LifeWatch Belgium 3rd Users & Stakeholders Meeting

biodiversity research

LifeWatch Belgium: a highly innovative infrastructure for biodiversity research.

Interaction at the third edition of the Users & Stakeholders Meeting, 15-16 October 2020, took place entirely online, because of the Covid-19 pandemic. LifeWatch Belgium is a high-technology virtual laboratory for biodiversity research, and the Belgian LifeWatch community meet every year to showcase progress made. Open to all users and stakeholders of the infrastructure, the event this year attracted 100 registrations from a multitude of Belgian research institutes, universities and policy bodies, who were pleased to find the proceedings interesting and insightful.

After an introduction from Klaas Deneudt of the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), Day One featured users’ stories from Belgian LifeWatch partners:

  • The World Ocean Assessment, a global exercise supported by the LifeWatch Species Information Backbone (Leen Vandepitte, VLIZ)
  • Downstream migration through a shipping canal: challenges on the road (Jenna Vergeynst, UGent)
  • Comparison of methods to model species habitat networks for decision-making in nature conservation: the case of the wildcat in southern Belgium (Axel Bourdouxhe, LifeWatch-WB)
  • and POLAAAR portal use case: DNA metabarcoding of the prey and microbiome of museum specimens of Antarctic fishes (Henrik Christiansen,
  • The need for accurate and comprehensive DNA sequence databases to reliably identify species of policy concern (Kenny Meganck and Sophie Gombeer, BopCo).

The second day, 16 October, was the turn of the Belgian LifeWatch partners to demonstrate specific aspects of the infrastructure:

  • LifeWatch data R package (Lennert Schepers, VLIZ)
  • Agouti: A platform for managing wildlife camera-trapping projects (Tanja Milotic, INBO)
  • Exploring the landscape via the ecotopes with GIS softwares (Julien Radoux, LifeWatch-WB)
  • POLA3R (Maxime Sweetlove,
  • The process of DNA-based species identification: bushmeat as a case story (Ann Vanderheyden, BopCo).

The event clearly demonstrated that the Belgian LifeWatch community is an involved and active one. The multitude of interesting and impressive user stories highlighted the individual projects that are going on and the immense progress that LifeWatch Belgium is making. Click here for the program, including links to the presentations and demonstration videos.

The demonstration videos that were shown during the second day of the Users & Stakeholders Meeting are now available here on the website

TiBE2020 Metabarcoding and Metagenomics

Trends in Biodiversity and Evolution

9-11 December 2020, online. The tenth edition of the Trends in Biodiversity and Evolution (TiBE) conference will be virtual this year and focus on Metabarcoding and Metagenomics. The meeting, held over three afternoons, will discuss exciting developments associated with the advent of ever more powerful DNA sequencing technologies, which are opening possibilities to explore the living world in ways that were unimaginable just a decade ago.

This annual Trends inn Biodiversity and Evolution event is organised by CIBIO-InBIO, the Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, connected through PORBIOTA with LifeWatch Portugal. It brings together senior researchers, post-graduate and graduate students working in the fields of biodiversity and evolutionary biology, to discuss cutting-edge findings in topics related to metabarcoding and metagenomic techniques, and their application in ecological and environmental research. The TiBE2020 conference is jointly organised by the CompBio and ApplEcol research groups. It will be hosted on an online platform that will facilitate networking opportunities and allow poster presentations. The programme, including both plenary and short presentations from selected abstracts, is divided into three sessions:

• Molecular surveys of biodiversity and invasive species

• Next generation biomonitoring of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems

• Understanding species in interactions in complex ecosystems.

Abstracts are invited either as 15-minute oral presentations, or as 2-minute poster videos. Please note that only registered participants will be accepted as presenting authors. Abstract submission deadline is 27 October, 2020. Click here to download the abstract submission template

United for #Biodiversity

The Natural History and Science Museum of the University of Porto (MHNC-UP), including its Botanical Garden and Hall of Biodiversity – Ciência Viva Center – is the first institution from Portugal to become an official member of the European Commission Global Coalition ‘United for #Biodiversity‘, a campaign calling for stronger mobilisation in raising awareness about the need to protect biodiversity.

As a member of LifeWatch PortugalMHNC-UP has joined this global movement to call the attention of world leaders to the pressing need to take immediate and concerted action to protect nature by acting locally and worldwide, and is proud to be one with the 10 institutions (including the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco, Central Park Zoo and Biotopia Munich) and 16 international organisations that have already signed up to this global initiative. Around 500 institutions are expected to take part by the end of 2020.

Launched by EU Commissioner for Environment Virginijus Sinkevicius, the United for #Biodiverstiy coalition calls for strong mobilization of all national research centers, science and natural history museums, botanic gardens, zoos, parks, aquariums and others to make their voices heard about the crisis that nature is facing. At a time when science is warning that 1 million species are at risk of extinction within decades because of human activities, jeopardizing the very future of humanity, there is a critical need to unite all possible forces in the lead up to COP26

The Natural History and Science Museum of the University of Porto’s mission is to promote the advancement and dissemination of knowledge about evolution, diversity and the convergence between the natural and cultural worlds, Its displays seek to stimulate curiosity about both natural and cultural phenomena and contribute to their understanding, fostering a dialogue between the arts, science and technology.  

Space and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030


LifeWatch ERIC was represented on Friday 10 October, 2020, at another international online workshop by Chief Technology Officer Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda. Entitled Space and SDG 2030, and organised by Science Digital @ UNGA 75, the forum discussed how to frame the contribution of space technologies to the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and featured contributions from Ireland, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, Nicaragua, and the UN.
Dr González-Aranda’s presentation at UNGA 75 started from the premise that human well-being depends on healthy ecosystems and that LifeWatch ERIC’s work, in assessing and monitoring ecosystem functions to understand the underlying ecological processes of biodiversity, is critical to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Using Tesseract VRE, the product-framework being deployed to build large-scale virtual research environments, and LifeBlock, the blockchain technology to guarantee the provenance and persistence of evidence, LifeWatch ERIC is using remote sensing information from space to providing science-based management frameworks, tools and mechanisms.  
Working with other Research Institutes, and offering expertise on cross-border initiatives, as in EU-LAC and EU-AFRICA, LifeWatch ERIC is applying Artificial Intelligence and Big Data services to enable faster and more accurate detection and identification of species. This helps the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs -UNOOSA-, for example, to link space and wildlife communities and understand what is going on. By assisting international agencies and building citizen awareness, these operations contribute critically to preserving the planet.

WCMB 2020 Virtual Conference

WCMB 2020

The World Conference on Marine Biodiversity 2020, Sunday 13-Wednesday 16 December 2020, will be fully virtual because of uncertainties in participants’ ability to travel to Auckland. To accommodate an expected increase in participants, the deadline for submission of abstracts for e-posters has been extended to 1 October.

The conference programme will be designed to accommodate varying timezones. It will enable all participants to view all talks and posters, even those in parallel sessions, at a time of their choosing. All materials, abstracts, programme, posters, talks, keynote presentations, and ‘breakout rooms’ for live discussion between participants, will be organised through one website. Side events to encourage live interactions between participants will be organised.

Conference fees for WCMB 2020 have been greatly reduced, earlybird prices apply up to 1 November, and sponsorship has been obtained to cover over 100 participants from Developing Countries. Virtual registration includes:

• Access to the virtual platform and all sessions during the conference 

• Access to recorded session content for up to three weeks after the conference has ended

• Access to view e-posters and chat with e-poster presenters

• Access to the Meeting Hub to connect with other virtual attendees. 

WCMB 2020 welcomes presentations on all aspects of marine biodiversity, both fundamental and applied sciences. The year 2020 is significant in being a deadline for both Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Targets and UN Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 14 on the oceans, and is a starting point for 2030 goals and the UN Decade of the Oceans. Thus, contributors are asked to link their talks and posters to these events where possible. The focus will be to prioritise contributions that are of general appeal and wide interest and, to minimise the number of parallel sessions and maximise inclusivity, participants can expect to be restricted to one presentation per speaker.

LW ERIC CTO at Andalusia Official College of Telecommunications Engineers’s Digital Meeting

Under the title ‘LifeWatch ERIC in support of compliance with the 2030 Agenda and Europe Green Deal in the context of Climate Change’, LifeWatch ERIC Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda, participated in a Digital Meeting organised by the Andalusia Official College of Telecommunications Engineers on Wednesday, October 7, at 6:00 p.m.
During the meeting, the CTO explained how LifeWatch ERIC can support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the European Green Deal in achieving their targets, thanks to its VREs & Blockchain (Tesseract VRE & LifeBlock references), using their data catalogues & modelling techniques – based on the “state-of-art” of Big Data, AI and remote sensing tools – for the assessment of Ecosystem Services to support Digital Innovation Hub stakeholders. LifeWatch ERIC, through the added value of the ICT sector developments and the day-to-day efforts of its professionals, assists in preserving the planet’s biodiversity and ecosystems in the context of global climate change. The video recording of the presentation is available below, in Spanish language only. 

Ecology Day 2020 in Portugal

Ecology Day

Ecology Day was firstly established in 2016, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the date when Ernst Haeckel coined the term “ecology”. The first event to mark this special date was held in Brussels at the European Parliament that same year, organised by the European Ecological Federation (EEF). From that year on, September 14 has been set as Ecology Day.

Inspired by this celebration in Brussels, the Portuguese Ecological Society (SPECO – Sociedade Portuguesa de Ecology), and the EEF have been promoting the concept since 2017, making the most of generous sponsorship from the UNESCO Portuguese Commission. This annual celebration of Ecology Day now occurs worldwide with the dual purposes of bringing ecology and ecologists closer to society, and  promoting and fostering scientific literacy.

In 2019, Ecology Day stepped up to an international scale, and in 2020 SPECO proposed to EEF the launch of an online platform in which all interested institutions, researchers, associations and others could independently register their activities. This enabled a prompt submission of activities and resources, which were immediately made available to browse. As shown in the map above, this year there were over 150 activities spread across the globe. With a majority of digital, online offerings, the mobilisation towards this date was impressive, especially given the current state of public health worldwide.

In Portugal, Ecology Day 2020 was a big success, with SPECO contributing to events in many municipalities which provided their inhabitants with enriching ecology-related cultural and educational activities. Science centres, museums, universities, LIFE projects, research and educational institutions and environmental protection associations came together to offer the public a wealth of initiatives, such as guided tours (in-person and virtually), exhibitions, debates, seminars, webinars, workshops, challenges, games, short story sessions for children, book presentations, educational videos, murals and illustrations, and scientific articles, among others. The impact of these initiatives will be the subject of an in-depth assessment, whose outcomes will be published as soon as possible.

Bearing in mind that the on-going endorsement of this date by UNESCO depends on the number of initiatives organised, SPECO has been keen to reinforce and promote the events,  and publicise the outcomes. To broaden and consolidate the celebration of this important date, and to highlight the relevance of ecology as an important arm of science, the Portuguese Ecological Society takes this opportunity to encourage all interested parties to start preparations for their contributions in 2021.