Last week, Africa Zanella, LifeWatch ERIC Gender Consultant and International Consultant and official observer at the World Bank’s Climate Investment Fund, attended the 1stEuropean Innovation Area Summit at the European Parliament in Brussels. The Summit built on a series of EIA events from the past 18 months during which Commissioner Gabriel and many political members of the K4I Forum were actively engaged, coinciding with the unveiling of the European Commission’s New European Innovation Agenda for a European Innovation Area. Innovation is key in accelerating the green and digital economy of tomorrow, and the initiative will offer equal access to funding, where startups in one country can easily bid for public contracts in another, and allow startups and corporates to work more closely together, empowering all innovators and entrepreneurs across the continent to realise their full potential.
Representing LifeWatch ERIC, Africa Zanella spoke in the session on “Next Generation Women Leaders in VCs and Startups – Major Drivers of a Sustainable Future”, with a presentation entitled “Sustainability and Gender Balance”, in which she contended that without full involvement of women in policy design, there can be no sustainability. While sustainability is a careful balance of economic, social and environmental factors, close analysis shows that complexities and discrepancies still exist in the social system, which she pointed out needs better handling at policy, programme and community levels. She went on to explain that in order to achieve the goal of a sustainable future, gender balance be more carefully addressed in terms of leadership, access to financial mechanisms, and participation in the female labour force – making reference to the opportunites stemming from emerging industries related to the EU Green Deal and Digital and Innovation Strategies.
The key outcomes of the meeting included a reinforced support from key figures in the European parliament for boosting the number of women involved in innovation intiatives, an example being Women on Boards (which requires a 40% quota by 2025). Africa Zanella’s statement that “Without women there is no sustainability” was particularly well-received by the group, and hopefully will continue to resonate throughout the implementation of the European Innovation Agenda.
You can listen to a podcast recorded with Africa Zanella on women and sustainability here.
Actiniaria – or sea anemones – are now accessible through their very own portal within the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), an initiative whose data management team is supported by LifeWatch Belgium. The information in the new World List of Actiniaria contains information rescued from the Hexacorallians of the World Database of the late Daphne Fautin, and the portal’s launch is partially linked to the last phase of integrating all information from the Hexacorallians of the World database into WoRMS.
The benefit of this is that this data can now be freely accessible through a solid platform with dedicated maintenance and the promise to stay online indefinitely. A treasure of extra information has been added to the different groups within the Hexacorals in WoRMS, including the addition of 1,842 names, 2,177 original descriptions, 25,312 distributions, 48,649 specimen records and many more additional references and vernaculars. And as the involved editors – Meg Daly & Estefania Rodriguez – also aimed for more visibility for the Actiniaria, a dedicated portal for this group has now been launched, with a very similar look-and-feel as the already existing portal of the World List of Scleractinia.
The data integration is also a contribution to the WoRMS-endorsed project within the UN Ocean Decade, where WoRMS continues to support not only scientists, but everyone who makes use of species names, including policymakers, industry and the public at large. Providing a separate portal for this species group provides it with a wider visibility for a larger audience.
LifeWatch ERIC is glad to be actively participating in the FAIR-IMPACT project kick-off meeting, taking place as a hybrid event on 27 and 28 of June in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, following the official launch of the project on 1 June 2022.
With the ambitious goal of realising an European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) of FAIR data and services, the Horizon Europe project will support the implementation of FAIR-enabling practices, tools and services across scientific communities at a European, national, and institutional level, connecting knowledge across scientific domains on persistent identifiers, metadata and ontologies, metrics, certification and interoperability aspects via a community-led approach. The project will build on the successful practices, policies, tools and technical specifications arising from FAIRsFAIR, other H2020 projects and initiatives, and from the FAIR and other relevant Working Groups of the former EOSC Executive Board.
Service Centre ICT Coordinator, Nicola Fiore, carried out a presentation in the Integrated Use Cases session during the meeting on 27 June, on Metadata and Ontologies: the role of EcoPortal.
On 31 May 2022, at the Palazzo Marchesale of the Municipality of Melpignano, the closing event of the activities between schools and universities of the project “young sustainability ambassadors: Environmental education as a tool for teaching inclusivity” took place, funded by the University Consortium Interprovincial Salentino (Proposing body: Municipality of Melpignano, Executive Body: University of Salento, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Technologies and Department of History, Society and Human Studies).
The meeting was attended by: Valentina Avantaggiato, Mayor of Melpignano; Corrado De Concini, President of the National Academy of Sciences called XL; Rossano Ivan Adorno, Delegate for Human Resources of the University of Salento (representing CUIS); Alberto Basset, Delegate for Sustainability at the University of Salento (Project Coordinator); Franca Sangiorgio, Dip. of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Technologies (Project Activities Manager); and 170 students representing schools of every kind which are part of the project.
The project aims to raise awareness among younger generations about environmental issues, by delving into of the topics of sustainability and inclusivity (https://ecologicamente.lifewatchitaly.eu/giamsos/). The approach was based on a co-teaching model that involved students and students of the Bachelor of Science in Primary Education, trainers at primary schools, and secondary school students, as well as students who have been teaching in secondary schools.
In total, about 650 primary and secondary school students from 23 schools in the area of Salento participated in the project, in addition to students and students of the Bachelor of Science in Primary Education Sciences teaching Ecology and Special Pedagogy.
The project also included a training course on the S.O.F.I.A. platform for tutors of the secondary school.
Among the project partners were LifeWatch Italia, which hosts the project site on its platform, and the School Networks: Ambito 17 and RESATUR.
During the closing event, the award ceremony was also held for the winners of the project logo competition and the online serious game competition, on issues of sustainability and inclusivity.
The ProMeteo project launched by Seville City Council, which will classify and name heat waves according to their impact, and provide a network of climate shelters to protect people from excessive temperatures, will be made possible by the involvement of LifeWatch ERIC and other strategic partners.
The mayor of Seville, Antonio Muñoz, and the director of the Adrienne Arsht Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, Kathy Baughman McLeod, the organisation promoting the initiative, thanked partners of the project at a launch on 21 June 2022.
Seville’s pioneering strategy recognises the serious consequences that extended periods of extreme heat can have on people’s health, on animals and on the economy. Names will be attributed to heat waves and alert warnings issued on the basis on forecasts made by an algorithm capable of predicting and classifying impacts in advance.
Alongside LifeWatch ERIC, the ProMeteo initiative includes the Spanish Meteorology Agency, the University of Seville, the Pablo de Olavide University, the Carlos III Institute, the Spanish Office for Climate Change, and the Alliance “El Día Después”. For more information, click here.
The 14th General Assembly of LifeWatch ERIC, 21 – 22 June 2022, was organised in Vairão, Vila do Conde, Porto under the stewardship of CIBIO-BIOPOLIS, the leading institution of LifeWatch Portugal.
Chaired by Inmaculada Figueroa, this was the first General Assembly held as a physical meeting after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and witnessed the participation of the delegates of the eight Member States composing LifeWatch ERIC.
At the heart of the 14th General Assembly was the final approval of the New Strategic Working Plan, which builds upon the work achieved in the last five years and will set the direction for further development of the infrastructure and how LifeWatch ERIC can shape greater innovation in Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research from 2022 – 2026. The General Assembly also approved the 2021 consolidated financial statements.
LifeWatch ERIC CTO Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda has been featured in the Tribuna de Andalucía to present six of theprojects in which the Research Infrastructure is involved in the heartland of its ICT-Core and Statutory Seat offices. The title of the article is “United in Biodiversity: Advancing Andalusia’s Green Revolution through Digitisation”, and the ERDF projects presented demonstrate how LifeWatch ERIC uses state-of-the-art technology such as AI, Deep Learning and Virtual Research Environments to protect biodiversity, in collaboration with other important figures in the research sector, such as CSIC, the University of Malaga, the University of Granada, the Junta de Andalucía, and many more.
Additionally, by following a participatory approach to its work, LifeWatch ERIC aims to raise awareness among citizens about the important projects it has underway, which in turn can contribute to preserving the variety and richness of terrestrial, marine and transitional ecosystems.
This week, along with 22 other partners, LifeWatch ERIC took part in the kick-off meeting of a new Horizon Europe project which will help protect and restore biodiversity through the development of a digital twin prototype, in Espoo, Finland. Biodiversity Digital Twin (BioDT) BioDT will provide a crucial infrastructure to drive long-term biodiversity research and facilitate science-driven policy and rapid-response actions to enforce current commitments to protecting biodiversity in the long term.
In the context of recent efforts supported by the European Commission for the development of digital twins to address multidisciplinary environmental and societal challenges, the consortium, led by the Finnish CSC – IT Center for Science, home of the EuroHPC LUMI supercomputer, is taking on the task of designing and developing a digital twin dedicated to biological diversity in the BioDT project.
“CSC is pleased to support this flagship project, with BioDT being one of the first European-wide research initiatives to benefit from access to the LUMI supercomputer”, said Jesse Harrison, BioDT Project Manager. “BioDT will directly improve our ability to address global challenges associated with biodiversity loss and the climate crisis, including the provision of ecosystem services and food security, predicting disease outbreaks, and understanding the dynamics of key species of policy concern.”
Redefining the ability to predict biodiversity dynamics
Understanding the forces shaping biodiversity is needed for rational management of natural resources and also to meet the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 to restore biodiversity in Europe. In particular, researchers need to be able to better predict global biodiversity dynamics and how species interact with their environment and with each other. This can be an extremely difficult task because the processes underlying biodiversity dynamics are complex. Innovative ways to combine data, models and interaction processes are required to predict these dynamics and offer solutions that promote a sustainable management of Earth’s biodiversity and its ecosystems.
The consortium aims to push the current boundaries of predictive understanding of biodiversity dynamics by developing a Biodiversity Digital Twin (BioDT) providing advanced modelling, simulation and prediction capabilities. By exploiting existing technologies and data from relevant research infrastructures in new ways, BioDT will be able to accurately and quantitatively model interactions between species and their environment.
Scientists at involved Research Infrastructures (RIs) will use the BioDT to:
better observe changes in biodiversity in response to forces resulting from climate change or human activity,
mechanistically understand how these changes occur,
predict the effects of these changes.
Practical examples and societal impact
The project features eight use cases related to land ecosystems, clustered in four groups grounded in the scientific and technical expertise of the consortium. These use cases focus on the species and ecosystems of highest conservation and policy concern, such as threatened species, pollinators, and grasslands, and are vital to mankind’s well-being and biodiversity conservation efforts.
Group 1 – Species response to environmental change
Group 2 – Genetically detected biodiversity
Group 3 – Dynamics and threats from and for species of policy concern
Group 4 – Species interactions with each other and with humans
They address global issues of critical societal interest including climate change impacts on species and ecosystems, food security, implementation of EU and international policies and health, and will specifically contribute to addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2 – Zero hunger, 3 – Good health and well-being, 13 – Climate action, and 15 – Life on land.
Multidisciplinary data for interconnected challenges
BioDT brings together a dynamic team of experts in biodiversity, high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, digital twinning and FAIR data to develop the first BioDT prototype. The scientific expertise and existing datasets from four major biodiversity research infrastructures (GBIF, eLTER, DiSSCo, and LifeWatch ERIC) will bring life to BioDT, allowing for coverage of several application domains such as environmental and earth science, climate science, ecology, biology, genomics, natural history, biodiversity informatics, computer sciences, and mathematics / statistics.
Biodiversity Digital Twin and its infrastructure will become an integral component of the Destination Earth initiative and actively participate in its ambition to realise a full Digital Twin of the Earth. The long-term objectives of BioDT are also tightly interconnected with the EC vision for a robust, federated European computing and data infrastructure, and initiatives such as the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) and EuroHPC.
Last week, the Agricultural University of Plovdiv hosted the first two-day working meeting of the LifeWatch Bulgaria consortium, Bulgaria being the newest member state of LifeWatch ERIC, the e-Science Infrastructure for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research.
The meeting was also attended by Dr Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC’s CEO, who travelled to Plovdiv to conduct a two-day training course for the Bulgarian partners of LifeWatch ERIC, introducing them to the Research Infrastructure’s goals, objectives, activities, functioning, vision and mission. The rights and obligations of the Bulgarian consortium, as a full member of LifeWatch ERIC, and the respective benefits, advantages and commitments in projects led by LifeWatch ERIC were also discussed. At the same time, Dr Arvanitidis focused on the challenges of emerging on a global scale as a research infrastructure for biodiversity conservation and restoration in conditions of in climate change.
On 2 June, Eng. Antonio López-Martínez, Project Manager and Coordinator of EU-SOLARIS, visited the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core premises in Seville. EU-SOLARIS is the European SOLAR Research Infrastructure for Concentrated Solar Power based in Almeria (Spain), which entered the ESFRI roadmap in 2010, becoming a landmark in 2018, and which will be established as an ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium) in October 2022.
EU-SOLARIS ERIC will be hosted by CIEMAT, the Centre for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research (Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas) at the PSA, the Almeria Solar Platform (Plataforma Solar de Almería) premises.
The EU-SOLARIS vision is to further assist Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) and Solar Chemistry technology deployment by enhancing the research infrastructure’s development and Research and Technology Development (R&D) coordination. EU-SOLARIS is expected to be the first of its kind, where industrial needs and private funding will play a significant role.
“LifeWatch ERIC is looking forward to the imminent establishment of EU-SOLARIS as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium”, says DrJuan Miguel Gonzaléz-Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC Chief Technology Officer, “We are glad to welcome today Eng Lopéz-Martínez at the ICT-Core office here in Seville. We are already working together, as energy and environment are two domains which are critical for a more sustainable future”.