Dr Mariana Mayer Pinto
Senior Research Associate
Field of Research: 
Multiple stressors, urbanisation, eco-engineering, human impacts
Contact details:
Level 4 East
Biological Sciences South (E26)

UNSW, Kensington 2052


Member of the Applied Marine and Estuarine Ecology Lab (AMEE)

Research & Current Projects

Mariana is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales. Her research broadly focuses on human impacts on marine ecosystems. Mariana uses ecological theory and experimental field ecology in innovative ways to understand the mechanisms by which anthropogenic stressors (e.g. priority pollutants, urbanization) affect biodiversity and ecosystem function across a wide range of marine habitats, with a strong focus on solution-based research.

Member of the Applied Marine and Estuarine Ecology Lab (AMEE)

See also Google Scholar and UNSW Research Gateway


Engineering artificial habitats to enhance ecosystem services and mitigate impacts
Artificial structures have been major features of terrestrial urban landscapes for centuries and are increasingly common in aquatic environments. These structures may change biotic interactions between species by altering food-webs, facilitating the spread of non-indigenous species and increasing the accumulation of contaminants. However, there is still very little understanding of how they alter ecosystem functioning or contribute to important ecosystem services such as productivity. Similarly, the potential for designing structures to reduce their ecological footprint and maintain pivotal ecosystem functions is an emerging field. I am interested in how these structures can be designed to provide multi-functions of interests to society while having minimal impacts on the environment.

Effects of anthropogenic disturbances on ecosystem functioning
Humans depend, socially and economically, on the services and goods that ecosystems provide. Human populations have increased exponentially during the last century and the growing resources demand of an increasing population is placing increasing pressure on natural systems. Ecosystems are now subjected to threats from an array of stressors that may affect their diversity and functioning and, in most extreme cases, may cause ecosystem collapse. There is, therefore, a real and pressing need to properly manage ecosystems to maintain their sustainability and the supply of services. A comprehensive understanding of how different stressors affect ecosystem functioning is necessary to develop sound and efficient management strategies that protect services.

Contamination on marine systems
ontaminants are linked to global biodiversity declines. Changes in densities of species or other traits can cause changes across an entire assemblage via indirect effects. Therefore, contaminants can affect organisms directly, via mortality, or indirectly, via disruption of ecological processes, such as recruitment, competition or growth. Marine and estuarine systems have long been influenced by contaminants, such as metals and pesticides from industrial and agricultural activities. Understanding their effects may help predict, prevent and mitigate degradation of important marine ecosystems.



The Conversation - Our oceans are out of balance – can we learn some tips from feng shui?

The Conversation - Concrete coastlines: it’s time to tackle our marine ‘urban sprawl’

Sydney Morning HeraldIt's war down there: Sydney Harbour a marine battleground between invasive and local species

Research Students


Nina Schaefer (PhD candidate) – ‘Climate resilient eco-engineering’ (Jointly supervised with Dr Katherine Dafforn and Professor Emma Johnston).

Shinjiro Ushiama (PhD candidate) – ‘Artificial structure effects on fish and invertebrates’ (Jointly supervised with Dr Katherine Dafforn and Professor Emma Johnston).


Elisa Tan (Honours, 2014) – ‘Coastal Structures and Intertidal Microbial Communities’ (Jointly supervised with Dr Katherine Dafforn and Professor Emma Johnston).

Wills Brassil (Honours, 2014) – ‘Artificial light results in increased predation pressure on sessile invertebrate communities’ (Jointly supervised with Dr Katherine Dafforn and Professor Emma Johnston).


MSCI2001 Introductory Marine Science (Guest Lecturer)

GEOS3911 Environmental Impact Assessment (Guest Lecturer)

MSCI0501 The Marine Environment (Lecturer and Course Coordinator, 2012)

BIOS3091 Marine & Acquatic Ecology (Convenor and Lecturer, 2013; Guest Lecturer, 2014)

  1. Mayer-Pinto, M* (2017). Impacts of bleach on bryozoans: A framework to distinguish direct and indirect effects using chemical and physical manipulations. Science of the Total Environment 599-600: 58-67.
  2. Mayer-Pinto, M*; Johnston, EL; Bugnot, A; Glasby, TM; Airoldi, L; Mitchell, A; Dafforn, KA (2017). Building ‘blue’: an eco-engineering framework for foreshore developments.Journal of Environmental Management 189: 109-114.
  3. Bolton D; Mayer-Pinto M*; Clark, GF; Dafforn, KA; Brassil WA; Becker A; Johnston, EL (2017). Coastal urban lighting has ecological consequences for multiple trophic levels under the sea. Science of the Total Environment 576:1-9.
  4. Bishop, MJ; Mayer-Pinto, M; Airoldi, L; Firth, LB; Critchley, L; Morris, RL; Loke, LHL; Hawkins, SJ; Naylor, LA; Coleman, RA; Yin Chee, S; Dafforn, KA. (in press; accepted on 06/2016). Effects of ocean sprawl on ecological connectivity: impacts and solutions. Invited review for the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.
  5. Heery, EC; Bishop, MJ; Critchley, L; Bugnot, AB; Airoldi, L; Mayer-Pinto, M; Sheehan, EV; Coleman, RA; Loke, LHL; Johnston, EL; Komyakova, V; Morris, RL; Strain, EM, Naylor, LA; Dafforn, KA. (in press; accepted on 11/05/2016). Identifying the consequences of ocean sprawl for sedimentary habitats. Invited review for the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.
  6. Strain, EMA; Olabarria, C; Mayer-Pinto, M; Cumbo, V; Morris, RL; Bugnot, AB; Dafforn, KA; Heery, E; Firth, LB; Brooks, P; Bishop, MJ. (in press; accepted on 22/05/2017). Eco-engineering urban infrastructure for marine and coastal biodiversity: which interventions have the greatest ecological benefit. Journal of Applied Ecology.
  7. Mayer-Pinto M*; Matias, MG; Coleman RA (2016). The interplay between habitat structure and chemical contaminants on biotic responses of benthic organisms. PeerJ 4:e1985; DOI 10.7717/peerj.1985.
  8. Browne MA; Brooks P; Clough R; Fisher A; Mayer-Pinto M; Crowe TP (2016). Simulating regimes of chemical disturbance and testing impacts in the ecosystem using a novel programmable dosing-system. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12521.
  9. Van den Brink, PJ; Choung, CB; Landis, W; Mayer-Pinto, M; Pettigrove, V; Scanes, P; Smith, R; Stauber, J (2016). New approaches to the ecological risk assessment of multiple stressors. Marine and Freshwater Research. 67(4): 429-439.
  10. Mayer-Pinto M*; Johnston EL; Hutchings P; Marzinelli EM; Ahyong ST; Birch G; Booth D; Creese R; Doblin MA; Figueira W; Gribben PE; Pritchard T; Roughan M; Steinberg PD; Hedge LH (2015). Sydney Harbour: A review of anthropogenic impacts on the biodiversity and ecosystem function of one the world’s largest natural harbours. Marine and Freshwater Research. 66(12): 1088-1105.
  11. Mayer-Pinto M*; Underwood AJ; Marzinelli EM (2015). The matrix influences direct and indirect effects of an anthropogenic disturbance on marine organisms. Environmental Research. 136: 15-20.
  12. 12.Mayer-Pinto M*. & Ignacio BL (2015). Effects of chemical disturbances on intertidal benthic assemblages. Science of the Total Environment. 506-506: 10-17.
  13. Tan ELY; Mayer-Pinto M; Johnston EL; Dafforn KA (2015). Differences in intertidal microbial assemblages on urban structures and natural rocky reef. Frontiers in Microbiology. 6: 1276.
  14. Johnston EL; Mayer-Pinto M*; Hutchings P; Marzinelli EM; Ahyong ST; Birch G; Booth D; Creese R; Doblin MA; Figueira W; Gribben PE; Pritchard T; Roughan M; Steinberg PD; Hedge LH (2015). Sydney Harbour: What we do and don't know about this highly diverse estuary. Marine and Freshwater Research. 66(12): 1073-1087.
  15. Johnston EL; Hedge LH; Mayer-Pinto M (2015). The urgent global need to understand harbor ecosystems. A short authoritative statement about harbours. Marine and Freshwater Research. 66 i-ii.
  16. Johnston EL; Mayer-Pinto M; Crowe TP (2015). Chemical contaminant effects on marine ecosystem functioning. Journal of Applied Ecology. 52(1): 140-149.
  17. Dafforn KA; Mayer-Pinto M; Morris RL; Waltham NJ (2015). Application of management tools to integrate ecological principles with the design of marine infrastructure. Journal of environmental management 158: 61-73.
  18. Dafforn KA; Glasby TM; Airoldi L; Rivero NK; Mayer-Pinto M; Johnston EL (2015). Marine urbanization: an ecological framework for designing multifunctional artificial structures. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13: 82-90.
  19. Dafforn KA; Glasby TM; Airoldi L; Rivero NK; Mayer-Pinto M; Johnston EL (2015). Clarification on the applicability of systematic reviews. Reply. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13(3): 129-130.
  1. Mayer-Pinto M*; Ignacio BL; Szechy MTM; Viana MS; Curbelo-Fernandez MP; Lavrado HP; Junqueira AOR; Vilanova E; Silva SHG (2012). How much is too little to detect impacts? A case study of a nuclear power plant. Plos One 7(10): e47871.
  2. Marzinelli EM; Burrows MT; Jackson AJ; Mayer-Pinto M (2012). Positive and negative effects of habitat-forming algae on survival, growth and intra-specific competition of limpets. Plos One 7(12): e51601.
  3. Mayer-Pinto M*; Coleman RA; Underwood AJ; Tolhurst T (2011) Effects of zinc on microalgal biofilms in intertidal and subtidal habitats. Biofouling 27(7): 721-727.
  4. Mayer-Pinto M*; Underwood AJ; Tolhurst, T.; Coleman RA (2010) Effects of metals on benthic assemblages: what do we really know? Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 391: 1-9.
  5. Vilanova, EP; Mayer-Pinto, M; Curbelo-Fernandez, MP; Silva, SHG. (2004). The impact of a nuclear power plant discharge on the sponge community of a tropical bay (SE Brazil). Bollettino dei musei e degli istituti biologici dell'Universita di Genova 68: 647-654.
  6. Mayer-Pinto M* & Junqueira AOR. (2003). Effects of organic pollution on the initial development of fouling communities in a tropical bay, Brazil. Marine Pollution Bulletin 46: 1495 – 1503.