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Sara Martins


sara.jpgSara Martins

Department of Geography
University College London
Pearson Building
Gower Street


Dr Helene Burningham
Dr Carl Sayer



PhD Title – Ecohydrology of Temporary Ponds: implications for conservation

This PhD aims to improve scientific knowledge of temporary ponds by taking a holistic approach towards understanding the dynamics of hydrological and ecological interactions in these freshwater ecosystems, at the landscape scale. Despite their unique ecohydrology and vulnerability to habitat degradation, until recently temporary ponds were the least studied freshwater ecosystem type in Europe, though research on their ecology has increased during the last decade. They contain species rarely found elsewhere, which are highly exposed to human and climate change pressure. Temporary ponds have been recognised as priority habitats for conservation in Europe by the Habitats Directive, despite the fact that they are poorly understood by local population and are still faced with numerous pressures. Consequently, it is crucial that we understand the factors that threaten their ecological function and integrity, if they are to survive. This PhD aims to determine the influence of hydrology on zooplankton communities of temporary coastal ponds in Ireland and Portugal, to assess their current conservation status, the scale and nature of disturbances impacting them and to inform conservation programmes for their long-term protection.



  1. Understand ecohydrological processes in temporary ponds within an integrated landscape by improving knowledge of hydrological dynamics and ecological functioning in different climates;
  2. Study the hydrological regime of ponds and relate this to geomorphological characteristics and water level variation during the course of a year;
  3. Evaluate and describe biological communities present (zooplankton and aquatic vegetation) and identify the relationship between representative species and sensitiveness to hydroperiod variation;
  4. Recognise the environmental factors that are likely influencing ecological dynamics and hydrological processes in temporary ponds;
  5. Generate management tools and utilize the new knowledge gained to inform future conservation efforts focused on coastal temporary ponds, in the form of appropriate conservation vehicles.




MPhil/PhD Student at University College London, Geography Department (2014-present)
Title “Ecohydrology of Temporary Ponds: implications for conservation” (Supervisors: Dr Helene Burningham & Dr Carl Sayer)

MRes Marine and Freshwater Ecology and Environmental Management, Glasgow University, Scotland (2010)

Dissertation titles:

1st project “The the use of brown seaweeds of the genus Fucus as bioindicators of the Clyde Estuary contamination by heavy metals” (Supervisor Professor Alan Taylor)

2nd project “Environmental factors that influence macrophyte distribution and abundance in Zambian rivers” (Supervisor Dr Kevin Murphy)

B.Sc. (Hons) Ecotourism (2008), Agricultural College of Coimbra, Portugal

Work Experience

2013 – Postgraduate Research Assistant - Zooplankton community changes in managed and unmanaged ponds, UCL

2011 - Postgraduate Research Assistant – Macrophyte community changes due to a dam construction in Paraná River, Brazil

2010 - Postgraduate Research Assistant – SAFRASS Project, Zambia

2006-2010 – Wildlife Ranger and Volunteer Officer in various conservation NGO’s and Trusts around the world

Grants & Awards

2014 – London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership

2013 – UCL ENSIS

2013 – Leonardo da Vinci Lifelong Program - EU

Scientific Involvement

Journal Paper

M.P.Kennedy, P. Lang, J. Tapia Grimaldo, S. Varandas Martins, A. Bruce, S. Lowe, H. Dallas, T.A. Davidson, H. Sichingabula, J. Briggs, K.J. Murphy (2016). The Zambian Macrophyte Trophic Ranking scheme, ZMTR: a new biomonitoring protocol to assess the trophic status of tropical southern African rivers. Aquatic Botany.

Kennedy, M.P., Lang, P., Tapia Grimaldo, J., Varandas Martins, S., Bruce, A., Hastie, A., Lowe, S., Ali, M.M., Dallas, H., Briggs, J., Sichingabula, H. & Murphy, K.J. (2015). Environmental drivers of aquatic macrophyte communities in southern tropical African river systems: Zambia as a case study. Aquatic Botany 124, 19–28.

Varandas Martins S., Milne J., Thomaz S.M., McWaters S., Mormul R.P. & Murphy K (2013). Human and natural drivers of changing macrophyte community dynamics over 12 years in a Neotropical riverine floodplain system. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2368

Kennedy M.P., Soulsby C., Gibbins C., Murphy K.J, Tapia Grimaldo J. & Varandas Martins S. (2013). Development of a macrophyte based biomonitoring protocol for Zambian rivers. Proc. 9th Internat. Symp. Ecohydraulics, Vienna 2012.

Lang P, Kennedy M.P., Tapia Grimaldo J., Varandas Martins S., Bruce, A.3, Hastie, A.3, Ali, M.M.4 & Murphy, K.J (2016 in preparation). The distribution of non-native invasive aquatic macrophytes in Zambian rivers.

Poster Paper

Varandas Martins, S., Murphy, K.J., Kennedy, M., Lowe, S., Lang, P., Briggs, J., Dallas, H., Taylor, J., Bertolli, L., Gibbins, C., Jenny Day, J., Sichingabula, H., Saili, K., Ntobolo, C., Kabangu, K. & Willems F. (2013). Programa de Avaliação dos Rios no Sul de África (SAFRASS): estabelecimento de uma estrutura coerente de investigação na construção de capacidade para promoção da saúde e biodiversidade dos rios na região tropical do sul de África. Abs. 14th. Congr. Bras. Limnol., Bonito, Brazil, Sept. 2013: P-EAB2-4.

Varandas Martins, S., Murphy, K.J., Kennedy, M., Judith Milne, J., Thomaz, S., McWaters, S. & Mormul, R. (2013). Mudanças na dinâmica da comunidade de macrófitas devido a factores naturais e antropogénicos na bacia de inundação do rio Paraná – uma análise de doze anos. Abs. 14th. Congr. Bras. Limnol., Bonito, Brazil, Sept. 2013: P-EAB2-6.

Varandas Martins, S. (2013). Developing macrophyte-based techniques to aid monitoring and conservation of Zambian rivers. Abs. 45th UK Aquatic Plants Meeting (Robson Meeting), St Ives, UK.

Kennedy M.P., Gibbins C., Tapia Grimaldo J., Varandas Martins S. & Murphy K.J. (2012.) Developing macrophyte-based techniques to aid monitoring and conservation of Zambian rivers. Abs. 3rd European Congr. Conservation Biol., Glasgow 2012.

Varandas Martins, S. (2012). Human influence or natural variation? A decade of change in the macrophyte vegetation of a sub-tropical river. Abs. 44th UK Aquatic Plants Meeting (Robson Meeting), St Ives, UK.

Varandas Martins, S. (2011). Use of macrophytes and diatoms in building SAFRASS: a new river bioassessment scheme for Southern Africa. Abs. 43rd UK Aquatic Plants Meeting (Robson Meeting), St Ives, UK.

Varandas Martins, S. (2010). Use of brown seaweeds of the genus Fucus as bioindicators of the Clyde Estuary contamination by heavy metals. Abs. 7th MBA Postgraduate Students Conference, Glasgow, UK.