PhD students

ESR 1 – Eliza Syropoulou

Title of the Thesis: Carbon utilization in RAS: A system’s perspective
Host University: Wageningen University
Secondment: CSIC (Spain), Skretting (Norway)
Nationality: Greek

Eliza Syropoulou is a biologist, highly-specialized on aquaculture. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Biology from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), where among others, she gained practical knowledge on fish reproduction after an internship she conducted at the Hellenic Center of Marine Research (HCMR). During her following graduate studies in ‘Aquatic science and Technology’ at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Aqua) she got further experience on early life history by participating in different eel larval studies focusing on nutrition, physiology and host-microbiome interactions. Aiming to specialize on recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), she followed several relevant courses at the host university as well as at University of Bergen, Norway. In her MSc thesis project, she investigated the effect of different water treatment methods on RAS microbiology with special focus on ozone application. As of December 2020, she is enrolled as a PhD candidate in the group of Aquaculture & Fisheries at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. Her research aims to address the impact of emerging aquafeeds on fish digestibility and RAS water quality. The acquired knowledge may be used by the feed industry in order to formulate diets which benefit both fish and system performance for a sustainable aquaculture practice.

ESR 2 – Valentina Romboli

Title of the Thesis: Development of next-generation probiotics for aquaculture
Host University: Wageningen University, Netherlands
Secondments: IFREMER (France), NOFIMA (Norway)
Nationality: Italian

Valentina Romboli is a marine biologist and aquaculture expert. Valentina expressed her first interest in zootechnics during her Diploma, where she followed the specialization in animal husbandry (Italy, 2013). She then gained her BSc degree in Aquaculture and Hygiene of Fish Production at the University of Bologna (Italy, 2017). Here she gained experience operating in various aspects of aquatic animal production, such as technical management with particular reference to qualitative and quantitative improvement, well-being, eco-compatibility, control of pathologies, and maintaining hygiene, quality and food safety of aquatic products by verifying techniques at the Veterinary Laboratory of the same University. Wanting to learn how to do research, she graduated at the International MSc degree in Marine Biology at the University of Bremen, which focused on teaching students to conduct research projects (Germany, 2020). She worked as research assistant in the Marine Chemistry Laboratory of the same University and wrote a dissertation on the potential use of seaweed biomasses. She launched a startup for cultivating and harvesting seaweed (Italy, 2020), which evolved as Cooperative Company. Valentina is now a PhD candidate at the Laboratory of Microbiology of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. She is developing next-generation probiotics for aquaculture to counteract infectious diseases. Her professional focus is making aquaculture more sustainable and profitable.

ESR3 – Ajith Munusamy

Title of the Thesis: Genetic background of mass mortality of mussels
Host Institution: Ifremer, France
Secondments: NOFIMA (Norway), SYSAAF (France)
Nationality: Indian

Ajithkumar Munusamy is from the fisherman community, and he understood the value of fisheries to human food security in his earlier days. So, he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in fisheries science at Tamil Nadu Dr. J. Jayalalithaa Fisheries University, Tamilnadu, India. His vision is to improve the future sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture to support the blue economy. His undergraduate program helped him to understand essential fisheries and aquaculture knowledge and gained experience in different culture practices, breeding, and hatchery management of finfish and shellfish. During his undergraduate days, he comprehended that selective breeding/genetic improvement programs could achieve the sustainable development of aquaculture. He started post-graduate in fish genetics and breeding at the Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai, India. His master’s work mainly focused on the selective breeding of magur (Clarias magur). With particular emphasis on quantitative genetics, he learned how to design mating plans and extensive data analysis using R to determine the genetic parameters. Then he worked as a Junior Research Fellow on the topic of “Improving broodstock management and quality seed production of Ompok bimaculatus through the application of molecular endocrinology.” How environmental factors like photoperiod and temperature influence the maturity status and stimulate the breeding in advance, and work published in aquaculture research recently. Currently, he is working as a Ph.D. student in Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER), in La Tremblade (France). His research focuses on how genetics can play a vital role in mussel mortality and identifying the potential factors involved in the disease outbreaks in France.

ESR 4 – Socorro Toxqui

Title of the Thesis: Identification of microbial biomarkers for fish mucosal health
Host University: Instituto de Acuicultura Torre de la Sal (IATS,CSIC), Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (UPV)
Secondments: NOFIMA (Norway), Wageningen University (Netherlands), CCMAR (Portugal)
Nationality: Mexican

Soco Toxqui studied Biology at the Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP) in Mexico. Next, she received an Integrated MSc in Marine Biological Resources (IMBRSea), an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree, where she specialized in Food production. During the master’s program, she had the opportunity to spend each semester at different European universities, such as the University of Western Brittany (UBO) – European Institute for Marine Studies (IUEM), the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)- Plentzia Marine Station (PiE), and the University of Bergen (UiB). During the MSc thesis at the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO), she investigated the application of recent sequencing tools (Oxford Nanopore Technologies- MinION) to authenticate fishery products using DNA. From October 2021, she is working as a Ph.D. student at the Instituto de Acuicultura Torre la de Sal (IATS, CSIC) in Castellón, Spain, where she is currently monitoring changes in the microbiota of gilthead sea bream in response to biotic and abiotic factors, and eventually, she will link them to fish health and performance indicators.

ESR5 – Ajasa Afees Abiola

Title of the Thesis: Quantitative Genetics and Statistical Genomics of Amoebic Gill Disease resistance and Gill Health in Atlantic Salmon
Host Institution: Nofima, Norway
Secondments: MOWI (Norway), Marine and Freshwater Research Institute (Iceland)
Nationality: Nigerian

Afees has a bachelor’s degree in Animal Physiology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria. He got fascinated with statistical genetics while taking courses in genetics during his BSc. Since his graduation, he has obtained two master’s degrees, one from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria in Animal Breeding and Genetics and the other from the University of Debrecen, Hungary in Animal Husbandry Engineering. His first MSc thesis was on the phenotypic characterization of the Forest Muturu cattle in Southwest Nigeria while his second Msc thesis was on the genetic analysis of weaning weight in Hungarian Simmental cattle. He gained more experience during an internship at the Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology, Germany. Currently, he is employed as a PHD student at the Norwegian institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture research (Nofima), Norway. His research aims to understand the genetics and genomics of amoebic gill disease and gill health in Atlantic Salmon in order to improve fish health and welfare through selective breeding.

ESR6 – Ibon Garcia

Title of the Thesis: Growth, Nutrition and Metabolism in sole and seabream aquaculture
Host Institution: CCMAR, Portugal
Secondments: CSIC (Spain), Skretting (Norway)
Nationality: Spanish

Meet Ibon Garcia. He hails from Bilbao, Spain. BSc in Marine Science from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), Canary Islands, Spain and Erasmus Mundus at The Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, Mexico. MSc in Aquaculture from ULPGC and The University of Florida, USA where he studied the improvement of aquaculture methodologies of the ornamental fish Pacific blue tang (Paracanthurus hepatus), with emphasis on broodstock and larvae nutrition. Also, through the AquaExcel2020 program, studied the effects of the first feed quality on growth, survival, and behavioral responses in lumpfish larvae (Cyclopterus lumpus) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway. Worked in the aquaculture industry as an aquaculture research technician at Matís in Reykjavík, Iceland and at AquaBioTech Group in Malta where he could collaborate with national and international clients gaining great experience in the development, experimental design, and management of aquaculture R&D facilities, and RAS systems operation, including water quality control, fish nutrition, digestibility, and feed formulation.
Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in Aquaculture at the University of Algarve, Portugal under   The Marie Curie Innovative Training Network EATFISH project. Ibon’s work involves target dietary strategies that will improve fish robustness, to understand the biological pathways that mediate the relationships between growth, nutrition, and metabolism in two important Mediterranean species: gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) and Senegalese sole (Solea senegalensis). My future goals are to look for a job in the aquaculture nutrition industry to translate science into solutions for a more sustainable and profitable aquaculture sector.

ESR7 – Xinlin Zhao

Title of thesis: Gene silencing in fish eggs to produce sterile fish
Host: HAFRO & University of Iceland (Iceland)
Secondments: Nofima (Norway), Ifremer (France)
Nationality: Chinese

Xinlin Zhao completed his BSc in Marine Biology at the Ocean University of China, Qingdao (China). During his BSc, he worked in aquaculture nutrition labs and was involved in research projects regarding the LC-PUFA metabolism-related gene expression of fishes. Then he decided to continue his MCs study in Aquaculture at Ghent university, Gent (Belgium), and his master’s thesis also focused on the LC-PUFA metabolism-related gene expression pattern of the Brine shrimp. During the MSc, he completed internships in microalgae cultivation in an indoor system in Belgium and cultivation of Sole in the RAS system in Portugal. He is now working at the Marine and freshwater research institute in Iceland and focusing on the gene silencing project to produce sterile salmon. 

ESR 8 – Thomas Juhasz

Title of the Thesis: Health and Welfare of Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture  (IMTA) species
Host Institution: Bantry Marine Research Station/University College Cork (UCC)
Secondments: NOFIMA (Norway), University of Stirling (UK)
Nationality: Hungarian

Thomas Juhasz studied at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Budapest, graduating Cum Laude in February 2021. Thomas focused his veterinary studies on aquatic organisms, writing his thesis on the epidemiology of Indian Ocean seabirds while conducting internships at a L. vannamei shrimp farm and lumpfish hatchery.  Prior to returning to veterinary university, Thomas worked in biological consulting, writing environmental impact reports, and conducting resource surveys. Thomas is Ph.D. student based at Bantry Marine Research Station and University College Cork, where he is working to develop non-invasive method(s) to determine subclinical stress levels in multi-trophic aquaculture species.

ESR 9 – Sezgin Tunca

Title of the Thesis: Consumer Behavior, Market Segmentation, and Market Strategies of Lower Trophic Level Aquaculture Products
Host university: Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Secondments: University of Western Brittany (Brest, France), University of Stirling (Stirling, Scotland, the UK), Wageningen University (The Netherlands)
Nationality: Turkish

Sezgin Tunca holds MSc degrees in Agricultural Economics from Ege University (Turkey) and Sustainable Fisheries Management from the University of Alicante (Spain) with a multidisciplinary specialization focusing on fisheries economics and management. As an early-stage researcher, he works at the MAPP Center of the Department of Management at Aarhus University (Denmark), focusing his project on consumer behavior, market segmentation, and market strategies of lower trophic aquaculture products (e.g., seaweed, mussel) under evaluation of work package nine from the EATFISH project. His thesis will first bring a broad understanding of European consumer behavior toward low trophic aquaculture products with an application of food-related lifestyle and theory of planned behavior. Then, the project connects potential touchpoints under the framework of the consumer journey and finally, the project will account for final consumer preferences for the selected aquaculture products. This project moves the focus from the traditional market analysis to encompass the best marketing options for aquaculture products. Unique and novel features of the research are the more detailed and holistic market analysis of the low trophic aquaculture products.

ESR 10 – Raquel Lopez

Title of the Thesis: Analysis and comparison of seafood products differentiation, innovations and associated public perception in EU focusing on countries such as France and Spain.
Host University: University of Western Brittany- Research Unit AMURE, France
Secondments: SYSAAF (France), MOWI (Norway)
Nationality: Spanish

Raquel López is a marine scientist, and throughout her academic training she has focused on aquaculture and its sustainable development, first with her degree on Marine Sciences by the Universidad de Alicante (UA) and following with the International master on Sustainable management of fisheries by the UA and the CIHEAM Zaragoza. The main topics she has dealt with has been the carrying capacity (social, economic and environmental), the application of spatial management and the socio-economic development of the activity as part of the blue growth objectives.
She is been Intern in FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa during the year 2021 she propose Allocated Zones for Aquaculture (AZA) in accordance with the guide for the establishment of coastal aquaculture areas in Bizerte, Tunisia for the socioeconomic development.
As an early-stage researcher based in the University of Western Brittany (UBO), she has join the EATFISH project with her PhD project studying the seafood products differentiation and innovations in EU focusing on countries such as France and Spain with the salmon and truit as benchmarks in comparison with other aquaculture finfish species

ESR 11 – Nicholas Theux Lowen

Title of the Thesis: Capturing the value of marine aquaculture
Host Company: ABS-int
Secondments: University of Western Brittany (France), Mowi & Skretting (Norway), Colruyt Group (Belgium)
Nationality: Italian

Nicholas Theux Lowen graduated from the International Master of Marine Biological Resources (IMBRSEA), an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree, where he specialized in Management of Marine Living Resources. During the master program, he had the opportunity to spend each semester in different European universities, such as Ghent University (Gent, Belgium), University of Algarve (Faro, Portugal), University of Bergen (Bergen, Norway) and do his master’s thesis on the presence of microplastics in the corals of the Galapagos islands at the Charles Darwin Foundation (Galapagos, Ecuador).
Prior to his master’s degree, Nicholas Theux Lowen completed a BBA in Global Management at SKEMA Business (Sophia-Antipolis, France) where he specialized in Marine Biology and a Bachelor of Science at the University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia) where he specialized in Marine Sciences.
As an early-stage researcher, he will work at ABS International (ABS-int) in Belgium on understanding how to capture value of marine aquaculture in Europe. His study will focus on better understanding the potential business models for aquaculture development and assessing how entre- or intrapreneurship can enhance aquaculture profitability.

ESR 12 – Priya Sharma

Title of the Thesis: Model-based assessment of ecosystem services of a pond aquaculture
Host University: Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences (MATE), Hungary
Secondments: University of Stirling (UK), University College Cork (Ireland)
Nationality: Indian

Priya Sharma graduated with a Master’s degree in Natural Resources Management with specialization in remote sensing and GIS applications. She also holds a post graduate diploma in Environment Law and Management from National Law University (New Delhi).
During this time, she worked with the fishing communities of Vembanad backwaters (India) to understand unsustainable resource use of the lake and coordinated tasks to develop a model wetland village. She has also worked as an intern in community-based biosphere management intergovernmental scientific programmes at Natural Science sector, UNESCO (New Delhi, India). Priya continued her career working as a researcher at various not-for-profit and government agencies in India, where she was involved in the multiple national and international projects focusing on sustainable food systems, nature-based solutions and ecosystem services assessments, spatial planning etc.
As an early-stage researcher in EATFISH, Priya’s work shall support the assessment and management of freshwater fishpond systems of Hungary, by the development and application of a dynamic process-based model. Her project will implement these models in a multi-objective evaluation feedback cycle of techno-ecosystem assessment for planning and operation of the pond aquacultural processes and the surrounding (interfacing fishponds + neighbouring agro-environmental) areas.

ESR 13 – Mausam Budhathoki

Title of the Thesis: Societal perception of aquaculture
Host university: University of Stirling, Stirling, United Kingdom
Secondments: University of Western Brittany (Brest, France), Aarhus University (Aarhus, Denmark)
Nationality: Danish

Mausam Budhathoki holds an MSc in Integrated Food Studies (2019) from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) with a specialization in sensory and consumer science. Previously, he obtained an MSc in Public Health (2014) from the University of East London (United Kingdom). During his MSc in food studies, he worked on understanding Danish consumers’ perception and buying behaviour of organically farmed fish. As an early-stage researcher, he will work at the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling (United Kingdom), focusing his PhD project on understanding the societal perception of Aquaculture under evaluation of work package 3 from the EATFISH project. His thesis will cover an understanding of drivers for the European aquatic food trade, assess the role of the governance in place in Europe in affecting consumers’ perceptions of European aquatic food products’ value internationally, and develop strategies for future mutual beneficial trade between Europe and overseas markets. 

ESR 14 – Amalia Krupandan

Title of Thesis: Improved aquaculture governance to enhance sustainability through the use of decision support systems
Host University: University of Stirling
Secondments: University College Cork (Ireland); MATE (Hungary)
Nationality: South African

Amalia received her BSc in Marine Biology and Applied Biology from the University of Cape Town (South Africa, 2017). Her introduction to aquaculture ensued here, where she worked on integrated abalone-seaweed production systems in collaboration with the South African Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (now Department of Environment). Specifically, how the integration of the seaweed Ulva into abalone farms affected various health indicators of abalone. Following a break to teach English in South Korea, Amalia completed her MSc in Aquaculture, Environment and Society (Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree, 2021) at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (Scotland), University of Crete (Greece) and University of Nantes (France). In addition to various internships relating to stakeholder engagement and regulatory policy, she completed her dissertation at the University of Nantes, using remote sensing and bioenergetics modelling to aid site selection for Pacific oyster mariculture sites in South Africa. Combining the themes of aquaculture production, regulation and stakeholder engagement, her PhD at the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, will look at how decision support tools can be used to support integrated-multitrophic-aquaculture (IMTA) and semi-intensive freshwater aquaculture systems, and ultimately the sustainable development of European aquaculture.

ESR 15Stacy-Ann Gray

Title of the Thesis: Determining the Role of Marine Spatial Planning in Aquaculture Development
Host University: University College Cork, Ireland
Secondments: University of Stirling (Scotland), NOFIMA (Norway)
Nationality: Jamaican

Stacy-Ann holds a Master’s in Education Administration from the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, and a MSc in Aquaculture, Environment & Society (Erasmus Mundus Joint degree) from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) in collaboration with the University of Highlands & Islands, Scotland, University of Crete, Greece & University of Nantes, France. In her MSc thesis, she used histochemical staining of histological sections of the gonads of the common cockle (Cerastoderma edule) to determine that an extra-cellular oocyte sheath called a loculus, observed in both healthy and atresic oocytes, comprised of acid mucopolysaccharides (AMPS). Her love for Aquaculture began when she completed an Associate of Science Degree in Aquaculture at the Hillsborough Community College in Florida, USA. After which she gained employment working on water quality management at a newly built shrimp farm in Jamaica, and later completed a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education, Jamaica. She has spent over 15 years working in the field of Aquaculture at the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries in Jamaica. Her work involved developing and implementing the National Fisheries Authority’s Mariculture Programme and providing technical support such as training, on/off farm consultation, and site feasibility assessment to new and established Tilapia, ornamentals, and oyster farmers.  Being also passionate about educational development, especially in rural communities, she has almost simultaneously spent 10 years developing, managing, and teaching at two educational institutions, one of which provided high school certification or skills training to high school dropouts. Stacy-Ann is a well-rounded aquaculturist whose expertise is enhanced by numerous internships and training courses in various areas of aquaculture in several countries including Israel, Iceland, Greece, China and the USA. She is now pursuing her Ph.D. at the Centre for Marine & Renewable Energy (MaREI), University College Cork, Ireland. Her research will explore how aquaculture is presently incorporated into the governance system and especially in marine spatial plans across Europe with a view to present policy recommendations on how the lessons learned and the use of scientific assessments can be used to plan for aquaculture development.

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