Current Project: 2024 - 2027

RLA 7/028 – Strengthening Regional Capabilities on the Application of Nuclear and Isotopic Techniques to Increase Knowledge about Stressors that Affect Marine and Coastal Sustainable Management (ARCAL CLXXXIX)

Previous Projects:

RLA 7/025 – Strengthening Capacities in Marine and Coastal Environments Using Nuclear and Isotopic Techniques (2020-2023).

RLA 7/022 – Strengthening Regional Monitoring and Response for Sustainable Marine and Coastal Environments (ARCAL CXLV) (2018-2019).

RLA 7/020 - Establishing the Caribbean Observing Network for Ocean Acidification and its Impact on Harmful Algal Blooms, using Nuclear and Isotopic Techniques. (2014-2017)

RLA 7/014 – Designing and Implementing Systems for Early Warning and Evaluation of the Toxicity of Harmful Algal Blooms in the Caribbean Region, Applying Advanced Nuclear Techniques, Radioecotoxicological Evaluations and Bioassays (2009-2012).

RLA 7/012 – Use of Nuclear Techniques to Address the Management Problems of Coastal Zones in the Caribbean Region. (2007-2012)

Participating Institutions:

Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras José Benito Vives de Andréis – INVEMAR

Research Areas:

  • Ocean Acidification.
  • Chemical Contamination.
  • Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and Marine Biotoxins.
  • Microplastic contamination.


In Colombia, bad practices in productive activities such as port, agricultural, tourist, and commercial activities, changes in land use, the increase in the population in coastal areas whose projection for 2020 is 5,792,191 inhabitants, located mainly in populated centers in which there is an inefficient coverage in basic sanitation, they are the cause of contamination. This, added to the inefficiency in the application of regulations, has caused the deterioration of marine ecosystems. As a consequence of this alteration, since 2010 an increase in harmful algal blooms has been observed; Likewise, there are indications of the acidification of the seas, among other problems that require immediate studies to take prevention and mitigation measures.


INVEMAR, as a research entity linked to the Ministry of Environment, has generated scientific information on the deterioration of marine-coastal ecosystems, through the national water quality monitoring system and projects, among which stand out those of technical cooperation financed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The latter have made it possible to strengthen the country's capacities in the use of three nuclear techniques (gamma ray spectrometry, alpha particle spectrometry, Receptor Binding Assay-RBA) and more than five conventional ones (direct mercury analysis by DMA-80, microwave digestion, analysis of dissolved inorganic carbon with infrared detector-AIRICA, spectrophotometric pH, optical microscopy and stereoscopy); In addition, more than ten national scientists have been trained to monitor the contamination of marine ecosystems, harmful algal blooms (HABs) and toxins produced by these microorganisms, the state of contamination by microplastics on beaches; and to obtain reliable information on the current status of ocean acidification.

Despite the fact that national resources have carried out monitoring of harmful microalgae in six Caribbean stations of microplastics on Caribbean and Pacific beaches, and of ocean acidification in two Caribbean coastal stations, the information on these problems in the country is scarce, as well as the guild of Colombian researchers specialized in these issues. For this reason, it is necessary for the National Government to increase economic support and strengthen inter-institutional alliances, in order to increase scientific capacities that allow improving the quality of information on marine environmental quality, which are the technical basis of regulatory measures to pollution control, including that of single-use plastics; as well as for the design of CO2 emission policies that help the conservation of marine-coastal ecosystems and their environmental services; and to design an early warning system against algal bloom events, among others. Additionally, this information contributes to the fulfillment of the country's commitments in relation to objective 14 of the SDGs, in terms of preventing and reducing marine pollution, as well as addressing the effects of ocean acidification.

Country Members:

Luisa Espinosa. Biologist, PhD. Oceanography.

Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras José Benito Vives de Andréis – INVEMAR.

Role in the Project: Colombia National Coordinator.

Contact info: / (57)3145356043

Since 2003 she has been working at INVEMAR, her research is oriented to addressing issues of marine environmental quality, such as pollution, mainly by heavy metals. In recent years, she has been working with contaminants of emerging interest such as plastics and microplastics. Additionally, within the projects that she directs, she works on issues aimed at designing alternatives for ecosystem protection and restoration. Since 2007, she has been in charge of coordinating the Marine and Coastal Water Quality Monitoring System of Colombia REDCAM. Since 2008, she has been the technical manager of the five regional projects financed by the International Atomic Energy Agency in which INVEMAR has participated and she is the representative for Colombia of the Coastal Marine Research Network - REMARCO. She has more than twenty scientific publications on marine environmental quality issues. Given her experience in environmental quality issues, she has been a representative of Colombia in various UN Environment activities.

Edgar Arteaga Sogamoso. Marine Biologist.

Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras José Benito Vives de Andréis – INVEMAR.

Role in the Project:  Scientific researcher/Technical manager of the HABs component.        

Contact info: / (57)-3164380199

Marine biologist from the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano, specializing in aquaculture (Universidad del Magdalena) and currently a doctoral student at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. With experience in freshwater bivalves, ichthyoplankton and microalgae (phytoplankton from both the Caribbean and the Colombian Pacific and marine benthic dinoflagellates) focused mainly on those of a potentially harmful nature. He has participated in the RLA7014 and RLA7020 projects and currently in the COL7004 projects “Implementation of the RBA nuclear technique and other confirmatory methods for the detection of marine biotoxins, as management tools for the establishment of a national early warning system against events produced by microalgae” and RLA7025: Strengthening capacities in coastal marine environments using nuclear and isotopic techniques whose objective is to contribute to the conservation and sustainable management of the oceans, seas and marine resources.

Cesar Augusto Bernal. Chemist, MSc. Chemistry.

Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras José Benito Vives de Andréis – INVEMAR.

Role in the Project:  Head of the Laboratorios de Calidad Ambiental Marina – LABCAM. En el proyecto Representante Área de Acidificación Oceánica.

Contact info:

With more than a decade of experience in the implementation of analytical methodologies in environmental laboratories, in the last 4 years he has served as Head of the Unidad de Laboratorios de Calidad Ambiental Marina of INVEMAR. He has participated in different research projects on coastal marine pollution, ocean acidification, development of terms of reference and blue carbon. He has participated in multiple technical concepts on coastal marine environmental emergencies and environmental licensing. Trainer in the course "Carbonate Systems" of the Ocean Teacher Global Academy (OTGA) of UNESCO. Professor of the marine and coastal pollution subject of the Master's Degree in Environmental Management of Marine and Coastal Systems of the Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano.

Paola Sofía Obando Madera. Environmental Engineer, MSc. Environmental Management of Marine and Coastal Systems.

Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras José Benito Vives de Andréis – INVEMAR.

Role in the Project:  In charge of the microplastics component

Contact info:

Since 2013 she has been working in the Marine Environmental Quality Program of the Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras – INVEMAR, conducting research work in the framework of the national monitoring program of the Surveillance Network for the conservation and protection of marine and coastal waters of Colombia - REDCAM that allow understanding the impacts of anthropogenic activities on the conditions of environmental quality in marine and coastal systems. He currently serves as Head of the research line of Evaluation and Monitoring of Marine Environmental Quality with functions in the coordination of REDCAM, formulation and implementation of projects in the areas of water quality monitoring systems, sediments, eutrophication, marine debris and microplastics, development and application of environmental indicators for monitoring the conditions of marine environmental quality. Trainer of the REDCAM course of the Ocean Teacher Global Academy (OTGA) of UNESCO.

Interests:  marine pollution, information systems, coastal eutrophication, marine litter, microplastics, pollution sources, marine ecology.

Isabela Katime Arroyave. Social Communicator and Journalist, Specialization in Strategic Communication.

Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras José Benito Vives de Andréis – INVEMAR.

Role in the Project:  Head of Scientific Communication. Communication focal point.

Contact info: / (+57) 4328600 ext.: 359

With experience in marketing, organization of events and strategic communication, since 2017 she has been linked to INVEMAR, initially from the editorial assistance in charge of the indexing and editorial management processes of the Institute's flagship scientific journal and other publications. She was promoted to the head of scientific communication in 2019 and since then he has led the processes of translating scientific knowledge into the language of decision makers and the non-scientific community in general. Since 2020 she belongs to the Communications Advisory Group (CAG) of the Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development, being the only representative of Spanish-speaking Latin America.  

Lizbeth Janet Vivas Aguas. Fisheries Engineer, MSc. Environmental Sciences.

Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras José Benito Vives de Andréis – INVEMAR.

Role in the Project:  Coastal Eutrophication Area Representative.

Contact info:

With more than 15 years of experience in marine pollution research in Colombia. She served as head of the research line in evaluation and monitoring of marine environmental quality. Professor of marine pollution of the Master's Degree in Environmental Management of Marine and Coastal Systems of the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University. Currently, she coordinates the line of research on prevention and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems, performing functions in the formulation, execution and coordination of projects in the areas of monitoring marine environmental quality, evaluation of environmental impacts, development of environmental indicators and design of marine pollution prevention strategies, risk management evaluation and generation of technical inputs for the protection of marine and coastal ecosystems as support for coastal management. Trainer of the REDCAM course of the Ocean Teacher Global Academy (OTGA) of UNESCO. Author of technical and scientific publications.

Progress and Challenges

It is necessary to establish monitoring programs for beaches and fishing resources in relation to contamination by microplastics in coastal areas, with the aim of collecting baseline information and generating evidence-based health policies.