LifeWatch Slovenia hosted the 5th Thematic Service Workshop on Biodiversity Observatory Automation

On April 11, LifeWatch Slovenia recently hosted the 5th Thematic Service Workshop on Biodiversity Observatory Automation at the National Institute of Biology in Ljubljana. The workshop focused on reviewing and updating the requirements for effective biodiversity assessment in light of current environmental changes and biodiversity loss. The event had 33 participants who attended the workshop in person, while 30 others joined online.

The workshop brought together experts to present the key achievements and obstacles in monitoring and observation approaches and discuss various stakeholders’ drawbacks and needs through an extensive programme of twelve presentations.

The event included a panel discussion among Prof Rudolf Meier from the Museum of Natural History Berlin, Dr Klaas Deneudt from VLIZ, and Dr Gentile Francesco Ficetola from the University of Milan, moderated by Dr Cene Fišer from the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana. The panel discussed various modern biodiversity monitoring and detection approaches, including aerial observations and eDNA. They explored the possibilities of data collection design, data curation, data exploration, and the use of AI. Additionally, they discussed FARIfication of data and digital twins.

Although biodiversity assessment has various challenges, including time-consuming fieldwork and the complicated data processing and storage involved after fieldwork, scientists are making progress in automating data collection. Furthermore, the advancement of computing power and artificial intelligence have opened up new possibilities to aid them in their work. 

The workshop about Biodiversity Observatory Automation was organised by LifeWatch Slovenia—LifeWatch ERIC National Node—and its members, by Dr Andreja Ramšak from the National Institute of Biology and the national coordinator, Dr Tanja Pipan, from the Karst Research Institute ZRC SAZU.

To learn more about our Thematic Service Workshop Series, please visit our minisite:

LifeWatch Italy, the CNR and the University of Salento launched the Virtual Museum of Ecosystems and the Natural Environment

On 22 April – during Earth Day, the international day for protecting and conserving the environment – LifeWatch Italy, the University of Salento and the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) celebrated by hosting an online webinar entitled “Knowing ecosystems to protect them”. During the webinar, the hosts presented the Virtual Museum of Ecosystems and the Natural Environment, a dissemination and learning tool aimed at high school and first-year university students, alongside all citizens interested in understanding how the natural world around us works. The virtual museum features four rooms dedicated to natural environments – mountains, marine-coastal wetlands, semi-arid regions, and the Arctic. 

Fifty-four classes participated in the webinar, moderated by Cecilia Noce from the CNR and Franca Sangiorgio from the University of Salento. The webinar focused on exploring the museum and its different ecosystems with the help of professors and researchers Elisa Anna Fano, Giuseppe Bogliani, Sarah Rossi de Gasperis and Mariasilvia Giamberini.

Students also participated in the thought-provoking ‘Choices for Sustainability’, an online cooperative game on the Virtual Museum of Ecosystems and the Natural Environment’s website. They voted on issues related to ecosystem conservation and natural resource management and reflected on the implications of their choices.

The Virtual Museum of Ecosystems and Natural Environment is an initiative by LifeWatch Italy and the CNR for the national project PON-IR LifeWatchPLUS. It is accessible for free at

LifeWatch ERIC’s CEO at the 8th European Conference of Scientific Diving in Heraklion, Greece

From April 22 to 26, the scientific diving community will gather in Heraklion, Crete, for the 8th European Conference of Scientific Diving (ECSD). Hosted by the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research—a member of LifeWatch Greece, one of our National Nodes—and the European Panel for Occupational Scientific Diving, this year’s conference covers a wide range of topics across the marine sciences spectrum, including biology, ecology, physical oceanography, biogeochemistry, geosciences, and archaeology.

There’s also a strong focus on cutting-edge technologies in scientific diving, diving education and training, and diving regulation. Newly emerging themes such as marine spatial planning and marine renewable energies highlight the conference’s forward-looking agenda, especially in sustainable coastal zone management and the environmental aspects of marine renewable energy technologies.

The European Conference of Scientific Diving, an essential forum for European leaders, researchers, and students in scientific diving, features LifeWatch ERIC’s CEO, Christos Arvanitidis, as a member of the Scientific Committee. His participation underscores the organisation’s dedication to advancing marine science through collaboration and innovation.

The ECSD background

Since its first edition in 2015, the event has been building on a strong foundation by merging the International Symposium on Occupational Scientific Diving and the international workshop on Research in Shallow Marine and Water Systems into a unified annual meeting. The ECSD has become an important international platform for showcasing research findings, discussing new technologies, and addressing safety and institutional matters within the scientific diving community. Throughout the years, it has established itself as a critical forum for the community to come together and collaborate.

Biogeography for conservation: a recap from our Thematic Workshop in Bologna

LifeWatch Italy, in partnership with the University of Bologna, organised a two-day workshop as part of the LifeWatch ERIC Thematic Service Workshop Series. The workshop, which took place from April 4th to 5th, brought together scientists and researchers to focus on biogeography and conservation strategies. The event aimed to facilitate in-depth exploration and collaboration and address the pressing challenges related to biodiversity preservation and habitat management.

The symposium began with a welcome speech by Alessandro Chiarucci from the University of Bologna, followed by Prof. Alberto Basset from the Università del Salento and LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre Director. Prof. Basset gave an in-depth overview of the LifeWatch ERIC Thematic Service Workshop, emphasising its objectives and significance in biodiversity research.

The workshop aimed at establishing a working group to promote collaboration among Common Facilities and Distributed Centres, updating the research needs mapping of national scientific communities regarding Thematic Services, and facilitating the participation of Distributed Centre research Institutions in Horizon Europe and other European and international projects. If you want to join the working groups, please visit our community.

Speakers and presentations

During the first day of the workshop, experts gathered to showcase their work and research. Michele Lussu, from the University of Bologna, presented the project of compiling comprehensive databases of orchids in the Mediterranean Basin. This project aims to comprehend their biogeography and contribute significantly to their conservation amidst mounting environmental challenges. 

Prof. Ole R. Vetaas, from the University of Bergen, delivered a presentation on the intersection of biogeography and conservation biology. Drawing from his extensive research, Vetaas highlighted the urgent need to analyse migration patterns, identify barriers to species movement, and facilitate ecological connectivity in the face of rapid climate change and human encroachment on natural habitats.

Alessandro Chiarucci offered attendees a deep dive into the Italian Forest Vegetation dataset, comprising over 51,000 vegetation plots, a resource for scientists and policymakers alike in formulating evidence-based conservation strategies. 

Prof.Carl Beierkuhnlein from the University of Bayreuth addressed the emerging risks of wildfires in European temperate forests. He outlined strategies to mitigate these threats, emphasising the crucial role of scientific research in informing effective conservation measures.

Following Vetaas’s discourse, Prof. Borja Jimenez-Alfaro of the University of Oviedo delved into alpine ecosystems’ diversity and distribution patterns. Drawing from his research, Jimenez-Alfaro provided a comprehensive analysis of the factors shaping these fragile habitats, offering valuable insights for conservation strategies.

You can download these presentations here.

The second day focused on research-related policies and strategies. Attendees participated in interactive sessions that aimed to establish working groups on biodiversity and define the scientific community’s role within the LifeWatch ERIC initiative.

The other workshops

The workshop created an opportunity for different fields to come together and work more innovatively towards biodiversity conservation in the future. This was the third workshop of this series, with three more to follow. To register for the upcoming ones, please visit our minisite.

Tracking biodiversity: it’s all about scale

Scale is a key ingredient when assessing and studying biodiversity: this is the video’s key message just released by the MARBEFES project, focusing on the Baltic Sea Broad Belt Transect (BBT). The video is the first “Meet the BBTs”video series that will be released to explore current challenges faced by biodiversity in Europe.

MARBEFES, the EU project in which LifeWatch ERIC is a partner, aims to identify the connections between marine biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services, and the resulting societal goods and benefits within coastal communities. The BBTs are the backbone of the MARBEFES research project, which aims to broaden our knowledge and understanding of biodiversity across Europe and beyond. This will help researchers gain a deeper insight into the changes occurring in our environment.

The video series serves as an initiative to heighten awareness about the critical significance of biodiversity in marine environments. 

In this episode, MARBEFES took a deep dive into the Gulf of Gdańsk (Zatoka Gdańska), coastal inlet of the Baltic Sea, in Northern Poland. These shallow waters are home to diverse species of fish, birds, and marine mammals, including the iconic grey seal. Unfortunately, the Gulf of Gdańsk is currently experiencing many pressures which are leading to habitat degradation and biodiversity loss: pollution (plastic, nutrients and various chemicals), intense shipping, large-scale tourism, increasing urbanisation, coastal erosion, are all putting at risk this key and fragile habitat, and climate change is also taking its toll on the area.

The Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IO PAN) is responsible for data collection and analysis in the Gulf of Gdańsk BBT. Thanks to the activities developed within MARBEFES project, researchers can determine which actions need to be taken to protect this key area. The video, narrated by Jan Marcin Węsławski, marine ecologist at The Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IO PAN), highlights the significance of studying biodiversity at various levels. At the smallest scale, microorganisms inhabit the beach sand. For these organisms, a one-square metre sample of the seabed in Sopot is adequate to represent the diversity of microorganisms across the Baltic region. At a medium scale, macrofauna, such as crustaceans and molluscs, are a few centimetres in size. In this case, samples from a much larger region spanning several square kilometres are necessary to accurately represent the diversity of these species in a specific area. Things change again at the largest scale, with megafauna and top predators – large fish, seabirds, and sea mammals. These creatures are highly mobile and exist in low densities, necessitating the exploration of the whole region to capture the biodiversity at this scale accurately.

When studying our planet’s biodiversity, it’s crucial to observe the species-area curve for each organism scale separately. This curve shows the relationship between the area of a habitat and the number of species found within that area. It’s a vital tool for understanding and protecting biodiversity. MARBEFES addresses this and focuses on subtropical to subarctic regions to ensure a comprehensive understanding of biodiversity across the European domain.

To learn more about MARBEFES and to watch the video, please visit this page:

EOSC and Beyond: LifeWatch ERIC at the project’s kickoff meeting to accelerate research applications

The EOSC Beyond kickoff meeting occurred on April 17, marking the beginning of an initiative to improve the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) by providing new foundational technical solutions. The outputs will enable developers of scientific application environments to leverage EOSC resources and present them as integrated functionalities to researchers. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of integrated providers and active users of EOSC.

As a candidate EOSC node, LifeWatch ERIC – represented by Nicola Fiore, Service Centre ICT Coordinator – participated in the meeting by presenting services like the Metadata Catalogue and LifeBlock, particularly relevant to scientists in biodiversity and ecosystems. EOSC nodes operate at different levels to fulfil specific scientific missions, such as accelerating scientific applications, enabling Open Science, promoting innovation, and aligning EOSC architecture with European data spaces.

LifeWatch ERIC’s Metadata Catalogue is built on comprehensive standards to make digital objects (datasets, services, workflows, VREs, etc…) FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable). This tool enables scientists and researchers worldwide to discover, access and use digital objects, services and resources from various repositories to tackle pressing scientific questions for biodiversity and ecosystem research. Similarly, LifeBlock is a blockchain-based platform that stores and manages biodiversity and ecosystem data. It ensures data integrity, provenance, and traceability while offering the possibility of retrieving data from multiple research infrastructures.

The goals of EOSC Beyond focus on accelerating the development of new scientific applications like the Metadata Catalogue and LifeBlock and fostering innovation within EOSC through testing and integration environments. It will also align EOSC Core architecture and specifications with European data spaces. The project aims to achieve these goals using co-design methodologies that involve collaborating with various national and regional initiatives to address their use cases. To learn more about EOSC Beyond, please visit this page:

Hic Sunt Lupi meets the citizens

On Wednesday 3 April, the “Hic Sunt Lupi” project held its first public meeting “The return of the wolf in Salento: let’s get to know it” in Lecce, Italy.

The meeting was opened by the Councilor for Environment of Regione Puglia, Anna Grazia Maraschio, the Mayor of Lecce, Carlo Salvemini and hosted representatives of the experts involved in the project, like Paolo Ciucci, Professor at Sapienza-University of Rome, and Francesco Cozzoli and Francesco De Leo, researchers at the National Research Council (CNR-IRET), Lecce, and Ruben Cataldo, archaeologist and President of Archeo-Rec.

This was the first of a series of meetings foreseen within the project to involve the local population, not only on the objectives of the project, which has started monitoring and gathering data on the presence of wolves in Salento to get to a better understanding of the situation and pave the road towards management measures. The wolf is a protected species and its return in Salento is a fact of scientific and ecological relevance, however it is also an issue with such a strong impact on local communities for a variety of reasons (security, economical, etc.). Many are the concerns linked to the return of this predator which sometimes lead to the development of “fake-news”, like the erroneous idea that it was deliberately reintroduced in various areas, just to make an example. Disseminating science-knowledge information and facts on the wolves, their return in this specific area and their management is a critical aspect for the success of the project. “Hic Sunt Lupi” is investing to achieve a true engagement of the local population, also thanks to initiatives of citizen science, where data coming from people’s observations will be collected, validated and hosted on the LifeWatch Italy Citizen Science platform.

Hic Sunt Lupi is a project of  Regione PugliaCNR-IRET, and the Sapienza University of Rome, with the support of LifeWatch Italy, the National Biodiversity Future Center and the University of Salento.

More information is available here: