Research Interests

My main research area focusses on the understanding of benthic community changes as a response to natural and human-induced environmental alterations. Comprehensively evaluating how anthropogenic stressors affect community composition will help us to provide knowledge to policymakers and environmental managers regarding the sustainable use of marine resources.  
My research at KAUST is focused on the analysis of the changes in eukaryotic and prokaryotic diversity due to anthropogenic pressures such as aquaculture, port constructions or oil extraction. For this purpose, I am analyzing biological communities from different impacted areas using molecular tools with the final objective of developing new biotic indices to be implemented in standard routine monitoring programs.

Selected Publications

  • Beyond the visual: using metabarcoding to characterize the hidden reef cryptobiome
    S. Carvalho, E. Aylagas, R. Villalobos, Y. Kattan, M. Berumen and J.K. Pearman
    Proc. R. Soc. B 286: 20182697, (2019)
  • Adapting metabarcoding-based benthic biomonitoring into routine marine ecological status assessment networks
    Aylagas, E., Borja, Á., Muxika, I., & Rodríguez-Ezpeleta, N.
    Ecological Indicators, 95, 194-202, (2018)
  • A bacterial community-based index to assess the ecological status of estuarine and coastal environments
    E. Aylagas, Á. Borja, M. Tangherlini, A. Dell'Anno, C. Corinaldesi, C. T. Michell, X. Irig...
    Marine Pollution Bulletin 114, 679-688, (2017)
  • Benchmarking DNA metabarcoding for biodiversity-based monitoring and assessment
    E. Aylagas, Á. Borja, X. Irigoien and N. Rodríguez-Ezpeleta
    Frontiers in Marine Science 3, 96, (2016)
  • Marine sediment sample pre-processing for macroinvertebrates metabarcoding: Mechanical enrichment and homogenizatio...
    E. Aylagas, I. Mendibil, Á. Borja and N. Rodríguez-Ezpeleta
    Frontiers in Marine Science 3, (2016)
  • Analysis of Illumina MiSeq amplicon reads: application to benthic indices for environmental monitoring
    E. Aylagas and N. Rodríguez-Ezpeleta
    Marine Genomics Methods and Protocols, Methods in Molecular Biology, ed. Bourlat..., (2016)
  • Environmental status assessment using DNA metabarcoding: towards a genetics-based Marine Biotic Index (gAMBI)
    E. Aylagas, Á. Borja and N. Rodríguez-Ezpeleta
    PLoS ONE 9(3), e90529, (2014)
  • Evaluation of marine phytoplankton toxicity by application of marine invertebrate bioassays
    E. Aylagas, I. Menchaca, A. Laza-Martínez, S. Seoane and J. Franco
    Scientia Marina 78, 2, (2014)

Education Profile

  • ​Ph. D., Biology, University of the Basque Country, Leioa, Spain, 2017
  • M.S., Biodiversity and Ecosystem Management, University of the Basque Country, Leioa, Spain, 2012
  • M.S., Biotechnology, University of La Laguna, La Laguna, Spain, 2010
  • B.S., Biology, University of La Laguna, La Laguna, Spain, 2009 

Professional Profile

  • 2020 - Present: Research scientist, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia​
  • 2018 - 2020: Postdoctoral Fellow, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia 
  • 2017 – 2018: Consultant, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • 2012 – 2017: Ph.D Grant, AZTI, Sukarrieta, Spain
  • 2010 – 2011: Research assistant, The National University of Ireland (NUIG), Galway, Ireland
  • 2009 – 2010: Research assistant, University of La Laguna, La Laguna, Spain 


  • Extraordinary PhD Award, University of the Basque Country, Spain 2019

KAUST Affiliations

  • ​Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)
  • Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering Division (BESE) ​​