Dr. Michael Sweet​

Full Professor in Molecular Ecology, School of Built and Natural Environment, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, University of Derby (UK)

From as early as I can remember I have loved the natural world. This wonder and deep respect for all living organisms was primarily nurtured by my mum who, when I was young, protected our local countryside as a countryside ranger. Her work allowed me many opportunities for attending bat walks, to creepy crawly shows and her patience meant our house was often full of animals ranging from ducks to foxes, tarantulas, and bearded dragons. At high school, apparently all I could talk about was becoming a marine biologist. At my reunion a few years ago, when people asked me if I reached my goal, it was a very pleasurable moment when I could say “Yes, I have!!” Our research takes on a truly collaborative approach and spans across the globe. From Australia to the Seychelles, the Maldives to the Cayman Islands and many places in-between. Aside from these sunny climes, we have also worked in the Arctic, closer to home in our freshwater rivers, and in the deep sea (2000 metres down). My team, who call the Aquatic Research Facility our home, work on sharks, turtles, crayfish, seagrass, sponges and of course, corals. We’ve described long forgotten species thought to be extinct, and novel diseases plaguing the organisms we love so much. This led us to pioneer two key areas of research which I will discuss more in the plenary; we were the first in the world to spawn corals ex situ, which has enabled upscaling of reef restoration efforts around the world, and we were early pioneers in the developments of harnessing the microbiome (bacteria and fungi for example) to prevent biodiversity loss. We are passionate about impact and science communication. Indeed, I’ve won awards on this topic from the British Science Association. You will often find me giving public lectures or workshops at schools trying to inspire the next generation to carry on this fight to save our world. We also work closely with politicians and organizations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the United Nations. For the UN, we used science to inform policy in the fight against plastic pollution and I am now currently leading the ‘state of our coral reefs’ chapter for the 2024 World Ocean Assessment. My goal is simple, save our planet and leave something amazing for future generations to come.

Dr. Marta Ribes

Senior researcher at the Spanish National Research Council (ICM-CSIC, ES)

Marta Ribes earned her Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Barcelona in 1998. Her thesis focused on benthic feeders’ metabolism, utilizing in situ incubation chambers for gorgonian species, sponges, and ascidians. After her Ph.D., she conducted postdoctoral research at the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, uncovering the significance of picoplankton in coral reefs and the role of hydrodynamics in nutrient acquisition. Awarded the prestigious “Ramon y Cajal” contract in 2001, she secured a tenure-track position at the Institute of Marine Science in Barcelona, becoming a permanent staff member in 2007.

Researching coastal marine benthos on rocky substrates dominated by filter feeders, she focuses on the energetic dynamics sustaining the metabolism of the dominant taxa. Her work explores strategies for resource acquisition, such as symbiosis and structural investment, and investigates ecosystem-level energy dependence through hydrodynamics. Her research lines include assessing energy inputs and nutrient acquisition through comprehensive diet studies and quantifying oxygen consumption. This energetic approach has pioneered the understanding of large-scale benthic organism mortality related to climate change. Simultaneously, she has contributed to research on energy investment in secondary production in benthic invertebrates and collaborated on understanding the geographical expansion of invasive species, such as the coral Oculina patagonica, emphasizing the significance of organism interactions in spatial occupation.

Her research primarily involves in situ studies under actual environmental conditions, emphasizing seasonal analyses across changing environmental factors. This is particularly relevant in temperate seas like the Mediterranean and crucial within the context of climate change. Her work has resulted in 66 scientific papers cited over 4,300 times, several book chapters, and outreach papers. Continuously funded as PI for 10 competitive projects and involved in over 20 projects as a research team member, she has also supervised several PhD and MSc theses.

Dr. Sergio Rossi​

Associate Professor in Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Technologies, Università del Salento (IT)

As a research scientist specializing in marine natural resources and biological oceanography, Sergio Rossi’s work is dedicated to the understanding how global change affects the oceans. His primary focus extends across crucial domains, encompassing the identification of global change indicators, examination of stressors impacting coastal benthic populations, exploration of marine invertebrate distribution patterns, and the study of benthic-pelagic coupling processes. Additionally, his research contributes to the conservation and restoration of marine wildlife. Currently he holds the position of Associate Professor at the Università del Salento (DiSTeBA) and Permanent Professor at the Universidade Federal do Cearà (Labomar). Since 2016, he also held the position of Scientific Director at the ocean regeneration company Underwater Gardens International, based in Barcelona. He has also worked at the Environmental Science and Technology Institute (ICTA-Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain) and at the Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Spain). He has actively participated in over 50 research projects, including those under the 6th and 7th, Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe framework EU program projects such as METRO-MED, EUROGEL, HERMES, CENSOR, MedSeA, Blue Islands, PHAROS, and more. He served as the Principal Investigator in 9 projects. These achievements were made possible through close collaboration with 6 Post Docs, 18 PhDs, and nearly 60 graduate and master’s students, as well as a very extensive international network. Currently, he holds the position of coordinator for the Horizon Europe “Ocean Citizen” project and serve as the chair of the MAF-WORLD COST networking action.