Introducing the EBES Master’s Diary

EBES Master's

In the Spring Term of 2022, LifeWatch ERIC will be funding a three-month internship abroad for three students, Martina, Marco and Ludovico, of the e-Biodiversity and Ecosystem Sciences Master’s degree (EBES) at the University of Salento, which is supported by LifeWatch ERIC.

Thanks to this dedicated LifeWatch ERIC internship programme, the students will be going to the Ionian University in Corfu, where they will be given the chance to apply the skills they have developed during their studies, carrying out research for their dissertations and gaining experience in the university labs. Individually, Martina, Marco and Ludovico will be focusing on using text mining to extract information on spatial and ecological traits of freshwater fishes, using a modelling approach to investigate the reasons a species population stays heterogenous, and building user-friendly citizen science applications with the aim of monitoring natural ecosystems. You can follow all three of the students’ journeys throughout their experience in Corfu by watching their Master’s Diary, which they will be updating periodically – subscribe to our YouTube channel to ensure you never miss an update! 

The EBES Master’s Degree e-Biodiversity and Ecosystem Sciences (EBES) is the newest curriculum available within the Master of Coastal and Marine Biodiversity and Ecology degree, designed to provide trans-disciplinary knowledge and skill sets for a new generation of ecologists proficient in data science, modelling and eco-informatics. It is a two-year programme at the University of Salento, entirely taught in English, allowing students to gain highly specialised instruction on biological and ecological sciences,ecological modelling and ecological informatics technologies. The course was created as current global challenges call for a deeper understanding of ecological phenomena at various levels of scale, to identify patterns and underlying mechanisms of biodiversity organisation and ecosystem functioning, and design scenarios of future change. 

For more information about the EBES Master’s Degree, please see the dedicated webpage of the University of Salento, or download the PDF here.



LifeWatch ERIC in El-Hiwar Euro-Arab Policy Dialogue on Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment

El-Hiwar

On 24 March 2022, LifeWatch ERIC Gender Consultant, Africa Zanella, took part in the El-Hiwar Euro-Arab Policy Dialogue on Challenges and Opportunities for Women Economic Empowerment in Times of Climate Change. El-Hiwar II is a project funded by European Commission DG NEAR and implemented by the College of Europe, conceived as a dialogue tool for the EU and the LAS to support strengthened work relations and to learn about each other’s functioning, mechanisms and policies. There was strong female representation among the 37 participants of the Dialogue, made up of gender experts and policy officers from both the EU and the LAS, as well as representatives from the UN and prominent women’s organisations.

Specifically, this policy dialogue was centred around gender and climate action priorities, particularly in terms of revamping policies and initiatives to support women’s economic empowerment, in light of the evolving situation generated by climate change and its wide-ranging consequences on economic sectors. Women play a crucial role in climate change adaptation and mitigation, with knowledge of what is needed to adapt to changing environmental conditions and to come up with practical solutions. Unfortunately, they are still a largely untapped resource. Key topics included the role of women in rural areas and the consequences of climate change on the Arab region, with an open call made to attendees to consider Horizon Europe as a funding mechanism for further research on women’s contribution to climate action and/or capacity building for women in rural areas to mitigate and adapt to climate change in key regions in the Mediterranean.

European Commission frameworks such as the Gender Equality Strategy and the Green Deal are making extra efforts to involve more women in the areas of energy, fund SMEs and entrepreneurs, and get closer to reaching SDG 5, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. Damningly, to date, no country is on track to achieve SDG 5 by 2030; while steps forward have been made in terms of education and health, little concrete economic progress has been seen. Participants agreed that there was a need to “walk the talk”.

Africa Zanella had much expertise to offer both in her role as social scientist, and as a representative of LifeWatch ERIC, whose crucial role in biodiversity and ecosystem research was pertinent to the discussions at hand. The infrastructure already has a well-established relationship with ASREN, the Arab States Research and Education Network, and is planning to present a joint paper on women and sustainability at its next annual meeting. Furthermore, following the Dialogue, Ms Zanella is in the process of exploring further potential synergistic collaborations between LifeWatch ERIC and other gender and ecology -oriented organisations. She reflected on the crucial subjects covered in the meeting:

Of the 22 countries involved in ASREN, over 50% of the population is under 25 years of age; this huge generational gap highlights the urgency of taking immediate climate action. It is in this context that I hope that the role of women in combating climate change will be a key topic at the COP27 in Egypt, to seriously examine the difference in the impact and contribution of the genders, considering also that women tend to be poorer and more likely to be impacted by environmental disasters.

Big Seashell Survey 2022 shows remarkable differences between Belgium and the Netherlands

Big Seashell Survey

On Saturday 19 March 2022, circa 750 citizens collected over 38,000 shells on Belgian beaches for the Big Seashell Survey 2022, with a top-5 in line with the results of the 2021 edition. For the first time, the Netherlands joined this LifeWatch Belgium citizen science initiative and collected another 22,000 shells, showing remarkable differences between the countries.

The Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and its partners (EOS wetenschap, Natuurpunt, Provincie West-Vlaanderen, Strandwerkgroep, Kusterfgoed, the ten coastal municipalities) joined forces for the fifth edition of the Big Seashell Survey, a well-established LifeWatch Belgium citizen science initiative.

On Saturday 19 March, under the bright sunshine, 750 citizens collected, counted and identified 38,000 beach shells, with the help of more than eighty mollusk experts. For the first time, the Netherlands – Naturalis, NMV, Stichting Anemoon, Stichting De Noordzee and the Strandwerkgemeenschap – stepped in and collected another 22,000 shells on seven beaches in the Dutch province of Zuid-Holland and on one Texel beach. In the countries, 60 different species have been registered, with two out of three species shared by Belgium and the Netherlands. Non-indigenous species (NIS) accounted for 10% of all specimens and species.

In addition, scientists discovered remarkable differences between the two countries. Belgium recorded a top-5 comparable to the result of the 2021 edition (Baltic tellin 37%, Cut trough shell 22%, Edible cockle 18%, Blue mussel 9% and Atlantic razor clam 5%), whereas on Dutch beaches there was a clear dominance of Spisula shells, with 49% Cut trough shells, 9% Elliptical trough shells and 6% Thick trough shells. Here, Atlantic razor clams (9%) and the Edible cockle (8%) completed the top-5. One explanation for the high number of Cut trough shells on Dutch beaches could be the slightly different hydrographic conditions with more exposure, in favour of this shell.

Another difference appears to relate to the vicinity of the Scheldt estuary”, says Jan Seys (VLIZ). “The mouth of this estuary, next to the eastern part of the Belgian coast, contains more silt and clay then the sandier Zuid-Holland and Flemish west coasts, and it has quite some peat banks in and on top of the sea-bottom. This silty environment is perfect for the Baltic tellin; the peat banks can house American and white piddocks”. On the Dutch coast, the Baltic tellin ended up in eighth position, accounting for only 2% of all shells. And in the Netherlands, Barnea candida did not end up in the top-10, whereas piddocks at the eastern part of the Belgian coast were much more common (9% of all shells).”

This news story was originally posted on LifeWatch Belgium.

Ten remarkable new marine species from 2021

Top Ten WoRMS

As in previous years, the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), an initiave hosted by VLIZ, LifeWatch Belgium‘s focal point, has released its annual list of its top-ten marine species described by researchers during the past year, marking World Taxonomist Appreciation Day on 19 March!

If you were unaware of this celebration of all the work that taxonomists do, you can find more herehere, and here.

The 2021 top-ten list is just a small highlight of over 2,000 fascinating new marine species discovered every year (there were 2,241 marine species described in 2021 and added to WoRMS, including 263 fossil species).

Full list:
How were the species chosen?

A call for nominations was announced in December 2021, sent to all editors of WoRMS and editors of major taxonomy journals, and posted openly on the WoRMS website and social media so anyone had the opportunity to nominate their favourite marine species. Nominated species had to have been described in 2021, and come from the marine environment (including fossil taxa). A small committee (including both taxonomists and data managers) was brought together to decide upon the final candidates. The list is in no hierarchical order.

The final decisions reflect the immense diversity of animal groups in the marine environment (including fish, crustaceans, molluscs, corals, sponges, jellies and worms) and highlight some of the challenges facing the marine environment today. The final candidates also feature some particularly astonishing marine creatures, notable for their interest to both science and the public.

Each of these marine animals has a story. This year the chosen species range from the extremely tiny and often overlooked, to a new species of whale! Among the featured is the tiny Japanese Twitter Mite, discovered on social media, the Quarantine Shrimp, described during the COVID-19 lockdown, a new species of mysid hiding in plain sight, the massive Yokozuna Slickhead, honouring high ranking sumo wrestlers, and the astonishing Jurassic Pig-Nose Brittle Star!

About the WoRMS top-ten list of Marine Species

After 250 years of describing, naming and cataloguing the species we share our planet with, we are still some way off from achieving a complete census. However, we do know that at least 240,000 marine species have been described because their names are managed in WoRMS, by almost 300 scientists located all over the world.  

WoRMS’ previous lists of the top-ten marine species described for the decade 2007–2017, for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 can be found here:

This news item was adapted from a post on LifeWatch Belgium.

LifeWatch ERIC Partner in Successful Horizon Europe Project Proposals

LifeWatch ERIC Horizon Europe

LifeWatch ERIC participates in project proposals both in order to expand the communities which make use of its assets, and because successful proposals provide additional resources which help expand and improve its Infrastructure and address the needs of its stakeholders. Luckily, several of the project proposals submitted to Horizon Europe which LifeWatch ERIC helped to draft over the course of last year have recently been approved. LifeWatch ERIC is keen to begin work on these synergistic projects, all regarding biodiversity and ecosystem research services and FAIR data, the key priorities of the Infrastructure. Below is an outline of all the most recent approved projects involving LifeWatch ERIC, which are expected to launch in a few months’ time. You can see the projects that LifeWatch ERIC is already involved in here.

BioDT: 22 partners

The goal of Biodiversity DT is to push the current boundaries of predictive understanding of biodiversity dynamics by developing a Digital Twin providing advanced modelling, simulation and prediction capabilities. By exploiting existing technologies and data available across relevant research infrastructures in new ways, BioDT will be able to more accurately model interaction between species and their environment. Scientists at Research Infrastructures will be able to use the BioDT to 1) better observe changes in biodiversity, 2) relate these changes to possible causes, and 3) better predict effects of changes based on influences on these causes by either climate or human intervention. The consortium brings together a dynamic team of experts in biodiversity, high performance computing, artificial intelligence and FAIR data to realise the first biodiversity Digital Twin prototype.

MARBEFES: 23 partners

The overall aim of MARBEFES is to determine the links between the biodiversity and functioning of coastal and marine ecosystems and the resulting ecosystem services. The project will progress substantially beyond the current state-of-the-art understanding of the causes and consequences of the maintenance, loss and gain of biodiversity and its ecological and economic value, and the repercussions of this for the management and governance of European seas. MARBEFES will identify the tools to value different natural capital resources and inform planning from financial allocations to management and with monetary and non-monetary benefits. In this, the project advances knowledge through linking marine biodiversity and its ecological structure and functioning to ecological and economic valuation.

Marine SABRES: 22 partners

Marine SABRES will set European marine management on a course to reverse biodiversity decline, it will conserve and protect biodiversity by integrating sustainable ecosystems and a resilient blue economy; enable managers to make sustainable decisions; empower citizens to engage with marine biodiversity conservation; promote sustainable development and in coastal and marine sectors. The project is comprised of an interdisciplinary consortium including world leaders in the field of Ecosystems-Based Management and Social Ecological Systems distributed across Europe and focusing demonstration of practical management efforts in three Demonstration Areas (Tuscan Archipelago, the Arctic North-East Atlantic and Macaronesia) before upscaling throughout Europe and beyond.

FAIR-IMPACT: 28 partners

FAIR-IMPACT focuses on expanding FAIR solutions across the EOSC, identifying proven domain solutions and facilitating the interoperable uptake of these solutions across scientific domains and for different types of research output. This includes the overall FAIRification of various research objects from assigning and managing identifiers, describing them with shared and common semantics to making them interoperable and reusable. The project’s ambition is to build a web of FAIR data and related services together with relevant stakeholder groups, and to take steps towards realising the web of Open Science. It will contribute to transforming the way researchers share and exploit research outputs within and across research disciplines, and to the facilitation of scientific multi-disciplinary cooperation, improving public trust and reproducibility in science.

Agroserv: 73 partners

Integrated SERVices supporting a sustainable AGROecological transition (AGroServ) will facilitate a systemic and holistic approach to understand the threats and challenges agriculture is facing, towards the implementation of a resilient and sustainable agri-food system. The project proposes a transdisciplinary offer of services, integrating the actors of the agriculture system in the research process, of which the farmers are the first, thanks to a wide offer of living labs across Europe. It will develop a wider catalogue of integrated and customised services, providing a strong community building and training programme for access managers and users. Results from the research performed under AgroServ will be synthetised to be use in the scope of evidence-based policy making. Data from AgroServ will be open and compliant with FAIR practices, and made available on the long-term to the communities, and be linked with European initiatives, such as the EOSC.

OpenEM: 21 partners

The Open-Earth-Monitor will increase European capability to generate timely, accurate, disaggregated, people-centred, accessible (GSM-compatible) and user-friendly environmental information based on Earth Observation data. The project will achieve this by building a cyberinfrastructure anchored in FAIR data principles, leveraging and improving our existing platforms OpenEO.org, Geopedia.world, GlobalEarthMonitor.eu, EarthSystemDataLab.net, OpenLandMap.org, OpenDataScience.eu, LifeWatch.eu, XCUBE and EuroDataCube.com. Specifically, it will innovate the implementation of original cloud-based solutions to seamlessly integrate in-situ (point, site) & EO data so that we can produce environmental information at analysis- and decision-ready levels, the implementation of fully-scalable Automated Mapping / AutoML frameworks, user-experience-designed data provision and Apps possibly reaching millions of users across EU and globally, and financial assessment tools allowing users to directly quantify ecosystem services (SEEA methodology) in order to identify optimal environmental and climate solutions and build business solutions.

To Infinity… And Beyond! LifeWatch ERIC in Initiative to Launch Nanosatellite

Nanosatellite

LifeWatch ERIC is proud to be a key partner in an initiative to launch the first nanosatellite for terrestrial observation in Andalusia, alongside longstanding collaborator AGAPA from the Junta de Andalucía. The initiative in question is the SmartFood project, which has planned the nanosatellite launch for 2023, integrating a high-resolution camera, as well as the corresponding power supply equipment and the communications system necessary for transmitting data to the ground control station.

The SmartFood project has a budget of almost €1 million, 80% financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), through the Pluriregional Operational Programme for Spain 2014-2020. Its mission is to deploy a land network of sensors to monitor variables related to climate, soil, water and plants; capture aerial images through drones and balloons, as well as capture images from space. The collection of these data from a range of different spatial-temporal scales will allow for a comprehensive approach to monitoring agricultural and livestock systems.

“Another aim of the SmartFood project is to establish standardised protocols for the monitoring, quantification and evaluation of biodiversity through the integration of open data. To this end, the ultimate goal is to offer tools and collaborative work environments for the research community, also making the information and applications developed available to the different end users involved in the primary sector” said LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel Gonzalez-Aranda, as PI of the project. This will be made possible through LifeWatch ERIC; the entire ecosystem of data and applications collected will be shared with the LifeWatch ERIC community, thus facilitating consolidation and collaborative analysis in relation to:

  1. monitoring and controlling the impacts that agriculture and fishing have on biodiversity, as well as;
  2. measuring the effects of climate change on the sustainability and profitability of agriculture and fishing;

by means of the implementation of the proper VRE.

LifeWatch Belgium initiative, WoRMS, partners with International Seabed Authority to support UN Ocean Decade

WoRMS ISA

The collaboration between ISA, the International Seabed Authority, and WoRMS (the World Register of Marine Species, which is hosted by VLIZ, the focal point of LifeWatch Belgium) will reinforce the quality of deep-sea taxonomic information and data contained in the ISA DeepData database, in support of United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.


A fundamental element of the mandate assigned to ISA by UNCLOS, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is to disseminate the results of all research undertaken through open and transparent data and information sharing. ISA also organises access to non-confidential information and data, in particular data relating to the marine environment. It is in this context that ISA and WoRMS have agreed to cooperate, with a view to make use of the comparative advantage of their respective information systems, thanks to periodic scientific reviews between DeepData and WoRMS’ thematic subregister, the World Register of Deep-Sea Species (WoRDSS).

ISA and WoRMS will also work together to provide training for ISA data providers and users of taxonomic data, and enable the development of innovative taxonomic tools with a view to standardising data exchange protocols and promoting the use of biodiversity information for scientific research in the international seabed area. This partnership will also contribute to LifeWatch ERIC, specifically through the LifeWatch Species Information Backbone, which aims to bring together taxonomic and species-related data and to fill knowledge gaps, and is the driving force behind the species information services of the Belgian LifeWatch.be e-Lab.

WoRMS has been endorsed as an Ocean Decade project, and will continue to build on its expertise to support global efforts towards enhanced understanding of taxonomic information of all marine life in support of scientific research, policy making and increased general public knowledge.


This story was adapted from a post on LifeWatch Belgium.
[image provided by the International Seabed Authority, credits: (c) Gilles Martin / IFREMER]

A Window on Science

A Window on Science

LifeWatch ERIC, the European e-Science Infrastructure for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, is launching a new podcast series. Entitled “LifeWatch ERIC: A Window on Science”, the fortnightly 10-minute broadcast is geared towards the widest possible audience, from researchers to informaticians, and from politicians to ordinary people concerned about climate change and the environment. 

Starting on 16 March 2022, the early episodes will focus on the Internal Joint Initiative, LifeWatch ERIC’s core activity in its first five years: the development of a new, innovative Virtual Research Environment focused on Non-indigenous and Invasive Species. And if that sounds complicated to you, perhaps you would do well to tune into the first few podcasts, designed to demystify some of that science-speak.

As Christos Arvanitidis, CEO of LifeWatch ERIC commented, “The podcasts are offered as an easy-to-digest communication to raise awareness of our work beyond the scientistic communities already involved. We’re hoping they will have a great impact and attract more users to our next-gen Big Data management facilities”.

The Window on Science podcasts are available on our website and on all major podcast platforms:

Series One. Introducing the Internal Joint Initiative:

16 March Trailer

30 March LifeWatch ERIC Chief Executive Officer, Christos Arvanitidis

12 April    Alberto Basset, Director of the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre, Lecce

27 April    LifeWatch ERIC Chief Technology Officer, Juan Miguel González-Aranda

Stay tuned, more details on Seasons Two and Three coming up soon!

LifeWatch ERIC Delegation Visit to Dublin

LifeWatch ERIC Dublin

In early March, LifeWatch ERIC CEO, Christos Arvanitidis, and CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, travelled to Ireland to attend several meetings organised in collaboration with University College Dublin (UCD) and Intelligence in Science (ISC).

The goal was to strengthen ties and to collaborate on enhancing the knowledge and conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems in Ireland, which was the topic of several meetings from 2 – 4 March 2022. As well as having the honour of speaking with members of the Irish parliament and ministry, and representatives from the Embassies of Spain and South Africa, the LifeWatch ERIC delegation held bilateral and group meetings with research centres hosted by two of Ireland’s principal universities, as well as other Irish state agencies, universities and private organisations working in this vital research sector.

The delegation was encouraged by the positive experience, and left satisfied that large steps forward had been made to bring these various communities together to fortify collaboration across biodiversity and ecosystem research.

Full itinerary:

Wednesday, March

On their first day, the CEO and CTO had fruitful discussions with Jeremy Gault of MAREI SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine Research and Innovation from University College Cork (UCC), Triona McCormack, Director of Research at UCD; and Michael Ryan, Irish National Delegate to the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI).

Thursday, March

Thursday was a busy workday. At UCD’s Belfield Campus the LifeWatch ERIC delegation met with the UCD Research Leadership team: Orla Feely, Vice-President for Research Innovation and Impact, Triona McCormack – Director of Research, and Ciara Leonard, Public Affairs Manager.

This was followed by a seminar with UCD researchers, hosted by the SFI Research Centre in Applied Geosciences (iCRAG), with: Murray Hitzman, iCRAG Director,  Jennifer Craig, iCRAG COO, Aoife Brady, iCRAG’s Industry and Research Programme Manager, Francesca Martini, iCRAG’s Senior Grants Manager, Maeve Boland, iCRAG’sGeoscience Policy, Communications, and Public Affairs Specialist, Dr Aoife Blowick, iCRAG’s Operations Manager, ISC’s Declan Kirrane, and Ciara Leonard.

The delegation then travelled to the Ministry in Dublin, where they were honoured with a meeting with Damien English, Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

A seminar followed, held with Daan du Toit from the Department of Science and Innovation of South Africa, joined by Murray Hitzman, Jennifer Craig, Maeve Boland, David Khoza from Integrated Geoscience Development, Declan Kirrane and Ciara Leonard.

To end the day, LifeWatch ERIC hosted a dinner at the Conrad Hotel, attended by many of the day’s meeting participants, such as Ciara Leonard, Maeve Boland, Murray Hitzman, Jennifer Craig and Declan Kirrane, as well as Samuel Browett from the Waterford Institute of Technology, Willem Geerlings from the Embassy of South Africa and Eduardo Sánchez Moreno from the Embassy of Spain.

Friday, March

The last day of meetings were held with Kevin Burke, National Director for Horizon Europe at Enterprise, Ireland, Peter Heffernan from the Marine Institute and Mission Board, and Ian Jones, founder and CEO of Innopharma Group.

Wrapping up the week at the Dail Eireann (Irish parliament), Christos Arvanitidis and Juan Miguel González-Aranda were honoured to meet Jim O’Callaghan, TD (Member of Parliament) for Dublin Bay South.

BiCIKL Project: User Requirements Survey for Biodiversity Scientists

BiCIKL Survey

We invite all biodiversity scientists to fill in this survey, which aims to identify gaps and trends in the ways in which biodiversity scientists access and use data in their research, by asking participants to describe use cases from their previous or projected work experience. The most appealing use cases will be invited to the open call for Trans-national access projects supported by the BiCIKL project.

BiCIKL is an EU project that aims to provide access and tools for seamless linking between the data along the biodiversity research cycle: specimens > sequences > species > analytics > publications > biodiversity knowledge graph > re-use.  BiCIKL will develop and implement new methods and workflows for an integrated access to harvesting, liberating, linking, accessing and re-using of subarticle-level data (specimens, material citations, samples, sequences, taxonomic names, taxonomic treatments, figures, tables) extracted from literature. 

Click here to fill in the survey.