Marta Estrada


Marta Estrada was born in Granollers, Barcelona, in 1946. She completed her Bachelor’s degree (“Licenciatura”) in Biology in 1968 and in Medicine in 1970 at the University of Barcelona. It was at the Faculty of Biology of this university where she met the eminent Prof Ramon Margalef, at that time also Director of the Fisheries Research Institute (currently the Institute of Marine Sciences, ICM-CSIC). Marta rapidly became an enthusiastic devotee of his lectures and innovative ecological insights. A fellowship from the Institute of International Education (1972) allowed her to travel to the USA, where she spent several months in the Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole), under the direction of Dr. Ivan Valiela, and visited the laboratory of Dr. Provasoli (New Haven) and the Colorado State University (Fort Collins). She completed her PhD thesis in 1976 (Doctorate Extraordinary Award, University of Barcelona) at the ICM-CSIC under Dr. Margalef’s supervision, and this experience became the scientific reference for the length of her career. Between 1978-1979 she spent 6 months in the Bigelow laboratory for Ocean Sciences (USA).


2017 Medal of Honor of Barcelona City (Barcelona City Council), recognition of her valuable scientific contributions to the field of oceanography and marine biology.

2005 City of Granollers Medal, for research and dissemination of scientific knowledge

2004 Sant Jordi Cross (Generalitat de Catalunya), in recognition of her scientific career

2003 Elected member of the Institute for Catalan Studies

1999 Elected member of the Barcelona Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts

1994 Narcís Monturiol Medal to Scientific and Technological Merits (Generalitat de Catalunya)

1992 Tregouboff Prize (manrine biology), French Academy of Sciences, Paris.

1989 Lazo de la Orden Civil de Alfonso X el Sabio (undergraduate studies).

Professional Career

Marta Estrada got a permanent position as researcher at the Institute of Marine Sciences (CSIC, Barcelona) in 1972, and became Full Research Professor in 1984. She was Director of the ICM- CSIC from 1995 to 1997, and Head of the Marine Biology and Oceanography Department of the same institute in two periods (1985 to 1994 and 1997-2005). The scientific association between Professor Margalef and Marta Estrada and other brilliant scientists (Dolors Blasco, Dolors Planas, Miquel Alcaraz, Jordi Camp and Antonio Cruzado) resulted in a very creative oceanographic research group, the activities of which achieved international recognition.

Marta Estrada has made a key contribution to the study of physical-biological interactions of phytoplankton (including HAB species) in estuaries, coastal and upwelling systems. She has participated in oceanographic expeditions in all the major oceans of the world, including the Southern Ocean, the Costa Rica Dome and the Southern California, Baja California, Perú and Northwest Africa upwelling systems. Her leadership of research projects and cruises on the Mediterranean Sea was instrumental in the description of shelf-slope fronts in the region and their influence on carbon fluxes as well as on the relation of different phytoplankton groups to water column structure. She has also been principal investigator of oceanographic cruises devoted to the study of the planktonic food web in the Southern Ocean.


Key HAB contributions

Marta started her incursions in the HAB world in 1976, with a report on a toxic red tide in the Galician Rías caused by a chain-forming dinoflagellate later identified as Gymnodinium catenatum (Estrada et al., 1984). In 1978 at the II ICHA, Key Biscayne, she co-authored the seminal paper on life-forms as adaptations to the turbulence regime (Margalef et al., 1979) and in 1990 she participated in a study on an Alexandrium minutum red tide in the bay of Els Alfacs (Ebro Delta, NW Mediterranean), the first toxic event documented in the region. She was the coordinator of the research group at the ICM that started the use of a microcosm approach to address the effects of small-scale turbulence on phytoplankton, with a particular focus on HAB species. Most recent investigations centered on the importance of N or P limitation on the composition of phytoplankton communities, with special reference to the potential development of harmful species and the implementation of modeling approaches in HAB research with the application of the system framework approach in marine ecosystem management. Marta Estrada was also member of the SCOR WG97 on Physiological Ecology of Harmful Algal Blooms” (1992-1998), and of the SCOR-IOC GEOHAB Programme Scientific Steering Committee (1998- 2002) that designed the GEOHAB scientific and implementation programmes. Since 2008 she is member of the ISSHA Council, Award Committee Chair.

Mentored (PhD students)

Maximino Delgado, Elisa Berdalet, Mikel Latasa, Xose A. Morán, Maria Teresa Moita (co- direction with F. M. Catarino), Laura Arin, Beatriz Reguera (co-direction with F. G. Figueiras), Jordi Solé (co-directed with E. Garcia Ladona), Clara Llebot (co-direction with J. Solé), Sdena Oliveira Nunes (co-direction with M. Latasa).

10 Key HAB publications

Figueroa, R.I., Estrada, M. & Garcés, E. 2018. Life histories of microalgal species causing harmful blooms: Haploids, diploids and the relevance of benthic stages. Harmful Algae 73: 44-57.

Estrada, M., Solé, J., Anglès, S., & Garcés, E. - 2010. The role of resting cysts in Alexandrium minutum population dynamics. Deep Sea Research Part II- Topical Studies in Oceanography 57, 308-321.

Estrada, M., Arin, L., Blasco, D., Blauw, A., Camp, J., Garcés, E., Sampedro, N. & Vila, M.- 2008. Ø. Moestrup et al (Eds). A fuzzy logic model for Alexandrium proliferations in harbours of the Calalan coast. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Harmful Algae. ISSHA and IOC of UNESCO, pp. 111-113.

Figueiras, F.G., Pitcher, G.C. & Estrada, M. 2006. Harmful algal bloom dynamics in relation to physical processes, in: Granéli, E.; Turner, J.T. (Ed.) (2006). Ecology of Harmful Algae. Ecological Studies: analysis and synthesis 189, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, pp. 127-138.

Anderson, D.M., Pitcher, G.C. & Estrada, M. 2005. The Comparative “Systems” Approach to HAB Research. Oceanography 18: 148-157.

Berdalet, E. & Estrada, M. 1993. Effects of turbulence on several dinoflagellate species. In: Toxic Phytoplankton Blooms in the Sea. Smayda, T.J. & Shimizu, Y. (eds.). Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 737-740.

Estrada, M., Marrasé, C. & Alcaraz, M. 1988. Phytoplankton response to intermittent stirring and nutrient addition in marine microcosms. Marine Ecology Progress Series 48: 225-234.

Estrada, M., Sánchez, J. & Fraga, S. 1984. Gymnodinium catenatum Graham in the Galician Rias. Investigación Pesquera 48: 31-40.

Estrada, M. & Blasco, D. 1979. Two phases of the phytoplankton community in the Baja California upwelling system. Limnology and Oceanography 24: 1065-1080.

Margalef, R., Estrada, M. & Blasco, D. 1979. Functional morphology of organisms involved in red tides, as adapted to decaying turbulence. In Taylor, D.L & Seliger, H.H. (eds) Toxic Dinoflagellate Blooms, Elsevier, New York, pp. 89–94.


Prepared by Elisa Berdalet and Beatriz Reguera. Partially based on Berdalet, E., Blasco, D., Vaqué, D. 2016. A life sketch of Marta Estrada Miyares, a phytoplankton ecologist and oceanographer. Scientia Marina 80: 11-14.