The Institute of Marine Sciences (ISMAR) of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) is the largest institution in Italy devoted to scientific development in ocean science. ISMAR conducts multidisciplinary studies in all fields of marine sciences encompassing geological, biological and oceanographic research in the Mediterranean and in the world ocean (Antarctica, Central Atlantic, Red Sea and the Indian Ocean). ISMAR's permanent staff includes 150 people (doubling this figure when considering soft-money personnel and PhD-students) distributed over 7 geographic sites: Venice (where ISMAR direction is located), Trieste, Genoa, La Spezia, Bologna, Ancona and Lesina. ISMAR is also national leader in marine geological mapping, geologic and environmental risk assessment, collection of long-term oceanographic time series, oceanographic modelling and sustainable exploitation of marine resources. In the last decade, ISMAR has been involved in several EU-funded projects, coordinating EURODELTA, EMMA, SARDONE and NEAREST in the last five years.
The geology and geophysics research group investigates the dynamics of active plate boundaries, the accretion of oceanic crust and the evolution of the Mediterranean region. Particular attention is devoted to the study of mid-ocean ridges, transform faults, active tectonic structures and related geohazards within the Mediterranean region.
The continental margins research group investigates shelf, slope and deep-water sedimentation processes with particular regard to the impact of mass-wasting, turbidity currents and contour currents on the shaping of sedimentary bodies. Sea-floor shaping processes are studied also as a key control on the evolution of deep sea ecosystems. In partnership with the industry, the interpretation of 3D volumes to understand the evolution of deep-sea channels.
The coastal processes research group contributes to the understanding of the evolution of the coastal zone through multi-disciplinary scientific research (geophysics, sedimentology, integration of historical maps, particularly precious along the Mediterranean coast). The coastal zone is regarded as one of the world's areas more pervasively modified by humans over several millennia and even more since the industrial revolution. Disentangling the impacts of human and natural drivers in the evolution of low-land areas and coastal systems is the key goal.
The physical and chemical oceanography research group investigates the dynamics of the ocean currents, their associated transport and their physical and chemical properties. Performed studies range from numerical modelling to direct observations obtained from research cruises, moored instrumentations and remote sensing. Numerical forecasting of waves and currents are produced, crucial for coastal management and navigation. Continuous measurements of the ocean state in the Mediterranean Sea and in key regions of Antarctica are maintained, providing long-term time series that shed light on the role of the ocean in climate change.
The biological oceanography research group studies the biogeochemistry and biodiversity of pelagic and benthic species in lagoon, shallow seas and ocean systems to improve our understanding of biogeochemical cycles and ocean biodiversity, and their relation with climate change. Chemical, biological and physical controls on primary production in the surface ocean, including plankton and microbial dynamics, and biogeochemical cycling of key elements in the ocean water column (C, Fe, N, P, Si) and future impacts of ocean acidification.
The fisheries and aquaculture research group provides support for a variety of stakeholders to promote sustainable exploitation of marine resources and optimize aquaculture products. The team also contributes to developing new fishing technologies that will enable to preserve protected species (e.g. dolphins, turtles). The objective is to understand the fragility of ecosystems, quantify areas of overexploitation and help preventing the degradation of resources and habitats as well as the loss of biodiversity.
The paleoceanography and paleoenvironmental research group works at evaluating past ocean circulation, productivity, temperature, and sea level (as a function of changing continental ice volume) at time scales from millions to hundreds of years. Biostratigraphic, sedimentologic and geochemical techniques are used to study a variety of natural archives, such as foraminifera, molluscs and corals, which indicate past climate variations through changes in their stable isotope composition and minor and trace elements within their skeletal carbonates. ISMAR participates in many international drilling programmes, including Cape Roberts and ANDRILL in Antarctica and PROMESS1 in the Mediterranean.