Dr Anita Franco

Senior Estuarine and Coastal Fish Ecologist

Faculty of Science and Engineering

01482 466695

Anita is an ecologist with expertise on estuarine and marine fish communities.

Her research focuses on the functional assessment of estuarine fish, their use and partitioning of resources, their occurrence and distribution in relation with habitat characteristics and human pressures (including modelling of essential fish habitats offshore), and their assessment using fish-based indicators of ecological / environmental status.

As a quantitative ecologist, she has developed experimental designs, undertaken statistical analysis and modelling of estuarine and marine ecological data, also on other ecological components (e.g. estuarine birds, seabirds, benthic communities).


Research Interests

• Essential fish habitats and distribution

• Structural and functional ecology of marine and estuarine ecosystems

• Impact of anthropogenic activities on the estuarine and marine environment

• Climate change

• Ecological monitoring, sampling design and impact assessment

• Fish Species as indicators of environmental stress / ecological status

• Statistical analysis and ecological modelling

Research groups

  • Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies

  • EU-funded H2020 CERES project: Climate change and European Aquatic RESources

  • EU-funded FP7 DEVOTES project: DEVelopment Of innovative Tools for understanding marine biodiversity and assessing good Environmental Status

  • EU-funded FP7 WISER project: Water bodies in Europe: Integrative Systems to assess Ecological status and Recovery

  • EU-funded FP7 TIDE project: Tidal River Development

  • Med-GIG inter-calibration of fish indices in Mediterranean lagoons (2009-2012, in collaboration with ISPRA & University of Venice - Italy, University of Murcia - Spain, IRSTEA & Ifremer – France Fisheries Research Institute, National Agricultural Research Foundation – Greece)

  • Research collaborations with institutes and universities across Europe (e.g. University of Venice, Italy; Interdisciplinary Centre for Marine and Environmental Research & University of Porto, Portugal)

  • Estuarine and Coastal Sciences Association


Amorim E., Ramos S., Elliott M., Franco A., Bordalo A.A., 2017. 'Habitat loss and gain: influence on habitat attractiveness for estuarine fish communities'. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science, 197: 244-257. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecss.2017.08.043

Zucchetta M., Scapin L., Cavraro F., Pranovi F., Franco A., Franzoi P., 2016. 'Can the effects of anthropogenic pressures and environmental variability on nekton fauna be detected in fishery data? Insights from the monitoring of the artisanal fishery within the Venice lagoon'. Estuaries and Coasts, 39(4): 1164-1182. DOI:10.1007/s12237-015-0064-y

Franco A., Quintino V., Elliott M., 2015. 'Benthic monitoring and sampling design and effort to detect spatial changes: a case study using data from offshore wind farm sites'. Ecological Indicators, 57: 298-304. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.04.040

Strong, J.A., Andonegi, E., Bizsel, K.C., Danovaro, R., Elliott, M., Franco, A., Garces, E., Little, S., Mazik, K., Moncheva, S., Papadopoulou, N., Patricio, J., Queirós, A.M., Smith, C., Stefanova, K. and Solaun, O., 2015. 'Marine biodiversity and ecosystem function relationships: the potential for practical monitoring applications'. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science, 161: 46-64. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecss.2015.04.008

Franco A., Elliott M., Franzoi P., Torricelli P., 2008. 'Life strategies of fishes in European estuaries: the functional guild approach'. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 354: 219-228. DOI: 10.3354/meps07203

Full list


Research PhDs

Dr Franco welcomes applications in marine and estuarine fish ecology, particularly relating to conservation and the impacts of human activities and climate change. 

Completed PhDs

  • Eva Amorim, MSc student, University of Porto (2012)

  • Lisa Horn, MSc student, University of Hamburg (2012)

  • Raquel Moreno Valcarcel, PhD student, University of Cordoba, Spain (2012)

  • Luca Scapin, MSc student, University of Venice (2013)

  • Ruth Parker, MSc student, University of York (2013)

  • Claudia Mendes, PhD student, University of Porto (2014)

  • Camila Murad, PhD student, Universidade Federal do Espirito Santo, Brazil (2014)

  • Iara Sousa, PhD student, Universidade Federal de Sao Carlo, Brazil (2014 & 2015)

Current PhD supervisions 

  • Adam Waugh, Fish populations in estuaries: improving our understanding of impacts across England, University of Hull (2013-2017)

  • Eva Amorim, PhD student, University of Porto (2016 & 2017)

  • Antonio Sala, Erasmus Plus Placement, University of Murcia, Spain (2017)

  • Lam Fung Yu, MSc student, University of York (2017)

  • Simone Redolfi Bristol, PhD student, University of Venice, Italy (planned for 2018)

Professional highlights

Academic qualifications

  • PhD Environmental Sciences (Italian Doctorate of Research), Structure and spatial-temporal dynamics of fish assemblages in the Venice lagoon, Ca’ Foscari University, Venice, Italy (2004)

  • MSc Environmental Sciences (Italian Laurea Quinquennale), Ca’ Foscari University, Venice, Italy (2000)

External roles

  • Elected council member of the Estuarine and Coastal Sciences Association and editor of the ECSA electronic newsletter (since 2008)

  • Associate Editor for the Elsevier journal Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Sciences (since 2013)

  • Reviewer for the South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF) to evaluate the quality of the research outputs and standing of rated researchers accessing to NRF research funding (since 2013).

  • Referee for 20+ peer-reviewed journals, with 70+ reviewed manuscripts to date

Awards and accolades

  • Development of Spatial Models of Essential Fish Habitat for the South Inshore and Offshore Marine Plan Areas, for the UK Marine Management Organisation (projects MMO1044 and MMO1096)

  • Certificate of Excellence in Reviewing, awarded by the Elsevier journal Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Sciences in recognition of “an outstanding contribution to the quality of the journal” (2013)

  • Set up of the first national fish-based index for the ecological assessment of Italian lagoons (transitional waters) in compliance with the Water Framework Directive (Franco et al., 2009, 'A habitat-specific fish-based approach to assess the ecological status of Mediterranean coastal lagoons'. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 58: 1704-1717. DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2009.06.016)

Professional highlights

Invited speaker at scientific conferences and meetings:

• Symposium on ‘Interfaces in aquatic ecosystems’, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, August 2016. Invited talk on 'Fish in estuaries: life at the interface(s)'

• Spatial Ecology & Conservation (SEC4) International Conference, Symposium 1: Marine Spatial Planning. University of Bristol, July 2016. Invited talk on 'Essential Fish Habitats mapping: a prescriptive tool for marine spatial planning?'

• SIBIC 2016 - VI Iberian Congress of Ichthyology. Murcia, Spain, June 2016. Invited plenary lecture on 'Fish as ecological indicators and the challenge of climate change'

• Humber Nature Forum meeting. Barton upon Humber, December 2015. Invited talk on 'Lamprey in the Humber'

• Institute of Fisheries Management Meeting, The Deep, Hull, May 2013. Invited talk on 'Fish and Fisheries in the Humber'

More than 50 presentations at national and international conferences, symposia and meetings

Subject Expert and Teaching Assistant (“Cultore della Materia”) in Ecology at the Department of Environmental Sciences, Ca’ Foscari University (Venice, Italy) (2010-2013)

Included by ISPRA (Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research) in the technical-scientific committee for the implementation of WFD in transitional and coastal waters (Med-GIG Phase II) as a national expert on fish in transitional waters (2009)