What a racket! Comparing the soundscapes of the Gulf of Tribugá and the North Sea

Marine soundscapes

This story was originally published on LifeWatch Belgium.

A new LifeWatch Belgium paper compares two different marine soundscapes: the Gulf of Tribugá in Colombia and the the Belgian Part of the North Sea (BPNS). This study is of great importance as a general marine soundscape baseline in order to map possible future disturbances of port construction or to evaluate whether policy measures taken are effective. The comparison shows that biophony dominates the Gulf ot Tribugá while anthropophony is dominant in the BPNS.

The “soundscape” of an ecosystem is defined as the characterisation of all the acoustic sources present in a certain place. A soundscape includes three fundamental sound source types: (1) anthropophony, or sounds associated with human activity; (2) biophony, or sounds produced by animals; and (3) geophony, or sounds generated by physical events such as waves, earthquakes, or rain. Studying soundscapes can provide information for a specific habitat, which could then be linked to ecosystem health status and other bioindicators. This information can be used to monitor the habitat over time, allowing for rapid detection of habitat degradation, such as in response to human-driven events. To do so, underwater recorders (hydrophones) are placed in different locations and are set to record broadband acoustic signals.

The paper describes two regions with vastly different marine soundscapes, characterised by extremely different shipping densities. The first study region, the Gulf of Tribugá, Colombia, is less affected by human activities. It serves as a general marine soundscape baseline for comparison with possible future disturbances from port construction and operation. By contrast, the second study region, the Belgian Part of the North Sea (BPNS) is located in a more disturbed area of very exploited shallow waters. Its baseline is being used to monitor the effects of noise reduction policies. The comparison shows that biophony dominates the Gulf ot Tribugá while anthropophony dominates the BPNS.

Read the whole paper via this link.

Image credit: Maria Paula Rey Baquero (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Colombia) 

Hiring: Scientific Collaborator for BopCo project 


LifeWatch Belgium consortium members RBINS (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences) and the RMCA (Royal Museum for Central Africa) are looking for a Scientific Collaborator to join the LifeWatch BopCo project.

A postdoctoral researcher position is now open within the project “BopCo: A barcoding facility for organisms and tissues of policy concern“. The position will be administratively managed by RBINS, but functionally shared by RBINS and RMCA. The contract is for 1 year and applications must be submitted by 7 February 2022.

BopCo is an initiative of the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO), the main activity of which consists of providing scientific services concerning the DNA identification of socially and policy-relevant organisms at the request of governments, companies, NGOs, associations and the general public.

For more details about the vacancy and how to apply:

Mapping Eel Migration Routes

Mapping Eel Migration Routes

This story was originally posted on LifeWatch Belgium.

With the use of 96 data loggers, scientists of the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), Ghent University and the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) succeeded in mapping the migration routes of eels in the North Sea. The results show that the majority of Belgian eels migrate through the English Channel. Although this seems the logical thing to do, some choose to migrate over Scotland. The reason for these different choices is still under study; the eels are probably guided by certain sea currents.

The European eel has one of the most impressive and complex life cycles in the animal kingdom. They grow in our rivers, but need to migrate at least 7000 m to the spawning grounds in the Atlantic Ocean. The exact location of and the migration routes to these spawning grounds are after millennia of research still poorly known.

Researchers from the INBOGhent University and VLIZ attached data logging devices to eels to map their migration routes in the North Sea. Pieterjan Verhelst from the INBO: “These data logging devices measure water temperature and depth during the eel’s migration route. After some time, the devices detach from the eel, drift to the sea surface and hopefully wash ashore. Whoever found such a device and sent it back to us was awarded €50. As such, we could download the data and calculate the eel’s trajectory.”

Successful findings
From the 320 deployed data loggers 96 (30%) were retrieved. The majority were found near the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel (France), but substantial numbers were also retrieved along the southern coasts of the UK and the Netherlands.

Whales and sharks
The route was not without danger. Marine predators like whales and sharks ate eleven of our eels. In some cases we were even able to identify the culprit to species level (a pilot whale and a porbeagle shark) based on the species-specific body temperature (after predation the data logger was inside the predator) and the diving pattern.

Bit by bit
Although we couldn’t track the eels until their spawning locations, these results are a valuable contribution to the already known routes (for example the route from Norway over the UK and the route through the Mediterranean Sea). Putting the pieces of the puzzle together on one map, we gradually get a total picture of the various eel migration routes. The final 3000 km to the spawning sites, however, is still shrouded in mystery and require further research.

For more info, contact Pieterjan Verhelst (Research Institute for Nature and Forest)

Debut open access paper published in the Biodiversity Data Journal

Biodiversity Data Journal

The “LifeWatch ERIC Collection of Data and Services Papers” published in the Biodiversity Data Journal is dedicated to the resources and assets developed, upgraded and used during the implementation of the Internal Joint Initiative (IJI), our flagship project focused non-indigenous and invasive species (NIS). The first open-access data paper in this series was published on 25 January 2022, entitled “An individual-based dataset of carbon and nitrogen isotopic data of Callinectes sapidus in invaded Mediterranean waters” (Di Muri et al.).

The paper presents compiled datasets of isotopic signatures of the Atlantic blue crab and its prey in invaded coastal and transitional habitats. The analysis of these data can be used to calculate the trophic position of the invader, evaluate its adaptation within new ecosystems and investigate changes in the structure and functioning of invaded food webs.

Having already colonised most of the eastern and central Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea in recent decades, the Atlantic blue crab is currently widening its distribution towards the western region of the basin. Its impact within invaded habitats was assessed in a number of studies using stable isotope analysis, and Di Muri et al. have combined the results into a geo-referenced dataset.

The research was carried out within the context of the IJI, more specifically the ‘Crustaceans Workflow’, one of the validation cases used to develop an interdisciplinary Virtual Research Environment that utilises disruptive technologies to deal with the impacts of NIS on European native species, genetic diversity, habitats, ecosystem functioning and services, and to inform current practices in environmental management and policy implementation. Read about the second paper in the series here.

LifeWatch ERIC at the 2022 ERIC Forum Annual Meeting

ERIC Forum Annual Meeting

Today, 26 January 2022, LifeWatch ERIC CTO Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda participated in the ERIC Forum Annual Meeting. During the event, Dr González-Aranda presented the “Technical and Innovation Report on the integration of ERICs into pan-European infrastructures – The example of EOSC” on behalf of his co-authors, Dr Cristina Huertas Olivares and Dr Christos Arvanitidis of LifeWatch ERIC.

The report was produced in the context of the ERIC FORUM H2020 Project, forming part of Work Package 6: “The Role of ERICs in European science policy and research strategy”. It presents a review on the integration of ERIC development into pan-European infrastructures, particularly regarding the new EOSC (European Open Science Cloud). 

In the first chapter, which describes Research Infrastructures (RI) and RI clusters, the reader is introduced to the rationale for their cooperation and collaboration in using EOSC resources: it achieves a degree of integration of their basic assets (e.g. data and information). The following chapter reflects on the efforts that have been made to establish EOSC in the past, describing key players along with current prospects. These chapters are followed by key conclusions and some recommendations for the enhancement of this ongoing integration process.

The ERIC Forum Annual Meeting will continue tomorrow, 27 January, in order for members to discuss the practical aspects of future collaboration between ERICs. 

ASSEMBLE+ Project Opens Call

Assemble Plus Call

Until 13 February 2022, researchers from industry and academia can apply for free access to top-class marine research infrastructures, thanks to the opening of the ninth call of the ASSEMBLE Plus project (Association of European Marine Biological Laboratories Expanded).

 ASSEMBLE Plus offers access to over 32 marine stations and institutes in 13 countries across Europe and overseas for basic and applied research in the marine science field (see overleaf). Researchers from both industry and academia can apply for on-site and remote access. Sponsorship includes travel and subsistence for two persons (one return trip per person, up to 30 days). Successful applicants will be able to carry out their project free-of-charge (subject to some limitations).

Please visit assembleplus.eu for updates on available services, call dates, application procedures and any further information on current and upcoming calls for access.

Research Grants at University of Salento

Research Grants

The University of Salento (Puglia, Italy) has published a number of calls for applications for research grants, in association with LifeWatchPLUS and LifeWatch Italy. These include:

  • “Development of geospatial models supporting web services for the study of biodiversity and ecosystem change scenarios” (21/01/22)
  • “Semantic technologies for biodiversity and ecosystem research to support the LifeWatchPLUS distributed Data Centre and the LifeWatch ERIC community” (16/01/22)
  • “Multimedia developments for biodiversity and ecosystem research” (21/01/22)

Please see the LifeWatch Italy Jobs page for more information. To see opportunities available with LifeWatch ERIC, click here.

EOSC Future ‘Ask Me Anything’ Webinars

EOSC Future Webinars

Starting in February 2022, EOSC Future (one of the projects in which LifeWatch ERIC is currently involved) will organise ‘ask me anything’ webinars.

On the first Tuesday of every month, participants will have the chance to ask questions about a variety of EOSC services and resources.

During these exclusive Q&A sessions, resources and resource categories available on the EOSC platform will be presented, discussed and, in some cases, tested out.

Each session will take place online from 14.00-15.00 CET

The first 3 webinars are listed below:

  • 01/02/2022: Data storage
  • 01/03/2022: Software 
  • 05/04/2022: Compute services

Have a question about another EOSC service that is not listed above? More dates and topics are coming throughout 2022-2023. Eventually, the webinars will cover all resource categories on the EOSC portal.

Ask me anything about…

The EOSC Future ‘ask me anything’ webinars aim to encourage uptake among users as well as show potential service providers how their resources could be featured through EOSC.

For each session, EOSC community members, experts and project coordinators will present an EOSC resource. As needed, there will be a demonstrative use case to show how a specific type of resource can be accessed and used via the platform. For all webinars, particular emphasis will be placed on answering any and all questions from the audience.


Register for specific sessions by following the links below:

Visit the EOSC Future website for updates on upcoming webinar topics and dates.