News Release

Climate-smart ocean planning in Antarctica awarded with 1.5M€ ERC starting grant

Grant and Award Announcement

Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon

Catarina Frazão Santos


Catarina Frazão Santos, researcher at the Center for Marine and Environmental Sciences (MARE), Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (Portugal).

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Credit: Communication and Image Unit - Ciências ULisboa

Catarina Frazão Santos, researcher at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (Portugal) (Ciências ULisboa), has been awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) with a Starting Grant of approximately 1.5 million euros to study the benefits and challenges of developing sustainable, equitable and climate-smart marine spatial planning processes in Antarctica and beyond.

“We need to raise awareness and foster a ‘paradigm shift’ on how to plan for sustainability and equity in a changing ocean,” says Catarina Frazão Santos, researcher at the Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre – MARE at Ciências ULisboa, and leader of the PLAnT project (Planning the Sustainable Use of the Ocean in Antarctica in a context of Global Environmental Change), now awarded with an ERC Starting Grant.

“The main objective of the PLAnT project is to support the development and implementation of sustainable, equitable marine spatial planning initiatives that contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation in Antarctica and across the planet”, explains the marine biologist, also Honorary Research Associate at the University of Oxford (UK) and NOVA School of Business and Economics (Portugal).

Over the past seven years, Catarina Frazão Santos has focused on an innovative and interdisciplinary research line on the interlinks among marine spatial planning, climate change, and ocean sustainability. With the PLAnT project, she and her team aim to advance the topic further, focusing on the unique case study of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean.

The PLAnT project is expected to start in February 2024 and will last 60 months. According to Catarina Frazão Santos, within the scope of PLAnT, it will be possible to develop an integrated vision and explore multiple futures and challenges to the use, conservation, and governance of Antarctic marine social-ecological systems. The project will also analyze the social, economic, and political factors that limit the implementation of marine spatial planning initiatives in Antarctica. Finally, PLAnT will focus on the transferability of identified solutions and lessons learned to other contexts, raising awareness of the benefits and fundamental importance of having sustainable climate-smart ocean plans.

“We will explore solutions for ocean-based climate adaptation and mitigation, as well as mechanisms to promote dynamic and adaptive planning in the region,” adds Catarina Frazão Santos.


Brief Biography of Catarina Frazão Santos

Catarina Frazão Santos has published her research in top scientific journals, such as Nature Sustainability and Nature Geoscience; she has supported the European Commission, the United Nations, and the World Bank as an expert in marine spatial planning and climate change; and she is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the new Nature group journal dedicated to ocean sustainability — npj Ocean Sustainability. Catarina Frazão Santos is also an invited researcher at the University of Oxford (UK) and at the NOVA School of Business and Economics (Portugal). Catarina Frazão Santos completed her PhD in Marine Sciences in 2016 at Ciências ULisboa. Her education in Marine Biology (Bachelor’s Degree) and Ecology and Environmental Management (Master’s Degree) was also obtained at Ciências ULisboa.

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