Dr Nuno Ferreira

Dr Nuno Ferreira


School of Biosciences

Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
Available for postgraduate supervision

I am an environmental toxicologist, specializing in terrestrial isopods’ biology, but also with a great background in model organisms (invertebrate/vertebrate) such as daphnids, zebra fish, collembola, birds, etc. I am currently working as a Sêr Cymru Fellow in Cardiff University (UK) and also involved in several ecotoxicological projects in CIIMAR (Portugal).

I have been working in emergent pollutants and the metabolic pathways involved in its detoxification, policy making tools and environmental risk assessment. My project “MINT: Metal Ion trafficking of Nanoparticles in Terrestrial isopods” aims to exploit the elegant and highly specific metal trafficking system of the terrestrial isopod hepatopancreas in Oniscus asellus, proactively evaluating the biological impact of new generations of nickel and gold nanoparticles.

Research focus and portfolio: To date my research has focused on soil ecotoxicology specialising in exploiting isopods as terrestrial sentinels. I have an established record of delivering high quality scientific outputs many where my research has the foci for large multi-institutional and interdisciplinary collaborative teams. These interactions have also generated a variety of research projects, involving organisms such as earthworms, fishes, corals, bivalves, daphnids, plants, birds or insects. I have co-authored 19 peer-reviewed papers, have presented six oral presentations (two of them by request) and more than 30 posters presentations. I act as a reviewer for ten international journals and have been awarded with grants and prizes during my career.

Foundation in research interests: My interest in research developed during the final years of UG study (University of Aveiro, Portugal) where I developed and execute a 12-month research project, entitled “The smell of fear: combined effects of contaminants and chemicals from predators on freshwater invertebrate Sericostoma vittattum.” (classification 19/20). This interest was further enhanced during a final year internship at I.N.I.A. (Madrid, Spain), where I participated in several research projects regarding environmental risk assessment of former mine sites investigating its toxicity (classification of 20/20).

Early community contributions: My interest in research drove me to support the scientific community by becoming president of the Biology Students Union, where I organised the international SYMBIOSE Meeting (2008) and the XI National Biology Students Congress (2007), activities that were acknowledged through the “Best Activity 2006/2007’ award by University of Aveiro Student’s Union”.

Research founded in an interdisciplinary and multi-organisational approach: My PhD allowed me to further develop my research interests and focused on the use of physiological and biochemical biomarkers in isopods as complements to the chemical assays used for EU-mediated assessments of ecosystem functions, services, and soil quality. This project delivered the first whole-body descriptive transcriptome for isopods, and a preliminary target pathway-based analysis of metal and pesticide exposure that reveals novel detoxification routes and toxic lesions. This work received a “Award to Best Contribution” for the poster entitled "Biomarkers and energy reserves in isopods: the effects of long-term exposure to dimethoate” when it was presented at an international symposium in 2011. The PhD adopted an interdisciplinary approach exploiting both genomics and metabolomics, an approach a multi-organisation approach that was recognised when I concluded my European PhD with honours, with the panel commenting: "The content of the thesis entitled "The chemical effect in isopods: a multi-organizational assessment" in terms of originality, accuracy, innovation, extension, depth and quality of multidisciplinary work, as well as the presentation and argumentation made by the applicant was voted "Approved" and the thesis was considered worthy of highest honour and praise."

Expanding technical expertise through networking: My PhD provided me a platform to develop the skills necessary for a future independent research career.  I initiated national and international collaborative networks to support an expansion of my technical expertise. To obtain these skills I spent a total of six months (2012 & 2013) in Cardiff University (in the research group with which he is now applying to host the MSCA Fellowship) and CICECO group within the University of Aveiro in order learn NMR metabolomics. I also developed my capacity to supervise research by supervising UG research students, PhD students and assisting postdoctoral researchers in as a research leader. I assisted in lectures and supervised three final year undergraduate projects in ecotoxicology. Finally, during my career I have always striven to supervise students in order to gain experience for when I will be a team leader.

Honours and awards


3rd place award for the work “When memory flies away: Neurotixicity on Drosophila melanogaster” (Carlota Andrade, Vasco Pereira, Carlos Oliveira and Nuno Ferreira).


European PhD concluded with honour: "The content of the thesis entitled "The chemical effect in isopods: a multi-organizational assessment" in terms of originality, accuracy, innovation, extension, depth and quality of multidisciplinary work, as well as the presentation and defence made by the applicant was voted "Approved" and the thesis was considered worthy of highest honour and praise." 16th December 2014, Aveiro, Portugal.


Award to Best Contribution for the poster entitled "Biomarkers and energy reserves in isopods: the effects of long-term exposure to dimethoate" (Nuno Ferreira, Miguel Santos, Rui Morgado, Rita Silva, Amadeu Soares and Susana Loureiro).


Award for the organization XI National Biology Students Congress (XI ENEB) has the Best Activity 2006/2007 by the University of Aveiro Student’s Union, 2007, Aveiro, Portugal.

I contributed to teaching in CESAM (Univ. Aveiro) and CIIMAR (Univ. Porto) from 2010-2016 in MSc and Biology degree courses along with the supervision of several undergraduate students, including:

  • Filipa Lopes (2016 – CIIMAR, PT)
  • António Amaro (2010 – CESAM, PT)
  • Fernanda Rosário (2009 – CESAM, PT)

My research interest is mainly focused in the toxicological effects of emergent pollutants. It follows three essential steps:

1 - Identify the organisms’ capacity to handle emergent pollutants;

2 - Identify the metabolic pathways and physiological properties that allows the organism to survive;

3 - Apply their unique characteristics into new biotechnological products.

My P.h.D

During my Ph.D. studies, my researched focused in the determination of Adverse Outcome Pathways from exposing the terrestrial isopod species Porcellionides pruinosus to the model pesticide dimethoate and the model metal nickel. The use of the most recent techniques in molecular biology allowed to present for the first time a full body transcriptome of a terrestrial isopod (Porcellionides pruinosus); a study that is being finished for submission to a high impact journal. It also provided the first NMR study that showing the metabolomic profile of terrestrial isopods exposed to nickel and dimethoate, never reported previously, along with the identification of 24 new metabolites that had also not been described previously. To perform the molecular biology analysis, I initiated a collaboration with Prof. John Morgan and Prof. Peter Kille at Cardiff University.

Other Environmental Toxicological Research

In my first three years has a PhD, I have been working more with aquatic environmental toxicological organisms such as crabs, snails and zebra-fish in the determination of the toxicological effects of pharmaceuticals, pesticides mixtures and other emergent pollutants. The work was developed in CIIMAR (PT) under the supervision of Dr. Laura Guimarães.

Metal Trafficking in Terrestrial Isopods

At the moment, I am developing studies with terrestrial isopods in order to identify the mechanisms (either by protein transporters or by specialized metal handling hepatopancreas’ cells) that these organisms have developed to survive in highly contaminated metal sites. In association with it I am collecting information regarding this neglected taxon that can be used to exploit these organism as metallomic models, to inform policy maker regarding the effects of nanoparticles and even to establish the bases for research related with metal diseases.

Previous Projects

FENOMENO - Fate and effect of Wastewater-borne manufactured nanomaterials in aquatic ecosystems.

FENOMENO is an integrative project aiming at an understanding of the impact of end-of-life manufactured nanomaterials (MNMs) on the environment. Even though MNMs are mostly removed during wastewater treatment (WWT), the remaining MNM levels in the effluents are significant and MNMs may show an increased toxicity for aquatic organisms due to their modification during the WWT. With innovative analytical approaches we will study the fate and effect of wastewater-borne MNMs in an aquatic ecosystem, develop the basis for robust evaluation systems, and design analytical sensor systems for quantitative nanoparticle detection using biochemical markers and Daphnia and fish as sensors. We will use cutting edge approaches to analyse and monitor the biological impact of TiO2 and Ag MNMs on different trophic levels within a relevant food chain (algae-Daphnia-fish) at different levels, from behavioural to biochemical, from laboratory to complementary field studies. (Copied from the Link bellow)

CESAM – FENOME description


2017: Sêr Cymru COFUND MSCA Fellowship. Grant Number 1103956 (£186,688)

2012/2013: PhD Scholarship complement (£8,500)

2010: PhD Scholarship SFRH/BD/65739/2009 funded by Portuguese Science Foundation: Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) entitled “The effects of chemicals in isopods: a multi-organizational evaluation” (£53,500).



Dr. Miguel Oliveira (Univ. of Aveiro, Portugal)

Dr. Laura Guimarães (CIIMAR – Univ. Porto, Portugal)

Prof. Armindo Rodrigues (Univ. Azores, Portugal)

Dr. Miguel Santos (EFSA, Italy)

Dr. Marta Novo (Univ. Autonoma. Spain).


Prof. Peter Kille

Dr. Luis Cunha

Dr. Ceri Morris.

I would be interested in supervising topics relating to Biology, Molecular biology, Environmental toxicology and Climate change impact on ecosystems.  Due to my close connection with Portugal, I would also be able to foster collaboration to supervise both these and other research topics across both countries.

I have participated in several engagement activities focused in the dissemination of biology to non-scientific communities of all ages. During 2016 I engaged in several science outreach activities in high schools, one of which resulted in my group receiving 3rd Prize in "X Mostra Nacional de Ciência”. Currently I am participating in other Portuguese-funded projects, such as CIIMAR na ESCOLA and OceanLab – CIIMAR, where the dissemination of science to the general public is the main objective.