ZEEKERWETEN, the citizen science festival on the Belgian coastline

Zeekerweten citizen science

Citizen science can play a major role in data collection and processing. LifeWatch Belgium always champions greater collaboration between scientists and citizens because it enhances research and strengthens support among the wider public. The LifeWatch VLIZ initiatives ‘SeaWatch-B’ and the annual ‘Big Seashell Survey’ are good examples of this invaluable citizen-scientists cross-fertilisation. In order to give people a taste of this kind of initiative, on Sunday 8 May 2022, the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) organised, with many other partners, the first citizen science festival on the Belgian coastline: ZEEKERWETEN (which translates as “knowing for sure/shore”).

Under the watchful eye of experts, citizens learned tricks and tools to make the invisible life visible, at sea, on the beach, in the dunes, and elsewhere along the coast. In doing so, they got the chance to become real citizen scientists.

Staff from LifeWatch Flanders, INBO and VLIZ involved visitors to their stands in hands-on activities regarding plankton and applied artificial intelligence techniques, differentiating alien shell species from native specimens, tracking seagulls, setting up a camera trap, and recognising and reporting on that most invasive of alien species, the Asian hornet.

The open-air event turned out to be fun and fascinating, for young and old, and helped increase scientific knowledge. With more than 90 experts and volunteers involved, nearly 1,200 citizens were brought closer to science, and went home better able to appreciate what fantastic treasures of biodiversity the coastline holds.

The ZEEKERWETEN citizen science festival was an initiative of LifeWatch Belgium.

Unravelling Biodiversity in Parque das Serras do Porto

LifeWatch Portugal Biodiversity Day

To celebrate International Biodiversity Day 2022, LifeWatch Portugal and partners are organising a 4-day BioBlitz, from 19–22 May, in collaboration with Vila do Conde – Ciência Viva Center – and the Serras do Porto Natural Park (Parque das Serras do Porto). The first two days will be dedicated to school groups and the weekend will be open to families and adults.

Researchers from the Natural History and Science Museum of the University of Porto (MHNC-UP) and the Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources (BIOPOLIS/CIBIO-InBIO) are inviting everyone to step out into the wild and unravel the beautiful biodiversity of some of the most iconic natural sites in Northern continental Portugal, in the regions of Valongo, Gondomar and Paredes.

Among the taxonomic groups represented in this LifeWatch Portugal BioBlitz are micromammals, insects, vascular plants, bryophytes, amphibians and reptiles, birds and bats. All activities are free of charge and the data collected will be entered into the BioDiversity4All platform, a member of the iNaturalist Network.

The International Day for Biological Diversity commemorates the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity on May 22, 1992, at the Rio Earth Summit. This United Nations-sanctioned international day reminds us that despite all our technological advances, humanity is completely dependent on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for our water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter and energy, just to name a few. The International Day for Biological Diversity theme for 2022 is “Building a shared future for all life”. The slogan invites the global community to re-examine its relationship with the natural world and emphasises that biodiversity is the answer to sustainable development challenges.

Gender Equity Consultant Africa Zanella appointed to the Climate Investment Fund

Climate Investment Fund

On behalf of the infrastructure, LifeWatch ERIC CEO, Christos Arvanitidis, would like to congratulate Gender Equity Consultant, Africa Zanella, for her appointment as Gender Initiatives Focal Point for the Climate Investment Fund (CIF) at the World Bank.

“This is not only a fantastic achievement for Africa, but also an important honour for LifeWatch ERIC as an organisation,” said the CEO – “This is a crucial role at the Climate Investment Fund, with great responsibility – one that we know she is well-equipped to carry out, not only due to her specialisation in social science and her experience in themes of sustainable development and green growth, but also because of her fervent activism for the empowerment of women across the globe.”

Africa Zanella has called for ‘the role of women in combating climate change’ to be a key topic of discussion at the COP27 in Egypt, as it is thought that women, particularly in developing regions, remain an untapped resource for practical solutions to climate mitigation and adaptation. LifeWatch ERIC is confident that in her new position at the CIF, she will be able to ensure that operational decisions take into account the profound interconnectedness of climate change mitigation, biodiversity preservation and gender equality. As she said just a few days after her appointment at the infrastructure: “sustainability depends on women having an equal role”.

Rolling Out Season 2 of the LifeWatch ERIC Podcast “A Window on Science”

LifeWatch ERIC Podcast

While the first LifeWatch ERIC podcast season focused on the Internal Joint Initiative, the construction of that Virtual Research Environment, this second season draws on the experiences of the scientists and ICT specialists involved in the five validation cases used to develop said Virtual Research Environment. Five investigations into the impact of Non-indigenous and Invasive Species on a range of environments suffering from climate change and anthropogenic pressures.

Over the next three months, therefore, you will hear from the terrestrial and marine researchers, ICT technicians and software engineers, molecular geneticists and data managers who worked together in trans-disciplinary teams to construct and test five workflows – pipelines of data sourcing and processing – to make that research possible at scales never achieved before. The LifeWatch ERIC podcast season 2 “A Window on Science” features:

  • Wednesday 11 May: The Atlantic Blue Crab
  • Wednesday 25 May: ARMS. Hard-bottom communities
  • Wednesday 8 June: Metabarcoding
  • Wednesday 22 June: Ailanthus, and
  • Wednesday 6 July: Biotope.

Don’t forget that these LifeWatch ERIC podcasts, as well as being embedded in our website portal (find all of Season 1 here and the live episodes of Season 2 here), are also available on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and Amazon Music.