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.

Bioinspired robots in Lecce: MAPWORMS Plenary meeting

Micro-CTvlab and MedOBIS Repository were present at the plenary meeting of the MAPWORMS project in Lecce, on 15-16 May 2023. MAPWORMS is a Horizon Europe project which aims to propose robots that are inspired by simplified forms of marine Annelida, able to perform tasks in response to environmental stimuli, thus adapting to the working environment with a shape-morphing strategy with unique features in terms of powering and eco-friendliness.

Micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) is being used to visualize the morphological and anatomical features of the annelids. These data will also be used to create a virtual gallery in the Micro-CTvlab, a virtual laboratory which was developed during the LifeWatch Greece project and offers virtual galleries and online tools for the 3D manipulation of micro-CT datasets.

Furthermore, distributional/georeferenced data produced during the MAPWORMS project, will be deposited in the MedOBIS Repository, which is the Mediterranean Node for OBIS and is hosted by the IMBBC, HCMR in Crete. Its development started in 2003, and it was operational by 2005 as a Tier 3 of EurOBIS. Under the European projects EMODnet Biology and LifeWatchGreece, it became a Tier 2 node and extended to cover the entire Mediterranean Sea. Mrs Dimitra Mavraki has been appointed as the Data Manager of the MAPWORMS project, and presented the Data Management Plan, in which several FAIR repositories, including MedOBIS, have been proposed to the partners in order to deposit their data.

The MAPWORMS project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101046846.

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[@]lifewatch.eu.

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.







LifeWatch Greece integrated into GOOS Biology and Ecosystems GeoNode

GeoNode BioEco Portal

The LifeWatch Greece national node, led by HCMR, hosts a large and continuously updated database with biodiversity data collected from monitoring projects throughout the Mediterranean (MedOBIS). As of September, it has been integrated as a layer of GeoNode BioEco Portal as a monitoring project for Greek Bioversity.

The GOOS BioEco Portal is a publicly available tool to monitor the status of the marine biological observing system. The GEONODE is the back-end interface where registered users can upload, edit and manage their monitoring program details including which EOVs (Essential Ocean Variables) and EBVs (Essential Biodiversity Variables) are monitored; spatial and temporal information; status of the program; data availability and licences; standardisation and protocols; as well as links to applications, tools and outputs based on the collected observations. This GeoNode is hosted and maintained by the secretariat of the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) based at the IOC Project Office for IODE in Ostend, Belgium as a service to support the Global Ocean Observing System Biology and Ecosystem Panel.

You can find the original article on the LifeWatch Greece website.

LifeWatch Greece launches Marine Creatures Citizen Science platform for Nautilos project

Nautilos Marine Creatures

The Institute of Marine Biology, Biotechnology and Aquaculture at the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research –coordinator of the LifeWatch Greece node– has launched a new citizen science platform for the Horizon2020 project, Nautilos. Using the software Zooniverse, they have called their platform for Nautilos Marine Creatures, at the service of citizen scientists everywhere. The aim of the project is to help identify the sessile and often unnoticed benthic communities living on hard substrates using high-definition underwater images from artificial reefs, ports and natural sea caves. Morphological characters can be used to identify the taxonomic groups of these sophisticated marine communities.

If you would like to participate in this voluntary project and help out, please click here and get involved! A Tutorial and a Field Guide are available which will help you discover the project, be a Citizen Scientist and learn more about the marine environment.

In Athens for the EOSC Future Consortium Meeting

EOSC Future

The EOSC Future General Assembly and Consortium Meeting took place on 5–6 July 2022 at the Royal Olympic Hotel, Athens. The meeting gathered the consortium partners, in person and remotely, and was a crucial moment to assess the first 18 months of work, align technical and non-technical milestones, and coordinate the steps ahead to ensure the success of project activities.

EOSC Future is an EU-funded H2020 project that is implementing the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), which will give European researchers access to a fully operational web of data and related services founded on FAIR protocols, principles and standards for accessing interoperable datasets.

Several members of LifeWatch ERIC attended the key event in the project calendar, among whom CEO Christos Arvanitidis, CTO Juan Miguel González-Aranda, Training Officer Cosimo Vallo, Project Manager Ana Mellado García, Data Lakehouse and Blockchain Officer Joaquín López Lérida and International Initiatives & Projects Manager Cristina Huertas-Olivares. Being Work Package 6 leader, Christos Arvanitidis presented the progress of WP6 to the consortium during the discussion on Science Projects, following the review of the project after its first year in operation. Cosimo Vallo also updated the consortium on the next steps of the project’s training plan, as part of Work Package 9. 

To learn more about the projects in which LifeWatch ERIC is involved, please visit the Related Projects page.

Introducing the EBES Master’s Diary

EBES Master's

In the Spring Term of 2022, LifeWatch ERIC will be funding a three-month internship abroad for three students, Martina, Marco and Ludovico, of the e-Biodiversity and Ecosystem Sciences Master’s degree (EBES) at the University of Salento, which is supported by LifeWatch ERIC.

Thanks to this dedicated LifeWatch ERIC internship programme, the students will be going to the Ionian University in Corfu, where they will be given the chance to apply the skills they have developed during their studies, carrying out research for their dissertations and gaining experience in the university labs. Individually, Martina, Marco and Ludovico will be focusing on using text mining to extract information on spatial and ecological traits of freshwater fishes, using a modelling approach to investigate the reasons a species population stays heterogenous, and building user-friendly citizen science applications with the aim of monitoring natural ecosystems. You can follow all three of the students’ journeys throughout their experience in Corfu by watching their Master’s Diary, which they will be updating periodically – subscribe to our YouTube channel to ensure you never miss an update! 

The EBES Master’s Degree e-Biodiversity and Ecosystem Sciences (EBES) is the newest curriculum available within the Master of Coastal and Marine Biodiversity and Ecology degree, designed to provide trans-disciplinary knowledge and skill sets for a new generation of ecologists proficient in data science, modelling and eco-informatics. It is a two-year programme at the University of Salento, entirely taught in English, allowing students to gain highly specialised instruction on biological and ecological sciences,ecological modelling and ecological informatics technologies. The course was created as current global challenges call for a deeper understanding of ecological phenomena at various levels of scale, to identify patterns and underlying mechanisms of biodiversity organisation and ecosystem functioning, and design scenarios of future change. 

For more information about the EBES Master’s Degree, please see the dedicated webpage of the University of Salento, or download the PDF here.



International Women’s Day 2022: Despoina Vokou 

Despoina Vokou

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. 

Despoina Vokou is a Professor of Ecology in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, where she previously held the roles of Head of the School of Biology and Deputy Dean of the School of Science. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from School of Pharmacy, National and Kapodistrian of the University of Athens, followed by a PhD from the School of Biology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Her research interests include aerobiology, mycology and plant ecology, Mediterranean ecosystems, biodiversity conservation and management of protected areas. She has published over 110 scientific publications with an h-index of 36. 

Vokou’s expertise in her field has received much recognition, having also been heavily involved in the direction of WWF Greece over the last 30 years; she was invited to represent Greece at the 10th Μeeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10) in Japan, and was president of the Natura 2000 national Committee, as well as being called up as an expert on international environmental issues/WPIEI-Biodiversity for the 2014 Greek Presidency of the EU Council.

The National Bank of Greece invited her to review its report on ‘The environmental, economic and social impacts of climate change in Greece’, and the 5th Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) invited her to review chapters of its famous report  ‘Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’. In addition to being a Member of the Council of European Ecological Federation (EEF) for nearly a decade, Vokou is also a founding member of the Hellenic Ecological Society (HELECOS), which she presided over for several years.

LWGreece Research Infrastructure Data Services

Research Infrastructure Data Services

The Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) is working on the enhancement of the LifeWatchGreece Research Infrastructure (LWGreece RI) Data Services. The purpose of these activities is to provide end-users with a user-friendly service, enabling them to search and access (meta)data from two sources, Micro-CT vLab and IPT MedOBIS.

The activities are divided into three major categories:

(a) design and implementation of facilities for harvesting data

(b) data modelling and semantic data transformation activities, and

(c) updates and enhancements of the Data Services of the LWGreece RI.

More details of these activities are given below:

A set of supporting services and tools have been designed and implemented, able to harvest resources from two databases: (a) the IPT MedOBIS database and (b) the Micro-CT vLab database. A harvesting mechanism has been implemented that exports information from the above-mentioned sources, which are subsequently transformed and added to LWGreece repositories (see point below). 

After harvesting data from the sources described above, they needed to be homogenised before depositing them in the repositories of the LWGreece infrastructure. To this end, a set of mappings was implemented, using X3ML Specification Language,[1] that describes the transition of the harvested resources from their original schemata, to a common target top-level ontology MarineTLO.[2] The result was a set of ontological-based descriptions regarding MarineTLO that were inserted into the LWGreece semantic repositories.

Several endpoints of the Data Services were updated, so that they can properly retrieve information from LWGreece semantic repositories. In addition, we have enhanced the services based on the findings and the updated modelling that emerged from the two new sources that were used (i.e., IPT MedOBIS, micro-CT vLab). 

It is worth mentioning that the Data Services (along with all the other available vLabs) is now available through the Metadata Catalogue of LifeWatch ERIC. Allowing this central catalogue to be machine-interoperable is necessary for the population of the catalogue, and implements the FAIR principles and EOSC-interoperability, promoted through ENVRI-FAIR WP9 and WP11.


[1] Marketakis, Y., Minadakis, N., Kondylakis, H., Konsolaki, K., Samaritakis, G., Theodoridou, M., Flouris, G. and Doerr, M., 2017. X3ML mapping framework for information integration in cultural heritage and beyond. International Journal on Digital Libraries, 18(4), pp. 301-319.

[2] Tzitzikas, Y., Allocca, C., Bekiari, C., Marketakis, Y., Fafalios, P., Doerr, M., Minadakis, N., Patkos, T. and Candela, L., 2016. Unifying heterogeneous and distributed information about marine species through the top level ontology MarineTLO. Program, 50(1), pp. 16-40.