5th LifeWatch ERIC General Assembly

5th General Assembly

The Dirk Bouts Building in the Flemish Administrative Centre (VAC) in Leuven, Belgium, was the scene for the 5th LifeWatch ERIC General Assembly, from 11–12 December 2019, chaired by Gert Verreet. Composed of the representatives from all full Member States and observers, the purpose of General Assembly Meetings, the highest governing body of LifeWatch ERIC, is to set the overall direction and to supervise the development and operation of LifeWatch ERIC. 

At the heart of this 5th General Assembly lies the prototype of the LifeWatch ERIC Platform, an integrated initiative of LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities presented by the CTO, Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda. Thanks to its application layers and user-friendly interfaces, the prototype will enable the integration of all the resources, including web services developed by National Nodes over the years, as well as those resulting from Common Facilities and Joint Initiatives, like the recent investigation undertaken by the infrastructure members on the current and future challenges of NIS in Europe, into Virtual Research Environments (VREs). The prototype was adopted by the General Assembly, officially marking the beginning of the deployment and operational phase, with its implementation expected to continue until the end of next year.

With many other important issues on the agenda, this rich two-day meeting moved from a review of LifeWatch ERIC activities in 2019 to forward planning for 2020 and delivering general frameworks for implementation. Among these, the Assembly approved the general framework for Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to be used as the basis for a roll-out to national nodes in the course of the year, and an engagement policy to reinforce our dialogue with – and capacity to reach out to – external stakeholders. By finalising the rules and procedures for subsidiary bodies, and having established the selection committee to complete the recruitment of one of the most strategic positions, the Chief Financial Officer, LifeWatch ERIC will be in good shape to hit the ground running in 2020.

Round Table COP25

The 25th UN Climate Change Conference, originally planned for Chile, is taking place in Madrid, Spain, 2-13 December, 2019.  LifeWatch ERIC Chief Technical Officer, Juan Miguel González-Aranda and Francisco Hernández, Coordinator of LifeWatch Belgium, presented on Tuesday 10 December to the Round Table COP25: Opportunities & Challenges and the 2030 Agenda.

The event, co-organised by the Chilean and Spanish ambassadors to Brussels, Patricio Torres and Beatriz Larrotcha Palma, was supported by LifeWatch Belgium, LifeWatch Spain and LifeWatch ERIC, and hosted in the Instituto Cervantes, Brussels, by its Director, Ana Vásquez. The keynote address was given by Barbara Pesce-Monteiro, UNDP Office, Belgium, the UN Secretary General’s representative to the UN and Belgium. 

The panel discussion moved from the vision of climate diplomacy to its implementation, covering experiences on mitigation and adaptation to climate change in line with the 2030 agenda. As the pre-eminent infrastructure for biodiversity and ecosystem research, combining the scientific community and national institutions, it is fundamental for LifeWatch ERIC to be part of these international strategic discussions on climate change.

LifeWatch Belgium Users & Stakeholders Meeting

Users & Stakeholders Meeting

LifeWatch Belgium: a highly innovative infrastructure for biodiversity research

The 2nd edition of the LifeWatch Belgium Users & Stakeholders Meeting was organised at the Royal Belgium Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) in Brussels to report on progress, on 19 November, 2019. This event was open to all users and stakeholders connected with the infrastructure and attracted a total of 74 participants from a multitude of Belgian research institutes, universities and policy bodies. It turned out to be an interesting and insightful meeting, much like the first.

The day started with Philip Van Avermaet from the EWI Department sharing his views on how research infrastructures such as LifeWatch can be at the service of science. Next, Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC CEO, explained the mission of and recent developments within the European infrastructure. Klaas Deneudt from the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) then presented how LifeWatch Belgium is supporting science, industry, policy and civil society. Through the remainder of the day, a number of use cases showcased the versatility of LifeWatch Belgium in more detail.

Policy supporting use cases:

• If life was simple… GPS tracking data provides new insight in the use of offshore wind farms by Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Eric Stienen, INBO)

• Transboundary Land Cover Dataset for Nature Protection (Corentin Rousseau, WWF)

• Surveillance of mosquitoes and other blood-sucking arthropods that can act as human disease vectors during foreign deployments of Belgian Defense (Leen Wilmaerts, Medical Component of the Belgian Armed Forces)

• How the LifeWatch Species Information Backbone supports global fisheries policies and management (Lennert Schepers, VLIZ)

Industry supporting use cases:

• Using bird remains identification at the Belgian Air Force to improve flight safety (Commandant Serge Sorbi, Wildlife Hazard Management Office, Belgian Air Force – Aviation Safety Directorate (ASD))

• Gathering ecological data on movement behaviour of Atlantic cod in support of gas and oil industry (Jan Reubens, VLIZ)

Science supporting use cases:

• Tracking of marine predators in the Southern Ocean (Anton Van de Putte, RBINS)• CATREIN: CAmera Trap REsearch INfrastructure in support of a growing number of wildlife related research projects (Jim Casaer, INBO)

• High resolution mapping of population dynamics in breeding birds in Wallonia (Antoine Derouaux, NATAGORA)

The last presentation of the day was dedicated to biodiversity and ecosystem research by LifeWatch connections in Sweden, and the proceedings ended with a panel discussion about the use and value of LifeWatch for science, policy and industry.

2019 Talentia Awards

LifeWatch ERIC was honoured at the 2019 Talentia Awards in Seville on 18 December for its significant contribution to the environment and society’s well-being. The European science and technology infrastructure for biodiversity and ecosystem research received the award for its provision of the essential technological tools to advance and promote research and management of natural systems in general, and biodiversity and ecosystem services in particular.

Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda, Chief Technical Officer and Director of the LifeWatch ERIC Common Facility in Spain, while accepting the ‘Society and Environment Award’ on behalf of the infrastructure, was particularly commended as an Andalusian committed to the region and for his relentless dedication to the promotion and development of LifeWatch ERIC since 2009. As the only European Research Infrastructure Consortium coordinated and managed by Spain, the award comes as a true recognition of our CTO’s commitment to the consolidation of LifeWatch ERIC in Andalusia. 

“It is a great honour to receive this award. We are proud of our contribution to the Andalusian region,” said González-Aranda. “But the technological tools and services provided by LifeWatch ERIC facilitate the development of models for the whole of Europe and underpin decision-making worldwide. Our work promotes sustainable development and informs the management and governance of natural resources under the effects of climate change”.  

The 2019 Talentia Awards are presented by the Talentia Network Association (ATN), with the support of the Unicaja Foundation, RES Space, and the Ministry of Economy, Knowledge, Business and University of the Junta de Andalucía, with the objective of recognising initiatives that have an impact on the development and productivity of the Region. The ceremony was opened by Nuria Gómez, the Andalusian Council’s Secretary of Regeneration, Rationalisation and Transparency.  

2nd Dahlem-Type Workshop

2nd Dahlem-Type Workshop

The LifeWatch ERIC Internal Joint Initiative was launched in October 2019 to design and construct a Virtual Research Environment capable of processing and modelling available data on one of the planet’s most burning biodiversity issues, the proliferation of Non-indigenous and Invasive Species (NIS), in order to help mitigate their impacts. 

Development of a new Virtual Research Environment (VRE) is essential to further integrate the tools and services available in the LifeWatch ERIC web portal. The process will allow stakeholders greater ability to develop their research activities within the e-Science Infrastructure, whilst also clearly demonstrating the added value that LifeWatch ERIC’s advanced technologies can bring not only to the biodiversity and ecosystem scientific community, but to policymaking and human wellbeing around the globe. 

The conceptual paper and workflow-timeline developed at the 1st Dahlem-type workshop in Seville, Spain, 14-18 October, formed the basis of this 2nd Dahlem-type Workshop, organised in Rome, Italy, from 2-6 December, this time coordinated by the LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda. This 2nd Dahlem-type workshop delivered the first prototype of the new LifeWatch ERIC Non-indigenous and Invasive Species Virtual Research Environment. The collaborative construction and deployment approach and the intense interaction between ICT and NIS experts made it possible to achieve definition of the requirements and needs of the scientific community and of the main architecture layers (application, e-Services composition, e-infrastructure integration, and resources) that underpin the VRE.