Life in the North Sea is becoming more exotic

VLIZ Alien Species Consortium

A recent study of 14 national and international institutions – the “VLIZ Alien Species Consortium” – revealed the presence of 79 exotic (alien) marine and brackish species in the Belgian part of the North Sea and the Scheldt estuary. This translates to a 15% increase in alien species in these areas over the past decade (2012-2020). An increase in intercontinental shipping, a better monitoring of these species, and movement of species for aquaculture purposes are all likely explanations.

The VLIZ Alien Species Consortium compiled their findings in a book, and factsheets for all 79 exotic species are available through their website (both book and website are only available in Dutch).

The taxonomic information and alien distributions of these 79 Belgian alien species are also available through the Belgian Register of Marine Species (BeRMS) and the World Register of Introduced Marine Species (WRiMS), both sub-registers of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS). WoRMS, WRiMS and BeRMS are all contributors to the LifeWatch Species Information Backbone.

By compiling taxonomic information, native and alien distributions, and other relevant information (such as e.g. invasiveness, impact, pathways of introduction), the LifeWatch Species Information Backbone offers scientists and policy makers the needed information to analyze the current situation and to work towards possible prevention measures to stop further introductions and spreading of these species. All of this – linked to the currently maintained ‘Watch-list’ that keeps track of potential new introductions in the area – can lead to the set-up of a fast detection system and the development of a control and management framework.

See the Complete Species List here.

Communication Officer opportunity at Flanders Marine Institute

The Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) is looking for a communicative and organizationally strong jack-of-all-trades with broad – including marine scientific – interests. These skills and enthusiasm are required to make maritime knowledge visible and to support, coordinate and develop citizen science initiatives in practice. We offer this communication employee a fixed-term contract (two years) for immediate employment. Fluency in Dutch is a mandatory requirement. Applications close 14 Februry 2021. Please apply here.

ERIC Forum leadership team reconfirmed

ERIC Forum leadership team

The ERIC Forum leadership team was reconfirmed today, 26 January 2021, at the ERIC Forum Annual Meeting. Dr John Womersley (ESS) was re-elected Chair and Dr Anton Ussi (EATRIS) Vice Chair, in a resounding endorsement of their achievements over the past complex year for research infrastructures, characterised by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the development of the next European multiannual financial framework. The Chairs are responsible for the strategic planning of the ERIC Forum, and coordinate external relations with the European Commission, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), and other stakeholders. Dr Womersley and Dr Ussi will continue to be supported in their work by the three other members of the Executive Board, each representing a specific scientific cluster: 

  • Dr Franciska de Jong, Executive Director, CLARIN ERIC, for the social sciences cluster 
  • Dr Wolfgang Fecke, Director General, EU-OPENSCREEN, for the life sciences cluster 
  • Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda, Chief Technical Officer, LifeWatch ERIC, for the environment cluster. 

The ERIC Forum brings together 21 leading European Research Infrastructures Consortia (ERICs), and is one of the leading science policy voices in Europe, representing the research infrastructure sector which is crucial in providing high level services to European researchers and making science and innovation possible. Dr Womersley praised the ERICs for coming together quickly to explain and emphasise the critical role of European research infrastructures as service providers to those researchers working to understand the Sars-COV-2 virus. “The Forum showed cohesion and an effective quick response. At the same time, and despite the impact of the pandemic, we came together again to maintain awareness of EU stakeholders concerning the role ERICs must have in Horizon Europe and the new European Research Area,” he said, asserting that 2021 would be a year of confirmation and continued development, in which to build on the achievements of 2020.

ENVRI week, dedicated to Environmental Research Infrastructures, will be virtual this year for the first time, from 1-5 February, 2021. It hosts ENVRI-FAIR project-related and other sessions targeting a variety of stakeholders. See here for the 2021 ENVRI week agenda and register here to access the meeting.

ENVRI Community International Winter School 2021

ENVRI Winter School 2021

The 2021 ENVRI Community International Winter School from 11–22 January attracted 32 participants from all around the world, predominantly data centre staff, researchers and PhD candidates. Centred on the FAIR principles of data management, the online curriculum covered semantic navigation, Jupyter environments for visualisation and data discovery, resource access tools and cloud computing.

In recognition of the difficulties of distance learning, the organisers structured 40 hours of presence (including preparations) over a two-week period, with scheduled lectures and presentations in the mornings (09-11), followed by associated group and individual work time (11-12). The relevance of the content to the participants’ work ensured a high level of commitment and a great sense of camaraderie developed. 

FAIR data are data which meet the principles of findability, accessibility, interoperability and reusability. The presentation of real-life use cases using state-of-the-art technologies demonstrated how essential it is to support end users in making the best use of the data, and to develop good user interfaces and services. The time the participants spent together created a new knowledge-exchange network for these data professionals. The team of teachers behind the “ENVRI-FAIR Resources: Access & Discoverability” Winter School was also international, with up-to-the-minute experience in the application of new technologies to enhance data centre functionality.
  • Dr Antonio José Sáenz-Albanés (ICT Infrastructure Operations Coordinator at LifeWatch ERIC) and Dr José Maria García-Rodriguez (Associate Professor of Applied Software Engineering at the University of Seville) dealt with how semantics enrich data resources and increase their FINDability by making them machine-actionable;
  • Dr Ute Karstens and Dr Claudio Onofrio, respectively researcher and data scientist at Lund University, Sweden, gave a presentation on a fully integrated VRE application at ICOS Carbon Portal, called the atmospheric transport model STILT, running through a full life cycle for an ‘on demand’ model and visualising results as an interactive map;
  • Dr Karolina Pantazatou and Ida Storm also work at ICOS Carbon Portal, Lund University, as scientific programmer and project assistant. Their workshop on using GIS-tools and Python-programming and user friendly Jupyter notebooks that process and analyse ICOS data products, had students tweeting in delight: “What a great workspace to document (text, images, links), write code & visualize data -all open and shareable!”;
  • ICT Coordinator at the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre, Nicola Fiore, and Web Portal Officer at the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre, Lucia Vaira, kicked off the second week with a presentation on the LifeWatch ERIC Metadata Catalogue, explaining the entire process behind the creation and publication of new resources and how to access them; and
  • Dr Zhiming Zhao, assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam, used examples from the ENVRIplus and ENVRI-FAIR projects to illustrate how to develop and operate data management services in cloud environments, from running a legacy and native cloud applications, to automating their deployment. Students were able to practice on the cloud infrastructures at EOSC and LifeWatch. One student tweeted a quote: “Users don’t care about the technology you use, but its quality and usefulness”. 

The final presentations allowed participants to demonstrate just how much they had learned in professional terms, but there was no sad goodbye at the end. Students had been given the recipe for pasticciotti, the characteristic Lecce pastry, the week before, and everyone cheered as the winner of the ENVRI Chef Challenge was announced. The final tweet? “I highly recommend @ENVRIcomm open training resources!”

EU-AFRICA e-Biodiversity & Ecosystem Sustainable Management in support of GeoScience

EU-Africa Geoscience Infrastructure

LifeWatch ERIC Chief Technology Officer Juan Miguel González-Aranda participated as speaker and in the discussions at a workshop co-organised on 22 January 2021 by The Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Applied Geosciences (iCRAG) and the Council for Geoscience of South Africa to present a vision for a shared EU-Africa Geoscience Infrastructure. 

The meeting was organised as part of the AERAP EU-Africa science collaboration platform, aimed at providing input for the forthcoming EU-Africa summit during the Portuguese Counsel Presidency. Although the summit date has yet to be finalised, the EU Strategy for Africa and the launch of Horizon Europe and the Neighbourhood, International Cooperation and Development Instrument (NDICI) can benefit from contributions from the EU and African geosciences communities. 

In line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 17, “partnerships for the goals”, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 for socio-economic transformation and the European Commission’s Africa Strategy call for partnerships to achieve common goals. The foundation for a strong and enduring partnership needs to be rooted in our shared Earth, and informed by the knowledge of what science and technology can deliver. Justly achieving the green transition and the digital transformation while delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals requires a full understanding of our planet home. 

In fact, Earth sciences provide solutions for many aspects underpinning the European Green Deal and the circular economy, including water security, agricultural sustainability, energy security, raw materials availability, especially as regards the critical minerals necessary for decarbonisation, the blue economy, and community safety from geohazards including climate change. The revolution in earth sciences brought about by the Big Data generated through AU-EU research partnerships will require additional distributed ICT e-Infrastructures in Africa and Europe, and the development of data analysis and management skills, especially for younger generations and particularly women. 

An AU-EU partnership in earth sciences is being leveraged by expanding the existing cooperation between the Organization of African Geological Surveys (OAGS) and the European Geological Surveys (EGS), such as PanAfGeo which has been ongoing since 2016. At Friday’s meeting, Dr González-Aranda presented LifeWatch ERIC as a distributed ICT e-Infrastructure which is already providing support to address the primary challenges outlined in the European Commission’s comprehensive strategy with Africa, based on the essential relationship between Geodiversity and e-Biodiversity.



The EcoLogicaMente platform, developed by LifeWatch Italy in partnership with the Italian Society of Ecology (SItE) and University of Salento (UniSalento), is a web-based tool launched in 2021 to allow visitors to explore a broad range of issues in the field of ecology. 

Primarily addressed to Italian school students and teachers, from Primary through to High School, the in-depth topics contain various types of material including texts, videos, presentations, live lessons, games, questionnaires, and practical activity sheets for work in the field or in the laboratory.

The EcoLogicaMente study topics and materials have been compiled by university professors and experts on ecological issues and are divided into five macro-areas: Ecosystem goods and services, Sustainability, Resource Management, Climate Change, and Biodiversity. 

The courses are divided into different levels all of which require a login, and it is possible to receive a certificate of participation, after completing all the lessons and passing a final test. Support is available through an FAQ page and users can leave a rating of the material available and write reviews. Click here to navigate the platform.