Three new artificial nests in Bulgaria to protect European Green Belt biodiversity

In March 2024, Green Balkans – one of the oldest non-governmental organisation in Bulgaria dedicated to conserving natural habitats and a partner of LifeWatch Bulgaria, the national node of LifeWatch ERIC – installed three artificial nests for the Imperial Eagle within the European Green Belt. This ecological corridor is crucial for protecting biodiversity and stretches from the Baltic shores to the Black and Ionian Seas, passing through the central areas of Germany. Running along the historic Iron Curtain, which once split Europe into East and West, the European Green Belt is a natural sanctuary where wildlife has thrived amidst the remnants of decades-long political tensions.

Green Balkans staff and volunteers worked with teams from the Black Vulture Nest Foundation, Tonido91, the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna and the Sakar Nature Park Society. By the end of March, this collaborative effort had built the three nests. Watch this video to see the process of identifying suitable areas and constructing these artificial nests:

In the two decades since Green Balkans installed its first artificial nest, the technique has successfully promoted the settlement and reproduction of the Imperial Eagle. There are currently around 40 nesting pairs in Bulgaria, 15 of which use the artificial nests provided by Green Balkans and its partners Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds. This nesting practice has benefited not only the Imperial Eagle but also several other species of birds of prey, thus contributing to bird conservation in general. In addition to Green Balkans, the Turkish organisation Back to Nature and the German foundation EuroNatur contributed to installing artificial nests.

This activity is part of the EU-funded BESTbelt project, which supports conservation and sustainable development initiatives and provides education and management training to conserve the biodiversity of Europe’s Green Belt. For further details about Green Balkans and this project, please visit this page:–or-how-to-create-a-new-home-for-majestic-birds–3-8459.

Cover photo belongs to Gradimir Gradev / GREEN BALKANS

LifeWatch Bulgaria at the first edition of Plovdiv Science Festival to showcase commitment to Environmental Science 

Plovdiv Science Festival

LifeWatch Bulgaria participated in the first edition of the Plovdiv Science Festival, from November 23 to 26. The festival was held at Plovdiv’s newly inaugurated Research Center for Plant and System Biology and Biotechnology. This venue was ideal for a festival that promotes scientific knowledge and encourages collaboration among researchers and scientists. LifeWatch Bulgaria was there to support environmental research and to showcase the commitment to pursuing scientific excellence.

The festival’s organiser is the Beautiful Science Foundation, with the support of the Agricultural University Plovdiv and Green Balkans. Collaborations and partnerships also included the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science, the Municipality of Plovdiv, and the National Bank of Serbia. Also, the support came from several non-governmental organisations, academic institutions, corporate entities, international collaborators, and media partners.

The festival tackled topics like protecting the climate and preserving biodiversity, specifically rare and protected bird species. Participants enjoyed informative discussions and presentations addressing critical environmental sustainability issues.

LifeWatch Bulgaria participated in the Plovdiv Science Festival to showcase its contribution to facilitating the exchange of scientific data and promoting international cooperation in scientific research. The festival provided scientists, researchers, and environmental enthusiasts a platform to network and explore opportunities. The Bulgarian National Node of LifeWatch ERIC highlighted the importance of working together to address global environmental issues and promoting responsible management of the planet’s diverse life.

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 Bulgaria Celebrates World Water Day

World Water Day

This year, several LifeWatch Bulgaria partners were heavily involved in World Water Day in Plovdiv, observed on 22 March. The LifeWatch Bulgaria Consortium joined in the colourful event, organised by the Municipality of Plovdiv, The Agricultural University-Plovdiv, the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water – Plovdiv, “Water Supply and Sewerage” Ltd. – Plovdiv and the East Aegean River Basin Directorate. This year’s theme was “Accelerating Change”, focusing on resolving the global drinking and wastewater crisis. The campaign encourages us to change the way we use and manage water resources. And because water affects us all, we need to take action to make this happen in a reasonable and sustainable way. All of us – everyone.

In fact, there was a big focus on raising awareness through citizen science, showcased by the large number of participants; nearly 400 children from kindergartens, schools and eco-clubs in the city took part in the celebration, with 36 educational institutions, institutions, institutions and organisations participating. Students from Plovdiv schools made models, presentations and drawings related to this year’s motto “Be the change you want to see in the world”. At the end of the celebration, students with the most interesting projects were given prizes. 

This year, a tradition was established for the Leader of the Bulgarian LifeWatch Consortium, the Agricultural University-Plovdiv, to celebrate World Water Day. The University had a stand, where lecturers from the Department of Agroecology and Environmental Protection, together with students majoring in Ecology and Environmental Protection, had prepared a quiz with facts about water. During the event, all curious people were presented with experiments through which they were acquainted with some of the properties of water.

The Green Balkans Organisation, a partner of the Bulgarian LifeWatch Consortium, also took part in the initiative, presenting information about the Natura 2000 ecological network and several waterfowl species – the Sandwich Tern, Red-breasted Goose and Pygmy Cormorant. Students had the opportunity to arrange the entertaining puzzle with the pygmy cormorant by answering the questions within it, and all visitors to Green Balkans’ table received informative materials and posters.

The event was also attended by LifeWatch Bulgaria colleagues from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, with information on birds and forests, and the International Movement “Save the Soil” presented interesting facts about biodiversity and how important water is for ecosystems.

Natura 2000 is the largest coordinated network for nature conservation. More than 30% of the territory of Bulgaria falls within the scope of the network – 120
protected areas for the conservation of wild birds and 234 protected areas for the conservation of natural habitats.

The Red-breasted Goose is a globally threatened and protected species, protected by the Natura 2000 ecological network. Bulgaria is an important place for the conservation of the species – almost the entire world population spends the winter in the region of Coastal Dobrudzha.

With only a few nesting grounds in the country, the Pygmy Cormorant is one of the three species of cormorants found in Bulgaria. The species is closely related to ponds and nests colonially, making it vulnerable to disturbance. One of the species most threatened with extinction, which is why it is strictly protected and protected by the Natura 2000 ecological network.

In Bulgaria, the Sandwich Tern nests only on Pomorie and Atanasovsko Lakes. Thanks to years of hard work, today the population of the species in Pomorie Lake is the largest on the Balkan Peninsula. Listed as an endangered species and included in the Birds Directive, the Sandwich Tern and its habitats are protected by the Natura 2000 ecological network.

The LifeWatch Community Platform is here!

LifeWatch Community

Roll up, roll up! LifeWatch followers and collaborators are cordially invited to the grand unveiling of the LifeWatch Community platform, now openly available to everyone! Who should become a member? Well, if you’re interested in biodiversity and ecosystem research, then you should!

The content of the Community platform will be widely shaped by its members, allowing them to create and contribute to forums, add opportunities, jobs and events of interest to the community, and hold meetings and collaborative brainstorming together with other members. These features are particularly well-suited to the needs of partners involved in European projects focused on biodiversity, who can benefit from the working groups as the perfect collaborative space.

Once a member of the Community, you can select your skills from a preset list, in order to facilitate linkages among the community. In need of a collaborator with a specific specialisation? Whether the keywords are data sciencesenvironmental sciences or biotechnology, simply carry out a search for the skills you are looking for to identify potential matches.

The platform is also a great space to learn about upcoming events. Of immediate relevance to the community is the upcoming LifeWatch ERIC Biodiversity and Ecosystem eScience Conference in Seville, for which interested persons can already submit their abstract on the Community platform.

While many aspects of the platform can be browsed without registering, we recommend opening an account in order to benefit from the full range of resources available. Sign up now to enhance the community experience for everyone, put your range of abilities and knowledge at everyone’s disposal, in a mutual and sincere effort to foster open science.

If you require any assistance with any of the registration process or functionalities of the Community, please do not hesitate to get in touch with communications[@]

Voices of Women at LifeWatch ERIC for International Women’s Day

Voices of Women

In preparation for this year’s International Women’s Day, LifeWatch ERIC International Gender Officer, Africa Zanella, had a clear request: amplify women’s voices. As explored in the “Gender, Equity and Research” campaign for last year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, statistically, we know that while more women than ever are getting involved in STEM, there are significant obstacles still to overcome for women in research. 

In light of International Women’s Day 2023, we have therefore created a podcast miniseries specifically dedicated to learning more about authentic experiences of women working in LifeWatch ERIC fields of interest. We asked scientists from our eight member states to talk candidly about their work and experience. The guests were invited to speak in pairs, which produced spontaneous and insightful conversations on these topics, facilitated by LifeWatch ERIC podcast host, Julian Kenny. Being of all ages and hailing from a diversity of backgrounds, the end result produced is an enriching range of experiences and contemporary points of view of women working in research today. Listening to their voices, our eyes are opened to their contribution to society, to science, and the potential offered by the European Union’s Gender Equality Strategy, which LifeWatch ERIC actively supports and incorporates into its everyday work life.

The guests featured in “Voices of Women” are:

The episodes will be released over the course of the week beginning 6 March and will be consolidated with an overview and considerations from LifeWatch ERIC International Gender Officer, Africa Zanella, interviewed by Chief Communication Officer, Sara Montinaro, to be released on 8 March (International Women’s Day). This podcast will examine the progress of the infrastructure as a whole in terms of achieving gender sustainability and equity, a year on from the appointment of LifeWatch ERIC’s International Gender Officer, and explore future plans to continue the commendable and tangible work that she has already set in motion.

The podcasts are available here below. They can also be found on Spotify, Google, Apple, and Amazon.

EU Commissioner for Innovation visits LifeWatch Bulgaria’s Agricultural University – Plovdiv

EU Innovation Commissioner Bulgaria

Last week, the LifeWatch Bulgaria consortium representative, the Agricultural University – Plovdiv, was thrilled to welcome the European Commissioner for Innovation, Scientific Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, to its premises. The Commissioner held a meeting with students, teachers, innovators, young scientists, representatives of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology in Food (EIT Food) and citizens of Plovdiv on the theme of “Innovation and education – building synergy for better opportunities”.

In the European University Strategy, the leading initiative is the European University Alliances and their acquisition of status; there are currently 44 alliances, and the goal is for them to grow to 60 by 2024. Behind the 44 alliances are 340 universities from 31 countries and 1,300 partners: non-governmental organisations, local authorities, enterprises, noted Gabriel.

The Innovation Commissioner went on to underline that there is a difference between regions and member states in terms of science and innovation. Europe’s goal is to form 100 regional innovation consortia/hubs to connect and work towards a pan-European innovation system. For 70% of all companies in Europe, the first hurdle to growing businesses and investing in each location is finding people with knowledge, Gabriel said. According to her, the role of universities is to become a driving force. Plovdiv, she said, is a shining example for Europe because of the many innovative local ecosystems. It has set a goal of having 1,000,000 tech talents by 2025. “Europe needs investment in people with skills and talents in technology, for which I want to congratulate this wonderful university, which educates and develops the talents of future leaders in these fields every day” she commented.

The rector of the Agricultural University-Plovdiv, Professor Hristina Yancheva, drew attention to the fact that the university is a partner in the UNIgreen European University Alliance, and explained that the alliance is the first project in Europe for a “green” European university in agronomy, biotechnology, and natural sciences. As an excellent model for cooperation in the field of science, the rector highlighted the university’s membership and collaborative work of the LifeWatch Bulgaria consortium, which has been part of LifeWatch ERIC since the beginning of 2022.

CEO Visits LifeWatch Bulgaria

LifeWatch Bulgaria Consortium

Last week, the Agricultural University of Plovdiv hosted the first two-day working meeting of the LifeWatch Bulgaria consortium, Bulgaria being the newest member state of LifeWatch ERIC, the e-Science Infrastructure for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research.

The meeting was also attended by Dr Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC’s CEO, who travelled to Plovdiv to conduct a two-day training course for the Bulgarian partners of LifeWatch ERIC, introducing them to the Research Infrastructure’s goals, objectives, activities, functioning, vision and mission. The rights and obligations of the Bulgarian consortium, as a full member of LifeWatch ERIC, and the respective benefits, advantages and commitments in projects led by LifeWatch ERIC were also discussed. At the same time, Dr Arvanitidis focused on the challenges of emerging on a global scale as a research infrastructure for biodiversity conservation and restoration in conditions of in climate change.

During the meeting, the leaders of the co-founders of the LifeWatch Bulgaria consortium signed an Additional Agreement, by which the Faculty of Biology of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, and the Green Balkans Association became new full members of the LifeWatch Bulgaria consortium.

International Women’s Day 2022: Tatyana Bileva

Tatyana Bileva

For International Women’s Day 2022, we at LifeWatch ERIC are putting eight scientists in the spotlight. Each of the LifeWatch ERIC member states has proposed a figure who has broken boundaries over the course of her lifetime, and is an inspiration to younger generations looking to pursue a career in STEM.

As we explored in the podcast we recorded for The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, women are still underrepresented in various scientific fields, such as engineering, computer science and AI. Additionally, scientific research in general is not only unbalanced in terms of composition (33% female) but also in terms of hierarchy, with only 12% of national science academy members being women, who are disproportionately overlooked when it comes to promotion and grants.

The women at the centre of our campaign are very diverse, hailing from a range of countries and time periods, but they all have one thing in common: overcoming the odds in order to contribute to scientific improvement. We want to draw attention to just a fraction of the women who have defied the cultural barriers pitted against them to bring good to the world, and bring recognition where they might have been overlooked. 

Born in the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, Tatyana Bileva is an Associate Professor of Ecology at the city’s Agricultural University, where she has previously held the crucial role of Quality Manager. She is a bright researcher with long-term experience of a wide range of plant parasitic nematodes and soil ecology, and has published over 60 scientific publications and 2 books in the fields of Biodiversity, Taxonomy and Zoology.

Bileva has been involved in several multidisciplinary research works regarding the mapping of multiple nematode pests through GIS applications, and other themes in her research include biodiversity, environmental conflicts, ecosystem services and sustainable management. Her expertise allows for the development of high-level research work, and has worked on many  local and international projects. Her enthusiasm and gentle personality is not only conducive to establishing positive professional links, but makes her an inspiration for students wishing to pursue scientific work and career.

She was recently involved in STACCATO, Sustaining Agricultural Change through Ecological Engineering and Optimal use of Natural Resources, a BiodivERsA-funded EU project which focused on the analysis and evaluation of Ecosystem Services (ESS), and their sensitivity to land use patterns in agriculturally dominated landscapes. According to Eurostat, Bileva lives in one of just the four EU countries where the number of female scientists outweighs male scientists (52%).

Life below Water and Life on Land

LifeWatch ERIC Session UNGA76

On 1 October 2021, LifeWatch ERIC had the privilege of convening a session of the 76th UN General Assembly Science Summit*, dedicated to SDG 14, Life below Water, and SDG 15, Life on Land. LifeWatch ERIC CEO, Christos Arvanitidis, and CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, convened the event, which featured experts from all over the world, speaking in keynotes and sessions. An interdisciplinary and cross-domain approach is crucial to achieve the SDGs by 2030, and this was reflected in the choice of speakers: policymakers, researchers, doctors and social scientists, whose range of perspectives and expertise was well-received by the audience.

After the introduction, the first topic of discussion was on SDG 14, Life below Water, then on SDG 15, Life on Land, before moving on to examine approaches key to the achievement of the 2030 SDGs, such as strengthening international collaboration, pursuing transdisciplinary approaches and modes of capacity building. Recurrent hot topics included the increased use of e-Biodiversity tools, in particular remote observation, in fighting the biodiversity crisis, along with indigenous knowledge. Finally, speakers pondered issues to tackle at UNGA77 in September 2022 and opened up the floor to participants, who brought yet more unique perspectives to the table.

CTO Juan Miguel González-Aranda summarised his main takeaways from the event:

“Integrating e-Biodiversity and sustainable ecosystem management makes us stronger. Goals 14 and 15, along with all the SDGs, can be accomplished when we base our efforts on scientific evidence, FAIR data and FAIR services. We must work hand-in-hand across sectors, without leaving anyone behind, integrating indigenous knowledge into our approach and following the motto thinking globally, acting locally. Finally, we must be conscious that data by itself is not enough; it must be transformed into information, evidence, knowledge and innovation, combining the outcomes of both Green and Digital Agendas in order to create tangible Green Products together.”

Click here to watch the full session on YouTube.

*Coordinated and moderated by ISC, the UNGA76 Science Summit is taking place from 14 September – 14 October, its central aim being to raise awareness of the role and contribution of science to the attainment of the SDGs. Please see our previous news item for more information.

Speakers in order of first appearance:

Mr Declan Kirrane SSUNGA76 Organiser

Dr Christos Arvanitidis LifeWatch ERIC CEO

Ms Jyoti Mathur-Filipp Director of the Implementation and Support Division at the UN Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada

Dr Ciara Leonard University College Dublin, Public Affairs Manager, UCD Research and Innovation; Moderator, Ireland

Dr Alberto Basset Interim Director of Service Centre, LifeWatch ERIC, Lecce, Italy

Dr Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo University Pablo de Olavide, Seville, LifeWatch Spain

Mr Michel Massart DEFIS, European Commission, Belgium

Dr Peter Heffernan UN Oceans Ambassador; Member, EU Mission Board: ‘Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal & Inland Waters’ Ireland

Prof. Mike Elliott University of Hull, UK

Dr Stephanie Splett Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Germany

Prof. Eric Ruuth Scientific CoordinatorIMIBIO, Argentina

Ms Inmaculada Figueroa EU-LAC ResInfra: Towards a new EU-LAC partnership in Research Infrastructures. LifEuLAC pilot

Prof. Javier Castroviejo-Bolívar Amigos de Doñana, Spain

Prof. Antonio Micha Director-General of the National Institute for Environmental Conservation INCOMAMalabo, Equatorial Guinea 

Dr Shirish Ravan Head, Beijing Office, The United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) Programme of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) Vienna, Austria

Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda LifeWatch ERIC CTO, ICT Core Director and ERIC Forum Executive Board Member

Mr Stephen Peedell Knowledge for Sustainable Development and Food Security, Joint Research Centre European Commission, Belgium

Prof. Vladislav Popov Agriculture University of Plovdiv, LifeWatch Bulgaria

Dr José Manuel Ávila-Castuera LifeWatch ERIC AgroEcology Officer

Patrick Wormsthe Centre for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry CIFOR-ICRAF

Ms Africa Zanella, Director Centre for Sustainability and Gender Economics (CSGE), Australia-Spain

Dr Milind Pimprika Founder and Chairman CANEUS International, Centre for Large Space Structures and Systems

Dr Murray Hitzman iCRAG, Ireland

Dr Akhilesh Gupta Senior Adviser, Policy Coordination and Programme Management Division Dept of Science and Technology, India

Dr Lino Barañao Argentina

Kurt Zatloukal Medical University of Graz