Opening up good practices and e-research collaboration opportunities in the Mediterranean with PRIMA Foundation

ICT-Core and FEDERTECH Working meeting with PRIMA Foundation.

The LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core held an extensive working meeting at their headquarters in the Cartuja Science and Technology Park in Seville, with Octavi Quintana, Director of PRIMA Foundation.
PRIMA’s Director left an important legacy as Director of “European Research Area”, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation at the European Commission, while fostering the development of Research Infrastructures and policies.

LifeWatch ERIC and PRIMA – The Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area – are exploring collaboration opportunities with the intention of extending good practices and use of e-research tools in Mediterranean countries.
The aim of the PRIMA Foundation is to build research and innovation capacities and develop much-needed, shared and innovative solutions for a more sustainable management of water and agri-food systems in the Mediterranean basin. PRIMA focuses in particular on new research and innovation approaches to improve: sustainable management of water in arid and semi-arid Mediterranean areas; sustainable farming systems under Mediterranean environmental constraints; sustainable Mediterranean agri-food value chain for regional and local development.

LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, introduced the team and explained the major initiatives in applied research and innovation, and the digital tools that LifeWatch ERIC is designing and developing to protect biodiversity and ecosystems, both in natural and urban environments. All this in collaboration with international networks such as GBIF, UNOOSA and IUCN-Med, while contributing to strengthen networks such as the EU-CELAC Working Group on Research Infrastructures.

Researchers and Project coordinators, José Manuel Ávila-Castuera (Agroecology), Jaime Lobo Domínguez-Roqueta (Satellite & HAPS Operations), Rohaifa Khaldi and Yassir Benhammou (Data Science & Artificial Intelligence), presented in detail the ongoing projects and their challenges, such as the transition from productive models to agroecology, or the generation of more precise and reliable data for the sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystem services.

For further information about PRIMA, please visit its official website.

LifeWatch Bulgaria celebrates Earth Day

Earth Day

­The Agricultural University-Plovdiv (AUP, Coordinator of LifeWatch Bulgaria) and the Faculty of Plant Protection and Agroecology in partnership with LifeWatch ERIC; the Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts “Prof. Asen Diamandiev” – Plovdiv (AMTII); the student councils at the AUP and AMTII; the Plovdiv Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water (RIEW); the Green Balkans Association (Stara Zagora, LifeWatch Bulgaria partner); and the Society of Animalists, Florists and Scientific Illustrators (DAFNI), celebrated Earth Day on 22 April with a variety of educational and creative activities held at the AUP.

Special guests of the Earth Day event were students from the local area, who had the opportunity to learn about and paint different plants. The awards for the best pictures of live plants, provided by LifeWatch ERIC and the Student Councils of AUP, AMTII, and RIEW, went to:

  1. 1st place – Marina Vasileva, 12th grade “Vasil Levski” Secondary School – Vetovo village;
  2. 2nd place – Tamer Reyhanov and Tyulin Tahirov – 12th grade “Vasil Levski” Secondary School – Vetovo village;
  3. 3rd place – Dimitar Rangelov- AMTII and Radoslava Atanasova – AUP.

The work of the Wildlife Rescue Centre Stara Zagora was also presented under the title “The Voice of Injured Wildlife”, as well as the project “Life for the Lesser Kestrel”, implemented by the association with the financial support of LifeWatch ERIC. 

The day’s celebrations featured DANFI and Green Balkans’s exhibitions “The Great Return” and “The Surviving Exhibition”. In the Central Rectorate Building of the AUP is one of the emblematic frescoes of Yoan Leviev – “Earth and People”, which reflects the history of mankind, reminded the Rector Prof. Hristina Yancheva, at the official opening of the event. 

“As a university, we work with professions related to the Earth, plants, animals. Our mission as lecturers is to keep the planet clean for the next generations and in all specialties the focus is on green technologies”, added Prof. Stattev. Dash.

“Art has been ringing the bell since ancient times for the fact that we must preserve the land in which we live,” said Prof. Stattev. Toni Shekerdzhieva – Novak, Rector of AMTII.

The exhibition “The Great Return” presented drawings of species of animals that have been returned to their natural habitats with the efforts of various organisations. It is the second in a row for DAFNI after the first one was presented in 2015. “There are over 30 members of the company, and I believe that it unites all people in our country who depict living nature in its diversity”, said chairman Georgi Pchelarov.

“The Animated Exhibition” presented models of rare and protected bird species, which are made in real size and colouring, said Gradimir Gradev from Green Balkans. These are birds that inhabit the border regions of Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, which fall within the scope of the European Green Belt.

Finally, students from AMTII put on a “green” fashion show in a verdant courtyard of the University. 

LifeWatch ERIC strengthens international outlook at the EU-LAC Knowledge Forum

EU-LAC Knowledge Forum

On 24–25 April, LifeWatch ERIC participated in the working groups of the EU-LAC Knowledge Forum, held in Montevideo, Uruguay. The event was organised by the EU-LAC International Foundation, with the Uruguayan International Cooperation Agency (AUCI) and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) as main partners. Its purpose was to generate input to feed the agenda of the high authorities of the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean at the Summit of Heads of State and Government in the field of access to knowledge, higher education, and science, technology, and innovation. This CELAC-EU Summit of Heads of State and Government is scheduled for 17–18 July 2023, within the programme of the Spanish presidency of the European Union.

120 representatives of international or national organisations and entities participated in the EU-LAC Knowledge Forum. In addition to the plenary sessions, the work in the forum was structured in 3 face-to-face and 3 virtual groups to exchange good practices, experiences and balances of cooperation in science, technology and innovation, higher education and opportunities. LifeWatch ERIC was represented by its CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, and by Maite Irazábal Plá, EU-LAC Fundraising, Networking & Projects Manager.

Within the framework of the international expansion process of LifeWatch ERIC, and with the objectives of this high-level strategic discussion forum, Juan Miguel González-Aranda held meetings with numerous authorities and representatives of the academic and scientific communities, experts from international organizations, and senior government officials. Among others, with the Vice Chancellor of the Republic of Uruguay, Nicolás Albertoni; with the Vice Minister of the Environment of Uruguay, Gerardo Amarilla de Nicola; with the Executive Director of the EU-LAC Foundation, Adrián Bonilla; with the Director of Innovation, Science and Technology of Uruguay, Alberto Majó; with the Ambassador of the EU in Uruguay, Paolo Berizzi; with the Ambassador of Spain in Uruguay, Santiago Jiménez; and with AUCI Executive Director, Mariano Berro.

The meeting with Gerardo Amarilla de Nicola, who received LifeWatch ERIC’s CTO at the complex of the Presidency of the Republic of Uruguay, had special relevance. They delved into local governance mechanisms to help implement e-Biodiversity measures in compliance with the 2030 SDGs, in synergy with the EU Green Deal and themes of Blue Growth, Agroecology, etc., applying the Motto “Thinking globally, acting locally”. They also discussed the establishment of a LifeWatch ERIC Office in Uruguay.

Also importantly, LifeWatch ERIC participated in the Forum in Working Group 1: Cooperation in science, technology, and innovation, dedicated to topics such as: Research Infrastructures; enabling environments for innovation; technology transfer; open science / open access policies; and the role of research institutions to generate the technical and scientific knowledge and expertise needed to implement EU Global Gateway investment agenda. In this vein, Juan Miguel González-Aranda reaffirmed the work of LifeWatch ERIC as a research infrastructure of best practices in EU-LAC within the framework of Biodiversity, Climate Change and Sustainable Development, citing specific working methods through the Bioregions paradigm.

You can watch the plenary session of the opening day and the conclusions of the second day here.

If you are interested in LifeWatch ERIC’s ongoing collaboration and dialogue with LAC scientific communities, watch this video.

LifeWatch Netherlands in ambitious new project LTER–LIFE


The planet is changing rapidly; to understand and forecast how ecosystems are affected by global change, ecology should become a predictive science. LifeWatch Netherlands is an integral part of ambitious new project LTER–LIFE, starting summer 2023, in which it will contribute virtual laboratories to answer fundamental questions on the functioning and resilience of ecosystems. LTER-LIFE is a Large-Scale Research Infrastructure in the making, one of the nine projects awarded within the Dutch national roadmap for large-scale reseach infrastructre. It will provide a state-of-the-art e-infrastructure to study and predict how changes in climate and other human-induced pressures affect ecosystems and biodiversity, capitalising on recent advances in Big Data science. This will enable ecologists to link scattered long-term data on plants, animals, and the environment; share methods for data analysis, modelling, and simulation; and build digital replicas of entire ecosystems (“Digital Twins”), transforming our ability to understand how ecosystems will respond under different scenarios and mitigation measures.

In addition to fostering crucial scientific breakthroughs, the LTER LIFE infrastructure will also enable research on societal questions, such as how biodiversity will benefit from specific interventions to reduce nitrogen deposition in the Veluwe area, or how mitigation measures will impact the species composition, and thereby ecosystem functioning, in the Wadden Sea. Hence, LTER-LIFE will fit seamlessly into the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 and its new EU Nature Restoration Plan, and into Dutch initiatives such as the Deltaplan Biodiversiteitsherstel. By extending the instrument to other ecosystems and their services, LTER-LIFE will also contribute to the European initiative “Destination Earth”, demonstrating technological capabilities in simulation, modelling, data science, artificial intelligence and high-performance computing in the context of biodiversity and ecosystems. Thus, the benefits of LTER-LIFE will be widely felt by scientists in the field of biodiversity, ecology and environmental sciences, as well as a broad range of societal organisations.

Together with LifeWatch Netherlands, which develops virtual laboratories to answer fundamental questions on the functioning and resilience of ecosystems, LTER-LIFE is built on:

  • Long-Term Ecosystem Research Netherlands (LTER-NL): carries out and connects time series on long-term ecosystem monitoring within so called LTER sites, and makes these data available for research. LTER-NL is part of LTER-Europe, which is on the European ESFRI road map for large infrastructure.
  • National Environmental Monitoring Network (NemNet): runs a national scheme of abiotic monitoring of soils, water and air.

For more information, please read this article from the Dutch Research Council.

LifeWatch Belgium User Story: There’s no plaice like an offshore wind farm

offshore wind farm

Offshore wind farms are built at a high rate in European waters as part of the green transition, taking up marine space that is often not available anymore to other users such as the fisheries sector. However, knowledge on the ecological effects of wind farms on commercial flatfish was lacking. Understanding the ecological impacts of an offshore wind farm on a fish species requires knowledge on its movements within and its association to the wind farm area. Therefore, a tagging study making use of an acoustic receiver network was carried out in the Belwind wind farm (Belgium), by PhD student at the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO) and Ghent University, Jolien Buyse. This study aimed at detecting the presence of plaice Pleuronectes platessa, an important commercial flatfish species, and to study its small-scale movements around the turbine foundations.

Acoustic telemetry was chosen as a method to study their residency, site fidelity and small-scale movements around the hard substrates in order to gain insight into their behaviour within an offshore wind farm. The residency of a fish, calculated from the presences of the fish over a certain period, represents its level of association to the study area. A high residency would thereby indicate that the fish rarely leaves the wind farm, which increases the protective capacity of the area. Further, the authors were interested whether the fish returned to the wind farm area after their spawning migrations during the winter months. They studied their presence within the wind farm area over the period of an entire year. Lastly, to determine whether and when plaice preferred the hard substrate or the soft sediment, fish positions around certain turbines were calculated based on the detections. Patterns in distances to the hard substrate in relation to the time of day were analysed to detect habitat preferences that were potentially linked to feeding behaviour.

A temporal network of acoustic receivers was deployed in the Belwind wind farm over a period of one year in collaboration with the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), focal point for LifeWatch Belgium, and Wageningen Marine Research (WMR). In addition, the permanent fish acoustic receiver network of the Belgian LifeWatch Observatory was also used to detect plaice presence in the Belgian part of the North Sea.

Plaice individuals were caught by divers or using hook-and-line fishery. The authors opted for an external attachment of the transmitters to the fish, as the small body cavity of flatfish makes surgical implantation less suitable. If a plaice equipped with a transmitter swam in the vicinity of a receiver, the unique ID-code of the transmitter was stored on the receiver together with a time stamp. As such, the authors could reveal if fish were present within the wind farm area and whether a fish remained there for a prolonged period of time. Further, they also deployed multiple receivers very close to particular turbines to study the small-scale movements of plaice around the hard substrates. If the transmitter signal is picked up by at least three receivers, the position of the fish can be calculated using triangulation. Such position information reveals something about the habitat preferences of the fish related to the presence of the wind turbines.

The data of both temporary and permanent acoustic receiver networks are stored in the European Tracking Network (ETN) data portal. This data portal was developed in the framework of LifeWatch Belgium and allows the access and sharing of aquatic telemetry data. The data analysis was performed using the LifeWatch RStudio server, which offers high computing power and immediate access to the ETN portal.

The knowledge obtained from this study can be further used to inform management decisions on marine spatial planning and future wind farm developments.

This news is an adapted version of the full user story on the LifeWatch Belgium website.

LifeWatch ERIC to Host Upcoming ALL-READY Regional Workshop


We are excited to announce the upcoming 2nd ALL-READY Regional Workshop, entitled “Accelerating the Agroecology Transition: Your potential role and benefits of contributing to a European Network of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures”. This interactive discussion session will take place on 11 May 2023, at the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core premises in Seville, Spain, and will also be available online as a hybrid event.

The workshop is organised by LifeWatch ERIC, Thünen Institute and INRAE as part of the ALL-Ready project, and will focus on exploring the potential of a European Network of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures to enable the transition towards agroecology throughout Europe.

The European Partnership under Horizon Europe for Accelerating Farming Systems Transition by Agroecology Living Labs and Research Infrastructures is currently being prepared by the SCAR Agroecology Strategic Working Group. ALL-Ready is a Coordination and Support Action (CSA) funded by the European Commission with the aim of preparing a framework for a future European network of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures.

The workshop will not only raise awareness of the future Horizon Europe Partnership on Agroecology but also build on the knowledge gained at the previous workshop in November 2022. The event will provide a platform for exchange and networking among local and regional actors, exploring possible solutions to overcome problems and difficulties that initiatives face in the transition process. The workshop will particularly emphasise a capacity-building programme for Agroecology Living Labs and Research Infrastructures.

This workshop is ideal for policy makers and funding organisations, companies, entrepreneurs, researchers and academics, living lab representatives and practitioners, innovators, and participants of an initiative related to the agroecology transition.

We invite all interested parties to join us for the ALL-READY Regional Workshop on 11 May in the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core premises in the Italian Pavilion (Isla de la Cartuja), Seville for an engaging and productive discussion about the potential of agroecology and the role of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures in driving this transition forward. 

FAIR-IMPACT first Open Calls launched!


The FAIR-IMPACT project has just launched the first of three Open Calls for Support, offering two defined support actions designed to enhance the FAIRness of data, semantic artefacts and data-related services. 

Support action #1: FAIRness assessment challenge. More harmonised use of semantic artefacts such as ontologies, terminologies, taxonomies, thesauri, vocabularies, metadata schemas and standards is a key element to achieving a high level of FAIRness. However, it can often be difficult to find and use semantic artefacts as they themselves are not always FAIR. This targeted support action will help a cohort of dataset providers or semantic artefact developers to self-assess and work towards maximising the level of FAIRness of their resources.

Support action #2: Enabling FAIR Signposting and RO-Crate for content/metadata discovery and consumption. The findability of both data and metadata is central to the FAIR principles. FAIR-IMPACT will provide a method to increase the discoverability of the metadata and content using a combination of two approaches; RO-Crate and Signposting. These two approaches are being used in combination as a pragmatic approach to making digital scholarly and research objects more FAIR. 

Both support actions will provide successful applicants with financial support to enable participation in a series of virtual workshops, expert guidance and advice from FAIR-IMPACT mentors. 

Applications will be accepted via the FAIR-IMPACT grants platform until 1 June 2023.

The European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency inaugurated in Seville

European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency

The 18 April 2023 saw the inauguration of the European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency, ECAT. Like LifeWatch ERIC, it is headquartered in Seville, where the inauguration took place. ECAT is part of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission – its in-house science and knowledge service – and works in close cooperation with the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT). Its objectives are to systematise ethics in the use of digital technologies, and to generate and disseminate FAIR data – in line with the mission of LifeWatch ERIC.

ECAT will provide the Commission with in-house technical and scientific expertise to ensure that algorithmic systems used by the Very Large Online Platforms and Very Large Online Search Engines comply with the risk management, mitigation and transparency requirements in the DSA. This includes, amongst other tasks, the performance of technical analyses and evaluations of algorithms. An interdisciplinary team of data scientists, AI experts, social scientists and legal experts will combine their expertise to assess their functioning and propose best practices to mitigate their impact. This will be crucial to ensure the thorough analysis of the transparency reports and risk self-assessment submitted by the designated companies, and to carry out inspections to their systems whenever required by the Commission.

This mission could not be attained without proper research and foresight capacity, which are also inherent to ECAT’s approach. JRC researchers will build on and further advance their longstanding expertise in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which has already been instrumental in the preparation of other milestone pieces of regulation like the AI Act, the Coordinated Plan on AI and its 2021 review. ECAT researchers will not only focus on identifying and addressing systemic risks stemming from Very Large Online Platforms and Very Large Online Search Engines, but also investigate the long-term societal impact of algorithms.

Scientists and experts working at the ECAT will cooperate with industry representatives, academia, and civil society organisations to improve our understanding of how algorithms work; they will analyse transparency, assess risks, and propose new transparent approaches and best practices.

As Stephen Quest, Director-General of the JRC, has said, “algorithms are being used in various domains of our lives, from social media & e-commerce to healthcare & justice systems. It is essential to ensure that these algorithms are transparent, accountable, and ethical”.

LifeWatch ERIC was represented at the inauguration by its Chief Technology Officer, Juan Miguel González-Aranda. Alongside the JRC, LifeWatch ERIC is also part of the #eCitySevilla project, an initiative to develop an open, digital, decarbonised and sustainable city model ecosystem on Seville’s Isla de la Cartuja by 2025.

With this link you can access the full recording of the act, in which numerous experts and authorities presented.

LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities Meet to Discuss Strategic Working Plan

LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities

LifeWatch ERIC is a distributed European Research Infrastructure Consortium, currently composed of three Common Facilities and eight National Nodes. From 12–14 April, the personnel of LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities from Spain, Italy and The Netherlands gathered in Alghero (Italy) at the premises of the University of Sassari.

ICT developers, scientists, training and communication experts, under the guidance of LifeWatch ERIC CEO, CTO and the Directors of Service Centre and the vLab and Innovations Centre joined together for a technical meeting focusing on the ongoing activities and advancements foreseen by the LifeWatch ERIC strategic working plan for the period 2022–2026.

Many were the issues under discussion, spanning from LifeWatch ERIC e-services, new generation Virtual Research Environments, remote sensing technology development and integration, on which the various members of the team contributed, bringing in their specific competences and expertise.

“LifeWatch ERIC’s most essential ingredient is its people” said CEO Christos Arvanitidis, “these three days have been a great opportunity to further foster collaboration and align the efforts made by the different components of the infrastructure. LifeWatch ERIC is at work to offer a new personalised way to access and use LifeWatch ERIC services and VREs, combining at the same time what’s provided by our infrastructure with each user’s data and needs”.

SOURCES workshop: Integrating historical sources for long-term ecological knowledge and biodiversity conservation

SOURCES Workshop

LifeWatch ERIC contributed to the international ‘SOURCES’ workshop, in which more than 40 researchers from countries such as France, Germany, Canada, the United States, Poland, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Denmark and Spain took part in Seville. Its objective was to integrate historical sources for long-term ecological knowledge and biodiversity conservation, part of WP3 of the SUMHAL Project, promoted by the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) and LifeWatch ERIC, and it is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). SUMHAL’s aim is to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity in natural or semi-natural systems of the western Mediterranean, based on high-tech infrastructures, and collaboration between highly specialised research personnel and the public.

Understanding the state of ecosystem and biodiversity distribution patterns in the past is crucial to understanding the complex relationships between human societies and environmental change and guiding natural resource management However, the information needed to generate this knowledge is scarce and often unavailable for researchers. It is often contained in a diverse array of historical sources (frequently ignored by environmental sciences) and equally diverse natural archives (e.g., archaeological or palynological records). SOURCES brought together a diverse group of scientists to identify sources of ecologically relevant historical information and explore the pathways to mine, standardise, mobilise and share this information. 

The SOURCES workshop was coordinated by Miguel Clavero and Laetitia María Navarro, researchers from the Doñana Biological Station (CSIC). Among the varied and complementary presentations, there were: ‘Historical ecology through the eyes of a historian’, by Péter Szabo (Czech Academy of Sciences); ‘Historical ecology in cultural landscapes: highlights, challenges, new ideas’, by Chelsey Geralda Armstrong (Simon Fraser University, Canada); ‘Land use histories and their implications for conservation action’, by Catalina Munteanu (Humboldt University, Germany); ‘Changes in floral biodiversity over the last two thousand years’, by Adam Spitzig (Harvard University, USA); ‘The human niche and the rise of capitalism: applying Bayesian machine learning to causality modelling in historical social-ecological systems’, by Adam Izdebski (Max-Planck-Institut für Geoanthropologie, Germany); ‘Trophic rewilding restoration- insights from macro‐ and paleoecology’, by Jens-Christian Svenning (Aarhus University, Denmark); ‘How Early Modern paintings inform about historical aquatic biodiversity’, by Anne-Sophie Tribot & Thomas Changeux (Aix-Marseille University, France), among others.

At the Casa de la Ciencia, the CSIC’s institutional building in Andalusia, LifeWatch ERIC took part in the SOURCES workshop with the presentation ‘Organisational knowledge management for ecology heritage preservation based on innovative open science and e-biodiversity technologies’,  by Juan Miguel González-Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC CTO. He raised the integrated assessment of cultural ecosystem services to preserve Cultural and Ecological Heritage and explained the steps to follow to identify cultural ecosystem services, then federate resources (combine several approaches: ecological, archaeological, historical, cultural, economic, etc.), generate data FAIRness (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable), establish models and indicators to inform decision making.