-Food webs and associated descriptors of the “biodiversity theme” (D1,D6) of MSFD. 

Marine litter and microplastics

Coordinator: Paula Sobral

The MARE-NOVA team has pioneered marine litter and microplastics research in Portugal.

We investigate distribution and abundance on microplastics in water, sediment and biota using the best available techniques to detect and analyse particles and fibers. We have built transdisciplinary partnerships to develop new approaches to better detection and reduction of marine litter and of microplastics and to assess their impacts towards biota. Our work has been included in the national reports on the GES of descriptor 10 within the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

We are currently investigating inputs of riverine microplastics to the estuaries the oceans and the nearshore and working for the voluntary implementation of prevention and reduction of plastic pellets loss from the industry.

We welcome prospective students and young scientists interested in marine litter and microplastics to work in our lab.


Coordinators: Marta Martins and Neusa Figueiredo

Bioremediation is defined as "the use of living organisms to reduce or eliminate environmental hazards resulting from accumulations of toxic chemicals and other hazardous wastes" (Gibson & Sayler, 1992). Naturally occurring microorganisms are well known for their ability to detoxify toxic chemicals, as the result of their adaptive processes to the environmental pollution. Most of microbial bioremediation proposals are based on the application of indigenous microorganisms, as they exhibit the resistance phenotype to specific contaminant or contaminant mixtures. In this context, we are engaged in developing research related with microbial activity in aquatic sediments, with the perspective to exploit bioremediation strategies to reduce aquatic pollution.