Director: Ramiro Neves
- Description of the Research Group +
The Marine Environment and Technology Centre - MARETEC ¬is a research center of IST. Traditionally the Centre carried out research in the fields of marine environment and technologies (including marine energy). In the framework of the reorganization of the research units the center has integrated eight new members dealing with environmental science, ecological modelling and ecological economics and lost three members dealing with marine technologies. As a consequence, from 2015 onwards the center will be focused on marine energies, environmental science and ecological economics.
MARETEC is a multidisciplinary and international center integrating mostly Engineers, but also Physicists, Geologists, Marine Scientists, Agronomists, Forestry Scientists, Biologists, and Economists, from 7 countries. Integrated investigators teach in B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D degrees in Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Naval Engineering, Renewable Energies and Sustainable Energy Systems.
MARETEC's activity is based on project funded by the European Union, the National Science and Technology Foundation (FCT), the Agency for Innovation (AdI), government agencies and private companies. A high level of internationalization of the Centre's activities has been reached through the participation of its researchers in EU project consortia and in international cooperative projects with universities, research institutes and companies. Between 2008 and 2012 the current members of MARETEC were involved in more than 20 projects with total funding above 9 M¤.
Environmental Monitoring and Modelling (comprising both physical and biological modelling) are MARETEC's basic activities constituting a research area by themselves and providing services to most of the center's research activities. Marine energy activities add to that information specific knowledge of energy technologies to develop tools for industry and policy makers. Ecological Economics integrates the center's activities in environment and energy with a socioeconomic approach.
The development of new algorithms for hydrodynamics, biogeochemical processes, organism growth and population dynamics, parallel computation using openMP and MPI and forecasting are the main modelling activities. Monitoring is based on sensors complemented by classical sampling followed by laboratory analysis for parameters not measurable using sensors or required by legislation. In aquatic media, moving sensors operated from vessels are used to perform process oriented studies and fixed sensors (buoys on hydrometric river sensors) are used to measure time series. In terrestrial media, the main focus is on soil sampling, micrometeorology and measurement of water and carbon flows.
On Marine Energies MARETEC works in close collaboration with the research center WAVEC sharing knowledge and tools to provide state of the art information about marine energy technology and environmental issues to companies interested in this emerging market. Hydrodynamic meteorological and wave models are used to perform hindcast simulations to characterize resources, to forecast energy production and to identify windows of opportunity to perform maintenance operations.
The monitoring of underwater components is a major user of autonomous underwater vehicles and a very important subject of cooperation within LARSys between ISR and MARETEC, but also with WAVEC which has close understanding of the market.
- Main achievements +
The activities are developed in the framework of research projects whose deliverables and tools are the main achievements of the research group. Some of these achievements are consolidated in the form of scientific papers published in scientific journals or in case of some projects are the object of special numbers of journals or of special books.
The average yearly funding of MARETEC between 2008 and 2012 was 1.3 million euros, 80% corresponding to international funding and 15% corresponding to funding from industry. The funding from FCT was about 5%. The total number of international projects was 17 and the number of national projects was 4. Projects with the industry or government were 6. During this period the new MARETEC members integrated in this reformulation had similar funding rates per capita. Twenty papers were published in international scientific journals one book and a special number of an international journal were edited. Four PhD students defended their thesis and 5 new students registered.
From 2008 up to now operational modelling became a major activity of MARETEC, supported by the projects EASY/EASYCO (www.project-easy.info) and by the project MyOcean (www.myocean.eu) and web services were implemented based on OPeNDAP and THREDDS. These services are the basis of a bidirectional tool http://v2.easyco.maretec.org/wbt/ allowing some interaction between the user and the data used to disseminate results of models for the whole EU Northwestern Atlantic. This service is the basis of IST participation in the projects requiring forecast (www.Arcopol.eu www.lenvis.eu http://mywater-fp7.eu/ www.asimuth.eu) and the basis for whole the work involving coastal systems, which is supporting the services to industry and government (e.g. www.envitejo.hidromod.pt http://www.agro-evapo.eu/).
Ecological modelling has been focused on the development and application of DEB (Dynamic Energy Budget) theory, an area where MARETEC is a world leader, having published two reference papers and edited a special issue n Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. London B, and with MARETEC's researchers being from the outset members of the scientific committees of the international biennial DEB symposium (and having hosted the second one).
The work carried out on the measurement and modelling of the carbon cycle in terrestrial systems, namely the analysis of the Sown Biodiverse Pasture system, led to the creation of Terraprima - Environmental Services, an IST Spin-Off, with a project funded by the Portuguese Carbon Fund, currently involving more than 1000 farmers, with around 50 000 hectares, sequestering more than 1 million tonnes of CO2; this project was considered the best climate solution in Europe in the European Commission's contest "A World You Like with a Climate You Like".
In the period 2008-12, researcher in the Ecological Economics area now at MARETEC consolidated an integrated approach to sustainability assessment, combining and developing tools involving Life Cycle Assessment, Input-Output Analysis, Green (Comprehensive) Accounting, Economic Growth Theory, Exergy and Useful Work Accounting, Cost Benefit Analysis, Economic Valuation of Non-Market Goods, Carbon Accounting, and Assessment of Ecosystem Services, published in international journals and applied to multiple case studies, involving as final users, among others, OECD, WWF, the Portuguese Environmental Protection Agency, the Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture, the Portuguese Association of Irrigated Agriculture, EDP (the largest Portuguese electrical utility).
- Structure of the Research Group +
The MARETEC research center has 15 integrated researchers forming a single group and consequently the management of group is coincident with the management of the center. Allocation of man power to the projects is done according to individual load and skills and all material resources are shared by the group.
MARETEC management structure is composed by a President and a Scientific Council composed by all the integrated researchers. The work program is assessed by an external advisory board composed by two experts, one from the industry and another from the research community. The research strategy is decided by the scientific council and implemented by the President. The external advisory board gives advice about the working plan and achievements.
Activities are effectively carried out under the framework of projects and these depend on opportunities offered by the funding agencies (only FCT and ERC are among the few agencies giving large freedom to research subjects) or by the industry/government departments.
Projects last typically for 3 years and consequently they do not fund strategic research, but strategic research is essential for medium term growth. Two strategies are followed to smooth this problem (1) maintain the link to strategic partners with identical objectives, in order to maintain research lines (b) implement a baseline research area crossing several projects.
The maintenance of strategic (informal) links with other partners is very important to maintain the participation into research consortiums, but also for training students. It is also a very effective way to disseminate products internationally. The baseline research is essential to develop products with objectives wider then a single project objective. This type of research enriches the projects and creates opportunities for new projects being in fact part of the glue that maintains the informal research network.
The MOHID model platform is in fact a result of about three decades of research. Along this period it has integrated scientific developments carried in tens of projects and is the basis of some technological developments carried in collaboration with two spin-offs generated in the centre (www.hidromo.com and www.actionmodulers.com). The integration of new developments into MOHID as new modules increases the range of problems addressable by the system increasing the number of potential users, including industry. This creates the market for the development of technological tools necessary to increase the productivity of the users, making the development of those tools a commercial opportunity (e.g. Aquasafe at Hidromod and MOHID Studio at ActionModulers).
- Objectives of the Research Group +
MARETEC will act in the next years according to the mainlines of the past, carrying out high quality research, contributing to the advance of scientific knowledge, to higher university education standards, aiming through its services to support socio - economic activities.
To perform its mission MARETEC will maintain its policy of getting funds from research projects (in 2014 four new EU projects will be initiated) and will keep long term background (internal) research development to support its main products and services. Specific developments to be developed in 2015 - 2020 will depend mostly on the capacity to get projects funded in the programs H2020/Copernicus/LIFE/INTERREG, which is expected to be one order of magnitude above the FCT funding (if last 15 years ratio is maintained).
The main headings of the group activities are:
Marine Energy activities will be concentrated on the assessment of the resource, extraction and transport technologies and support to operation. The assessment of the resource will be based on model results validated with historical data and support to operation will be based on operational forecasting models able to provide information to forecast production and to identify windows of opportunity for maintenance operations.
Activities on Environmental modelling and monitoring will be oriented along 3 major lines: improvement of model algorithms, improvement of operational models and combination of data and model results to provide better services. New algorithms will be developed for biogeochemical processes in order to enhance the capacity for simulating the development of specific species (e.g. toxic algae in aquatic ecosystems or specific plants in terrestrial ecosystems) or to compare alternative ecosystem descriptions (e.g. mass vs energy descriptions). There will be a major focus on integrating biodiversity in complex ecosystem models, through the use of the capacity of DEB theory to parameterize multiple species. New computation algorithms based on new parallel computing technologies will be developed in order to improve operational models. Tools will be also developed to combine model results and field data into operational services.
Integrated economic - environment - energy modelling will be carried out, combining and expanding recent work on non-equilibrium economic models (applying to economic modelling insights from the modelling of non-equilibrium physical systems), innovative energy accounting methods using the thermodynamic concept of useful work, and economic growth models incorporating environmental and energy variables. These models will be applied to long term time series (on the order of centuries) for energy use, economic growth and environmental variables, and then incorporated in scenario building processes for the future (involving the relevant stakeholders, e.g., in Portugal, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Directorate-General for Energy).