DecaNet: A Portal For Decapod Biodiversity Informatics

A picture of a decant

DecaNet is a database for decapod species and associated biodiversity information. Published on 23 June 2023, it falls under the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS). Besides marine species, it aims to provide an authoritative list including freshwater, terrestrial biomes and a growing number of fossil taxa.

Decapoda are one of the best-researched groups of Crustacea. Researchers studied 17,229 species (December 2022), far beyond taxonomy in various scientific fields. Hopefully, DecaNet will act as a one-stop shop for taxonomic and biodiversity information on the group.

The taxonomic/systematic backbone of DecaNet is now largely complete. The fifteen volunteer editors for recent taxa and two for fossil taxa will continually update it.  Over time, the database will incorporate more trait information, distributions, and perhaps even more.

DecaNet grew out of a meeting held in May 2022, at VLIZ (Oostende). Ten of the decapod editors met to discuss data content and structure and LifeWatch ERIC funded it. The first public presentation of the portal was at the 10th International Crustacean Congress in Wellington, New Zealand, in May 2023, a full year after the initial discussions.

The Data Management Team (DMT) is supported by LifeWatch Belgium, part of the E-Science European LifeWatch Infrastructure for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research.

LifeWatch Slovenia: new website launched

The picture shows a snapshot of the new LifeWatch Slovenia website

The new LifeWatch Slovenia website is online since 31 May 2023. It provides biodiversity and ecosystem researchers with facilities, data resources, web services and Virtual Research Environments. LifeWatch Slovenia remains fully integrated with LifeWatch ERIC in facilitating open data sharing, aggregation and modelling. Besides that, it offers immediate access to national priority projects, as in the case of karst groundwater habitat research and conservation of that national symbol, Proteus anguinus, the only exclusively cave-dwelling aquatic salamander in Europe.

In 2022, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia adopted the Research Infrastructure Roadmap 2030 (NRRI 2030) in which LifeWatch was listed as a priority area in the field of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Technologies. LifeWatch-SI is also part of the Slovenian Strategy for Smart Specialisation (S4) and Horizon 2020, focusing on the development of technological solutions in the field of biodiversity and socio-ecological research.

Since 2015, the Slovenian Consortium has been promoting the importance of integrating and networking information and data to:

  • Coordinate biodiversity research in marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems;
  • Plan common access to a vast array of data from various sources and observatories;
  • Predict computing capabilities with analytical and modelling tools in virtual laboratories; and
  • Support training and educational programs that will enable a proper understanding of biodiversity.

The LifeWatch Slovenia Consortium consists of the ZRC SAZU Karst Research Institute, the National Institute of Biology, the Slovenian Forestry Institute, the Slovenian Natural History Museum, the Škocjan Caves Park, the Tular Cave Laboratory, the University of Ljubljana, the University of Maribor, the University of Nova Gorica, and the University of Primorska. Of these, ZRC SAZU serves as the national coordinator and headquarters of LifeWatch-SI.

For more information, please explore the website.

Semantic Academy: the registration for the LifeWatch ERIC Intensive School is now open!

In recent years, one of the major challenges in Environmental and Earth Sciences has been managing and searching larger volumes of data, collected across multiple disciplines. Many different standards, approaches, and tools have been developed to support the Data Lifecycle from Data Acquisition to Data Curation, Data Publishing, Data Processing and Data Use. In particular, modern semantic technologies provide a promising way to properly describe and interrelate different data sources in ways that reduce barriers to data discovery, integration, and exchange among biodiversity and ecosystem resources and researchers. Therefore, we are delighted to announce the launch of the 2023 edition of The Semantic Academy – The LifeWatch ERIC Intensive School: Boost your research with semantic artifacts. And this time, we are back in person!

This school is organized by LifeWatch ERIC and will take place in Lecce, from 25 to 29 September 2023.
This edition’s title is “Boost your research with semantic artifacts”. This course is built as a five-day intensive school providing the knowledge on how to create semantic artifacts for a specific domain and use them to annotate and analyse data in a Virtual Research Environment (VRE). It will cover topics such as Data Science, Semantics, Ontology, Vocabularies, Virtual Research Environments (VREs). The School is therefore mainly aimed at IT architects, Research Infrastructure (RI) service developers and user support staff, and RI staff.

The Semantic Academy will welcome participants with a welcome cocktail event and social dinner, while the actual Intensive School programme will last from Monday afternoon to Friday morning, closing with a certificate ceremony.

The outline of the School programme is as follows:

  1. Introducing the LifeWatch ERIC eScience Infrastructure
  2. Ontology Engineering
  3. Designing and Developing vocabularies
  4. Using Semantics for discovering, accessing and analysing data in the Notebook-as-a-VRE (NaaVRE)
  5. Putting everything together: practical activity with participants projects presentations

EXTENDED DEADLINE: Interested persons are invited to apply by 30 July by filling in the sign-up form here
Participation is free, but registration is compulsory. Three grants are made available by LifeWatch ERIC to support applicants younger than 30 years. Successful candidates will be offered accommodation for the whole duration of the intensive school on the basis of their motivation letter and their curricula, while travel must be self-funded. LifeWatch ERIC is an equal opportunity organisation, and encourages all qualified candidates to apply, regardless of race, gender, age, national origin, or sexual orientation. Follow LifeWatch ERIC updates!

You can access the dedicated minisite with more detailed information on the Semantic Academy here.
You can find information about other Summer Schools on Data FAIRness previously organised by LifeWatch ERIC and the ENVRI Community on our Training & Education page.

LifeWatch ERIC at the Congress of the Italian Society of Marine Biology

From 12 to 15 June, the 52nd Congress of the Italian Society for Marine Biology (S.I.B.M.) took place. The Science Department at the University of Messina hosted it a few steps away from the Strait of Messina.

Alessia Scuderi, our Marine Megafauna Scientific Assistant, contributed an account of the Alborán project. Her ‘Cetaceans and maritime traffic in the Strait of Gibraltar: difficult but possible coexistence‘ presentation explored the vulnerability of species streams.

The LifeWatch Alborán project monitors flora, fauna and pollution of the marine and terrestrial environments, protecting and promoting biodiversity. The project is also highly inclusive and participatory, involving the scientific community, citizens and public administrations. It focuses on the Málaga coast in Andalusia, Spain.

The role of LifeWatch ERIC in Alborán is to provide electronic services and the construction of a Virtual Research Environments that contribute to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility network and promote the Smart City Cluster.

The SIBM congress – which featured personalities such as the Rector of the University of Messina, Salvatore Cuzzocrea, the Director of Biomorph, Sergio Baldari; and the Director of Chibiofaram, Sebastiano Campagna – was structured around four themes:

  • Extreme environments: new frontiers, resources and threats
  • Possible biotechnological applications of marine organisms: from bioactive molecules to bioremediation
  • History of Italian marine biology, and
  • Vulnerability of species, habitats and resources in the coastal marine environment.

The Italian Society of Marine Biology is a Not-For-Profit organisation, founded in 1969, dedicated to the protection and enhancement of nature and the environment, with particular emphasis on study and scientific research in the marine and coastal environment.

LifeWatch ERIC at the EMODnet Biology Final Meeting

EMODnet Biology Final Meeting participants.

The CEO of LifeWatch ERIC, Christos Arvaniditis, attended the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) Biology Final Meeting that was held on 7-8 June 2023, at the Aquaculture Laboratories of the Hellenic Center for Marine Research (HCMR), in Crete, Greece.

During the meeting, LifeWatch ERIC’s CEO discussed the possibility of co-organising a Data Workshop and DG MARE / CINEA, who joined the meeting online, considered the future of EMODnet in a dialogue with the project’s partners.

The meeting was held in a hybrid format, with thirty participants present in person, while around twenty participated online. During EMODnet Biology Final Meeting, the project partners presented the deliverables and the work done throughout the last phases of the project.

LifeWatch ERIC at the AgroServ Conference

AgroServ Conference.

The first annual European Research Services on Agroecology Conference was held by AgroServ (a project in which LifeWatch ERIC is partner) from 5–6 June 2023 at the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (in-person and online). This first edition of the AgoServ Conference was dedicated to presenting the various agroecological services accessible through AgroServ and the different aspects that shape research in the emerging field of agroecology. To promote and encourage interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to address the agroecological transition, the first call for transnational access to its services was launched during the event.

Since the transition towards a sustainable and resilient agricultural system must take into account ecological, economic and social factors, work sessions were dedicated to discussions and practical workshops to exchange ideas, meet researchers from different fields (chemists, biologists, agronomists, ecologists, bioengineers, analysts, social scientists, etc.) and build ideas for possible proposals.

As LifeWatch ERIC is one of the eleven partners of AgroServ, three people from the LifeWatch ERIC Agroecology team participated in the conference. The coordinator, José Manuel Ávila, and the researcher, Iria Soto, attended the conference in person, in Prague, while Ángela Ventura intervened remotely in the working group sessions, which were coordinated by the team of Analysis and Experimentation on Ecosystems (AnaEE ERIC).

In the working group on ‘Management and sustainability of agroecosystems, aquaculture and forests’, the importance of interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity was highlighted, opening dialogues about the need for the service to have offers coming from multidisciplinary teams. In fact, one crucial problem identified was the lack of understanding between different disciplines, which all have specific and different terminologies, different interests, etc., thus contributing to a complication of the situation that is AgroServ’s big challenge to date.

On the other hand, in the working group on ‘Living Labs’, problems about intellectual property rights were highlighted. The need to tackle this issue was confirmed so that all the agents, coming from different sectors and working on an innovative idea, will feel more comfortable when getting involved in the process.

Finally, in the working group on ‘Animal and Plant Health, Quality Food, and Valorisation of By-products from Agriculture’, progress was made regarding the great potential of small agricultural producers in setting trends in the circular economy model and in scaling up these practices. In order to achieve this, the researchers collaboration must prioritise a daily and high quality production model, in which waste is recycled and reused in examples such as farms converted into biorefineries, and in which alternative income is generated through bioproducts.

A Knowledge Baseline on Mediterranean Forests Supported by Innovation

'A knowledge baseline on Mediterranean forests supported by innovation' Group Picture.

The Environmental and Biodiversity Climate Change Lab (EnBiC2-Lab) organised a workshop at the University of Malaga on Friday 2 June 2023, entitled ‘A knowledge baseline on Mediterranean forests supported by innovation’, to explore how new technologies and innovative methodologies can be combined to improve sustainable forest management in the region.

LifeWatch ERIC is a key partner and that is why Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch CEO, spoke in his presentation about the integration of new technologies, citizen science data and national inventories to prioritize key areas for conservation and restoration. Innovative methods like Satellite Remote Sensing, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data allow for better forest cartography. LifeWatch ERIC’s advanced data collection, meta-analysis, and modelling systems have much to offer silviculture and the multifunctional management of Mediterranean forests.

EnBiC2-Lab is an ERDF project that provides services for the environment and biodiversity by bringing together databases on water, soil, air, fauna and flora. The workshop was organised by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Topic Centre on Spatial Analysis and Synthesis of the University of Malaga (ETC-UMA), whose Director, Dania Abdul Malak, spoke about the importance of forests in reducing climate related risks.

The Mediterranean region is home to 75 million hectares of forest and woodlands renowned for their physical and biological heterogeneity, but the area is warming 20% faster than the global average. And despite indications of an increase in overall forested areas, 91% of Mediterranean forests are reported to be degraded and fragmented. There is an urgent need to find adequate tools and approaches to assess and manage these shared resources to ensure their long-term sustainability.

Aneris Genomic Technologies workshop sets project parameters.

The ANERIS consortium, whose vision is to protect marine and coastal biodiversity through technological and scientific innovation, held a workshop at the InnocOcean Campus of the Flanders Marine Institute in Ostend, Belgium, 30-31 May 2023. The purpose of the two days was to explore the available genomic workflows currently used by the participating ERICs and associated partners and to share experiences.

Officially launched under the Horizon Europe programme on 21 March this year, ANERIS – whose 25 project partners from 13 different countries include LifeWatch ERIC – is coordinated by the Spanish Institut de Ciènces del Mar. At a time when marine and coastal biodiversity are under serious threat because of human activities, climate change and other factors, the four-year ANERIS research project seeks to protect these ecosystems by creating, testing and implementing the next generation of scientific tools and methods for marine life-sensing and monitoring.

LifeWatch ERIC’s participation in the Genomic Technologies workshop consisted of CEO Christos Arvanitidis and International Initiatives & Projects Manager, Cristina Huertas presenting a study and sampling design, including different hypotheses of which marine communities could be considered (e.g. intertidal, planktonic, benthic), which components to include (i.e. molecules), what type of information to collect, the scale of the sampling, etc..

These would be applied to two case studies within ANERIS project, by integrating learnings from previous initiatives, and connecting with other EU projects (Marbefes, Marco Bolo, BioDT,) and Open Science databases (WoRMS, GBIF). They also contributed to other discussions during the workshop on bioinformatics, sampling and the wet labs protocols.