Dr Awantha Dissanayake, BSc, MSc, PhD

Dr Awantha Dissanayake, BSc, MSc, PhD Image

University of Gibraltar:

Head of School (Marine & Environmental Sciences)
Lecturers & Tutors
PhD Supervisor
Natural Sciences & Environment

Research Background

Awantha is an experienced researcher with a background in marine biology, including a PhD in marine biology (crustacean ecophysiology). He has over 18 years’ experience of both laboratory and field research with a focus on outlining physiological functioning in aquatic organisms, comprising of a multidisciplinary approach (from the molecular level to physiological) to evaluating whole organism function and associated effects upon organism behaviour.

Awantha has contributed to over 25 scientific peer-reviewed research publications which have demonstrated how major global issues of concern, such as global climate change and coastal environmental pollution may impact on organism ecology and physiology.

Research Interest

Dr Awantha Dissanayake is the MSc Programme Leader for the Marine Science and Climate Change course and a lecturer in Marine Science at the University of Gibraltar.

Awantha has lectured on a range of topics from Ecology, Conservation, Oceanography, Coastal Zone Management, Marine Spatial Planning and Climate Change. His research on organism ecology has demonstrated its value for various applications, e.g environmental monitoring programmes, climate change impacts, educational outreach programmes, conservation in Marine Protected Areas, and capacity-building and knowledge-transfer programmes.

As an experimental biologist, he uses an interdisciplinary approach to contribute to the understanding of how ecosystem changes; either natural or anthropogenic including multiple stressors may affect organism function with a view of understanding ecosystem health. Awantha’s interests also lie in outreach activities, where he encourages a better understanding of marine pollution and available tools for environmental science through initiatives such as ‘Healthy Organisms’ and ‘Healthy Ecosystems’ in Singapore.

He has a wide-ranging teaching experience world-wide (>3000 contact hours), performing high-quality research with evidence of securing funding through grants and fellowships, and publishing in relevant international journals (h index: 18;>2000+ citations).


  • Programme Coordinator for MSc in Marine Science and Climate Change
  • Lecturer in marine science; topics ranging from Ecology, Conservation, Oceanography, Coastal Zone Management, Marine Spatial Planning and Climate Change
  • Facilitate learning through various innovative teaching methods and lectures; e.g. direct instruction, Problem-Based Learning (PBL), individual and group work, laboratory and field-based practicals including boat work
  • Working closely with stakeholders to deliver student assessments that have societal impact

Teaching and lecturing experience:

Current PhD students:

Samantha Slisarenko (2022 – present): Quantifying the influence of climate variability on the phenology of Atlantic bluefin tuna: implications for management and conservation.

Natalie Muirhead-Davies (2022 – present): Bridging the Gap between science, policy, and conservation advice; the realities of an overseas territory.

Amy Swift (2023 – present): Effective non-destructive methods to map and monitor vulnerable marine habitat-forming species.

100 Master’s level students.

Taught courses ( >3000 contact hours): At undergraduate – postgraduate levels
Marine ecology | environmental science | biochemistry | biology and physiology of organisms | climate change biology and marine ecotoxicology | statistical approaches | experimental design

Learning and Teaching methods – Higher Education Academy (UK) endorsed:

Lectures | Seminars | Tutorials | Project supervision | Demonstrations | Practical classes and workshops | Supervised time in laboratory | Fieldwork | External visits | Work based learning | Guided independent study

Selected Publications

Dissanayake A, Scarlett A.G., Jha A.N. (2016). Diamondoid acids found in crude oils and oil sands process waters cause genetic damage to gill tissue and haemolymph cells in mussels. Short Communication ESPR. University of Plymouth. doi: 10.​1007/​s11356-016-6268-2

Dissanayake A.  (2014). Ocean acidification and warming effects on Crustacea: possible future scenarios. In: The Mediterranean Sea: Its History and Present Challenges. Goffredo, S. and Dubinsky, Z. (eds) Springer, Netherlands. XV, pp. 678 doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-6704-1/page/2.

Dissanayake, A., Galloway, T.S. and Jones, M.B.  (2011). Seasonal differences in the physiology of Carcinus maenas (Crustacea: Decapoda) from estuaries with varying contamination.  Estuarine and Coastal Shelf Science. 93 (4), pp. 320-327. doi: 10.1016/j.ecss.2011.04.014 

Dissanayake, A and A. Ishimatsu.  (2011). Synergistic effects of elevated CO2 and temperature on the metabolic scope and activity in a shallow-water coastal decapod (Metapenaeus joyneri) (Crustacea: Decapoda).  ICES. Journal of Marine Science. 68 (6), pp. 1147-1154. doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsq188

Dissanayake A, Clough R, Spicer JI, Jones MB (2010). Effects of hypercapnia exposure on acid-base balance and osmo-/iono- regulation in the prawns Palaemon elegans (Rathke) and P. serratus (Pennant) (Decapoda: Palaemonidae). Aquatic Biology. 11 (1), pp. 27-36. doi: 10.3354/ab00285

Dissanayake A, Piggott C, Baldwin C, Sloman KA (2010).  Elucidating cellular and behavioural effects of contaminant impact (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs) in both laboratory-exposed and field-collected shore crabs, Carcinus maenas (Crustacea: Decapoda). Marine Environmental Research. 70, pp. 368-373. doi: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2010.07.004

Dissanayake A, Bamber SD (2010). Detecting polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure in the Bay of Gibraltar, using fluorescence spectrophotometry as a biomonitoring tool of environmental contamination. Marine Environmental Research.  70, pp. 65-72. Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2010.03.003

Dissanayake, A., Galloway, T.S. and Jones, M.B., (2009).  Physiological condition affects intraspecific agonistic behaviour in Carcinus maenas (Crustacea: Decapoda).  Journal of Experimental Marine Biology & Ecology. 375, pp. 57-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jembe.2009.05.007

Dissanayake, A., Galloway, T.S. and Jones, M.B., (2008b). Physiological responses of juvenile and adult shore crabs (Crustacea: Decapoda) to pyrene exposure. Marine Environmental Research. 66, pp. 445-450. (Science Direct: TOP 25 Hottest articles: October – December 2008). doi: ff10.1016/j.marenvres.2008.07.006ff.

Dissanayake, A., Galloway, T.S. and Jones, M.B. (2008a). Nutritional status of Carcinus maenas (Crustacea: Decapoda) influences susceptibility to contaminant exposure. Aquatic Toxicology, 89, pp. 40-46. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2008.05.014

Full Publications List