INSTITUTE OF MARINE BIOLOGY OF CRETE

 
Organisation Profile
 
The Institute of Marine Biology of Crete (IMBC) was founded in 1987 as a semi-independent research-and-technology organisation in marine biology. Even though it operates under the auspices of the Greek Secretariat for Research and Development, only a small part of its operating budget is covered by direct Government funds. The bulk of its budget is generated by competitive European and national grants, from services to marine industries and Government agencies, and from sales of products.

Within the span of a decade, the IMBC has propelled itself in the forefront of marine biological research at all levels: national, European and international. It is equipped with state-of-the-art laboratories for research in aquaculture, fisheries, marine ecology, management of coastal resources, biological oceanography, remote sensing and biotechnology. The staff of more than 100 includes highly trained personnel in these fields. In addition, the Institute draws upon the staff of the University of Crete, with which it is in active and continuous collaboration. Among the major items of infrastructure are included the research vessel PHILIA, and a 3.5 million Euro facility for research in aquaculture.
Beyond its distinguished list of publications in the primary scientific literature, the IMBC can proudly boast its vital role in the development of the aquaculture industry in Greece and its continuous and successful effort to help this industry maintain its leading place in the Mediterranean, its regular monitoring of fisheries landings in the Greek wharfs and its participation in all major multinational European programmes for benthic and oceanographic research in the Mediterranean.

This multi-front success is about to be rewarded with major undertakings that will define the physical and research character of the IMBC as it enters into the new century. IMBC has established the Institute's permanent facilities in a 58.000m2 parcel of coastal land at the eastern outskirts of Iraklion. Three building complexes, worth 15 million Euro's, have been raised to include administration offices and laboratories, a state-of-the-art facility for research in aquaculture. Currently, a new building is under construction to house an aquarium that will be both an exhibition and research centre for Mediterranean marine life, the first of its kind in Greece.

The ambition of the IMBC is nothing less than to position itself at the pinnacle of marine research institutes in the Mediterranean. By doing so, the IMBC aspires to establish itself in the forefront of marine biology worldwide and to play a leading role in the protection and prudent use of the resources of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea by all countries sharing the unique history of this region of the world.

IMBC is subdivided in six departments:

 
Department of Marine Environment and Technology
 
The main objective of the Department is the promotion of applied research for the preservation of marine ecosystems and rational management of their biological resources and the development of innovative technological products, methods and services in the worldwide rapidly expanding sector of Marine Environmental Technology. The Department also undertakes the coordination, organisation and the carrying out of research and developmental programmes for the control, monitoring and management of the quality of the marine environment.
The Department has modern facilities for research in Applied Marine Biology, Environmental Chemistry, Physical Oceanography, Simulation of Marine Systems, Environmental Technology, Microbiology and Environmental Services.
 
Department of Marine Ecology and Biodiversity
 
The Department of Marine Ecology and Biodiversity carries out basic and applied research using an integrated approach to the study of ecosystems. Such an approach involves a wide range of disciplines including chemistry, physics, geology, biology and statistics, relating fauna to environment and vice versa, both within the seabed and the overlying waters. Areas of on-going research include:
a) Ecology, biodiversity, and mapping of the coastal ecosystem
b) The ecology, fishery and population dynamics of commercially important marine invertebrates
c) Interactions and anthropogenic impacts on coastal ecosystem (fisheries, aquaculture and coastal developments)
d) Technological improvement of environmental monitoring
e) Methods and information systems to support decision making for integrated management of the coastal zone.
Particular emphasis is placed on the use of modern methodologies and underwater technologies, including towed video sled, remotely operated vehicle (ROV), sediment water interface camera and bottom discrimination sonar.
The Department participates in activities of the European Topic Centre for the marine coastal environment of the European Environment Agency and has been involved as partner or coordinator in numerous national and international projects concerning marine science and technology.
 
Department of Oceanography
 
The department of Oceanography studies the pelagic/benthic ecosystems of the coastal, open and deep seas mostly within the framework of multi-disciplinary scientific projects which in addition to biology, involve physics, chemistry and engineering). Specific aims include understanding the structure and function of the pelagic and benthic ecosystems and their dependence on the physical and chemical properties of the environment, the trophic webs and their interconnections to the pelagic and benthic systems and the mechanisms by which energy is transferred from lower to higher trophic levels and from the euphotic to the aphotic zone. To accomplish this, the Department relies on the IMBC research vessel "PHILIA" and its oceanographic equipment such as CTD, Niskin bottles (pelagic sampling) box- and multi- corer (benthic sampling), benthic landers and sediment traps. Further laboratory analyses make use of advanced scientific instruments, such as fluorescence spectrophotometer, scintillation counter and fluorescence microscopes. In addition to this, the department has recently acquired, within the framework of an international scientific programme, a benthic lander whose purpose is to record/measure benthic biological processes. Most of this work is currently being concentrated in the Aegean and Levantine Seas (Eastern Mediterranean), the main study area of the department, however, work has also been done in the Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea.
 
Department of Genetics and Molecular Biotechnology
 
The Department is using genetic methods for the analysis of natural and cultivated populations of marine species. Its activities include:
a) The study of genetic variation and stock structure of wild populations of marine species
b) The production of superior brood stocks of fish for aquaculture through genetic improvement
c) The study of the genetic basis of traits important for aquaculture, such as reproduction, fertility and sex determination.
The main techniques used are allozyme electrophoresis, mitochondrial DNA analysis, PCR amplification, single strand conformation sequencing, and microsatellite DNA analysis.
In addition, the Department plays an important educational role, by supervising student theses at the under- and post-graduate levels, and by offering lectures and practical laboratory training, mainly to students of the University of Crete. Several students from abroad have also carried out part of their studies in the laboratory, in the context of various student exchange programmes.
 
Department of Fisheries
 
The Fisheries Department carries out research into population dynamics and stock assessment of several economically important Mediterranean fish species. Studies on the biology of demersal and pelagic fish also form an important part of its work. Through this work, the Department provides essential information for the formulation of a management policy for fish resources.
An essential element of the Department's work is the accumulation of long-term data on fish stocks over wide areas. The Department's Data Processing section accumulates and analyses all available data and so provides an indispensable service in the formulation and implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy of the European Union.
Another activity involves studies on the biology and distribution of species such as hake, bogue, pandora, picarel and mullets are carried out as part of the large-scale MEDITS programme. Complementary plankton surveys allow a rough demarcation of spawning seasons and grounds for a wide range of demersal species.
A third activity involves accumulation of information on the discards of commercial bottom trawlers.
Two of the most important commercial small pelagic species, sardine and anchovy are studied, with modern ichthyoplankton methods with the aim to estimate the spawning biomass in the northern Aegean Sea.
Large pelagic fish stocks (swordfish and blue tuna) are also studied by means of with plankton surveys whose purpose is to detect possible spawning grounds. Migration patterns of those animals are studied by means of tagging operations performed on juvenile animals in collaboration with Italian, French and Spanish institutes.
Through its Hydroacoustic Laboratory the Department is involved in the improvement of techniques for fish species identification and fish stock abundance.
This is achieved through the development of a computerised system for biomass estimation in mixed fish/plankton aggregations and the development of an expert system based on an artificial neural network.
The GIS (Geographic Information Systems) aims at monitoring of appropriate environmental parameters, in order to study the relationship between productivity and the environment.
Emphasis is given to interactions between resources and environmental factors and the behaviour of the fisheries fleet in a given area.
The Department is also equipped to use remote sensing techniques for fisheries management purposes and the study of the importance of physical, chemical and biological processes which contribute to the occurrence of algal blooms.
 
Department of Aquaculture
 
The department is involved with research in the culture of Mediterranean fishes, aiming at increasing the competitiveness, sustainability and integration of the aquaculture industry within the national and community vision of a technologically advanced, socially acceptable and environmentally friendly economic development.

The activities of the department revolve around two main axes:

a) Research into the biological mechanisms that control reproduction, larval development, successful weaning, fry feeding, growth and survival, and the quality of the marketed fish,
b) Research aimed at solving specific problems faced by Greek aquaculture operations, such as process automation, optimization of production, cost reduction and marketing.

To meet these objectives, the Aquaculture Department operates a fully integrated farm with pilot scale brood stock, live foods, larval rearing and nursery facilities. Additionally, there are experimental facilities and specialised laboratories for research in all life stages of the fish, but especially on the early life stages. Research has traditionally focused on the European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata), currently the most important species for Mediterranean aquaculture, but other promising candidates such as the common dentex (Dentex dentex) and red porgy (Pagrus pagrus) are also subjects of intense experimentation.

The department has established three venues of dissemination of its results:

a) A day-to-day link with the private sector, through which there is a constant exchange of information,
b) Collaborative research with the aquaculture industry, and with regional, national or European government agencies in charge of aquaculture policy,
c) Short- and long-term training courses for aquaculture students and industry personnel.