Rocky Shore Ecology (3 ECTS)

Semester: 1st or 2nd

Scheduled as an internship without having formal classes

Code: 14331097

Coordinator: Ester Serrão (

Students will acquire knowledge and practical experience of rocky shore ecology and apply that knowledge in the practical realization of the planning, implementation and interpretation of field research in rocky shore ecology. Students will gain experience in using the scientific method, formulating hypotheses, planning and executing a small research project to test a hypothesis, in presentations of the work plan and results, and in writing a scientific report in the format of a simplified research paper.

Students will work on specific projects planned in groups. The teachers propose general themes in advance, the students plan the work and make a presentation and discussion of the work plan. This is implemented during the stay in the field (3 days), which normally takes place in the natural park of the southwest Alentejo and the Costa Vicentina, but can occur in other coastal regions with rocky shores, depending on the availability of resources in that year. A few days after the end of the work, in the university, students will make a presentation and critical discussion of the results obtained.


15 h of fieldwork + 10 h of tutorials + 15 h of seminars + 44 h of independent work..


Registration on electives (except field and Lab methods) are dealt with directly with the Serviços Académicos. The MBM coordination will not interfere in that process. Be attentive that if you enrol in a subject and later on you want to change you are subject to a small penalty, so think well beforehand on what are your best options.


Each group of students will be supervised by a professor or a doctoral researcher, who will be the main responsible for the evaluation of the practical performance, although other researchers may act as co-supervisors and all teachers contribute to the evaluation of all students. The planning of the work starts before going to the field and the final report is delivered after the return.

The schedule will be planned according to the type of work and the tide times.

The final grade of each student will be calculated as 40% from an individual written report and 60% for the performance during the practical work. An evaluation form will be filled out by the teachers, including a justification for the marks awarded.



Examples of general themes proposed to students for their practical field work (more or less themes depending on the number of students, and other themes can be proposed and selected):

  • Comparison of the cover and composition of marine vegetation (native versus non-native species) in areas with contrasting levels of exposure to a) hydrodynamics, and / or b) sun exposure / shade, and / or c) silting and / or d) herbivory. Comparison of methods for estimating these variables.
  • Comparison of biodiversity in areas with and without algal cover, including comparison of different vegetation strata. Estimation of the effect of algal vegetation on the thermal conditions of the habitat using continuous temperature recorders and recording of organism temperatures through infrared camera images.
  • Estimation of the maximum physiological limits of water loss tolerance of algae tissues of different morphological groups and tide levels. Comparison of the maximum possible % of moisture lost from the tissues that still allows recover after re-emergence.
  • Transplants of algae from the upper intertidal (adult stages and/or recruits) with manipulation of herbivory protection to test whether it is herbivory that limits occurrence at lower levels.
  • Comparison of the force required to break the fixation of mussels between zones with different levels of hydrodynamics, between mussels in groups or isolates, and between tidal levels.
  • Comparison of fish abundance and biodiversity in intertidal pools with different sizes and depths. Comparison with the temperatures of the pools, the levels of algal vegetation (refuge habitats) and of these with abundance of herbivores.
  • Marking and recapture of fish and gastropods to estimate abundance and behavior - area of habitat use.
  • Comparison of intertidal biodiversity in the area of rolled pebbles, flat platforms and tide pools (or three levels of elevation), to make accumulation curves, dominance curves and calculate biodiversity indices, for the three types of habitat and comparing estimates by transects and squares.
  • Determination of an upper critical thermal limit in marine organisms from different groups collected in the field (part of this work takes place in the support laboratory). In the absence of a support laboratory, determination of desiccation limits through experiments in the intertidal zone using transplants and manipulation of the humidity level.