Mondego’s muddy marshes

A scientific project to protect and conserve the Mondego estuary marshes in Figueira da Foz will have researchers from Coimbra and Lisbon universities buried knee-deep in the river’s black mud. Researchers on the ReSEt (Restauro de Sapais Estuarinos com Vista à Sustentabilidade) project first went into the field in 2019 and recently started a boot camp for ecology professors and students.

“When there are children in the mud, they are playing: when there are adults, they are scientists at work”, joked Skyler Suhrer, a master’s student from Seattle studying at Coimbra and Kiel universities. She added: “As a former colleague of mine used to say: a good day at the office is no better than a bad day in the field.”

Lisbon University doctoral student Carlos Gonçalves has some experience with the Mondego estuary after working at MAREFOZ, Coimbra University’s MARE programme laboratory on the south bank of the river, where he was also the first ReSEt research fellow.

“My work on my PhD is to continue this project”, he said, adding that the research near the town of Vila Verde, “is challenging”. He added: “We’re used to it, but it’s always a challenge. This is what makes the work interesting. Not always being in the office, once in a while going out and being in the mud.”

Tiago Verdelhos, ReSEt coordinator and MAREFOZ researcher, highlighted the “advantages” of having master’s students “from slightly different areas” within ecology doing fieldwork as part of the research project. “I don’t think any of them had ever done this kind of work, being here in this context. What we wanted with this boot camp was to bring interested students to our world and get them to do some project work. We are not only teaching them, we are also showing what it is like to do this kind of research”, he said.

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