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.

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:

Thematic workshop: LifeWatch ERIC explores climate change impacts on biodiversity

The second Thematic Workshop, out of a series of six, was organised by LifeWatch Italy. Following the success of the first workshop on Taxonomy hosted by LifeWatch Belgium, this event took place on February 21st and 22nd at the Rectorate Hall of the University of Salento in Lecce, Italy. Over a hundred participants attended the workshop, both online and in person. The workshop’s main objective was to understand and address the ecological impacts of climate change.

LifeWatch ERIC has planned a series of workshops for 2024 that will focus on its Thematic Services, ICT tools to support biodiversity and ecosystems research. Besides exchanging knowledge, these workshops aim to define working groups composed of experts in each thematic service. These experts will work towards continuous improvement by incorporating feedback from researchers and workshop participants. The workshops will occur from January to May 2024 in Belgium, Italy, Slovenia, and Portugal.

The workshop, opened by Alberto Basset – LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre Director and Full Professor of Ecology at the University of Salento – and Antonello Provenzale – LifeWatch Italy Coordinator and Director of the Institute of Geosciences and Georesources of the National Research Council – discussed the threats posed by climate change, agriculture, urbanisation and industrial production to ecosystems. Climate change affects ecosystems and biodiversity, causing increasing salinity levels and sea level rise, population shifts, altering species interactions, and reducing productivity and biomass. The workshop explored how ecosystems respond to the ecological impacts of climate change.

Speakers at the workshop included Doug S. Glazier, who discussed the link between increase in temperatures and individual metabolic responses; Piero Lionello, who showcased AI’s role in estimating coastal lagoons’ responses; and Milad Shokri, who delved into the energetic and behavioural responses of aquatic ectotherms to projected climate change. Gianpaolo Coro examined climate change’s impact on animal presence, while Francesco De Leo demonstrated collaborative coding platforms’ potential for biodiversity and ecosystem research. The symposium covered a spectrum of topics, including the presentation from Mara Baudena on the ecological resilience of Mediterranean forests and the cellular automata models for wildfire-vegetation interaction by Paolo Fiorucci. Marta Magnani focused on identifying environmental drivers of carbon fluxes, and Carmela Marangi delved into modelling soil organic carbon dynamics in wetlands. Jessica Titocci concluded the event by highlighting the monitoring of aquatic primary producers’ response to climate change. To have a look at the presentations, you can visit this link.

Working groups led by the community will be established to address the challenges and enhance collaboration between Common Facilities and Distributed Centers, to review and update the research needs mapping for Thematic Services within national scientific communities and identify construction priorities. This collective effort aims to pave the way for more robust solutions to tackle ongoing climate threats to ecosystems and biodiversity.

For more information and to register for the workshops, please visit our minisite.

LifeWatch ERIC launches the 2024 Thematic Service Workshop Series

lifewatch eric thematic workshop

Last update: 1 February 2024

The LifeWatch ERIC Thematic Services, co-developed by the LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities and National Distributed Centres, are a key component of the 2022-2026 Infrastructure Strategic Working Plan (SWP). They represent the key priority areas of eService construction in LifeWatch ERIC proposed by the National Distributed Centres.

Activities, developments and physical outcomes of the LifeWatch ERIC Thematic Services, as eServices, Virtual Labs (vLabs) and more complex and complete Virtual Research Environments (VREs), are planned to be coordinated by Thematic Service Working Groups participated by scientists from both the National Distributed Centres and the Common Facilities, with an overall coordination of the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre.

The following main objectives are envisaged for the Working Groups:

  • Enhance collaboration both between and within the Common Facilities and Distributed Centres;
  • Review and update the mapping of the research needs of the National scientific communities regarding the Thematic Services and highlight the construction priorities;
  • Promote and coordinate the participation of Distributed Centre research Institutions to Horizon Europe and other European/international projects, on behalf of and in collaboration with LifeWatch ERIC, in order to co-design and co-construct the priority services with other key actors in the biodiversity and ecosystem research landscape, including the relevant communities.

For the launch of Working Group constitution and the promotion of the activities and developments currently running on each LifeWatch ERIC Thematic Service, a series of LifeWatch ERIC Thematic Service Workshops have been co-organised by the LifeWatch ERIC National Distributed Centres and Common Facilities. Each Workshop is then locally organised by a LifeWatch ERIC National Distributed Centre, engaging the relevant national community, with the support of the Service Centre.

Workshops programme by Thematic Service

Click the Thematic Service for more information. The agenda will be updated with new workshops soon.

Hic Sunt Lupi: a new project to monitor the return of wolves in Salento

Hic sunt leones“, although historically unclear, is an expression used in cartography to describe unexplored, unknown territory. Similarly, the Hic Sunt Lupi project aims to understand the causes of a hitherto unknown situation: the wolf’s return to Salento (Italy).

Partners of this project are Regione PugliaCNR-IRET, and the Sapienza University of Rome, which will implement it with the support of LifeWatch Italy, the National Biodiversity Future Center and the University of Salento.

In recent years, people have spotted several wolves in the Salento area. However, gathering data and understanding the situation better is crucial before taking any measures to manage this phenomenon. Where do they come from? Have they crossed with dogs?

Thanks to this project, researchers will start investigating and answering these and other questions. Data collected throughout the project will be hosted and made accessible to the scientific community through LifeWatch Italy web services, such as its Data Portal and MetaData Catalogue. Moreover, the Italian Node of the Research Infrastructure will also support citizens’ engagement thanks to its Citizen Science platform, where data coming from people’s observations will be collected, validated and hosted.

Why this project matters

“The wolf has a crucial role in local ecosystems” – explains Francesco Cozzoli, CNR-IRET researcher. Its presence can help renature heavily anthropised habitats in Salento. Also, it controls the populations of wild or feral animals like wild boar. Although it can be a catalyst for ecotourism, the presence of large carnivores can create management issues. 

Francesco De Leo, researcher at the CNR-IRET, says it’s crucial to comprehensively understand the local situation: “The wolf is a mammal that adapts to changes in its environment, including its diet and habits”. This knowledge will be the foundation for an informed and effective management plan.

Therefore, the Hic Sunt Lupi project will systematically monitor the Salento area to determine the wolves’ demography, distribution and diet, mainly through photo-trapping and scat collection. This phase is aimed at mapping wolves’ population in the area. Furthermore, studying their genetics will help to understand their origin, most likely the nearby Apennines. Also, the analysis will provide information on their family structure and the degree of hybridisation with domestic dogs, thanks to molecular analysis technologies and spatial modelling.

“In an era in which human beings have colonised a large part of the habitats of wildlife, the issue of coexistence with large predators, such as bears and wolves, arises with increasing urgency. The latter has started re-populating Salento and its presence is arousing curiosity and concern. In order to find a solution, we need to put aside prejudices and ideologies and rely on research, on science. This is why I strongly wanted this project.” – says the regional Councillor for Environment, Anna Grazia Maraschio – “The first step we can take is to know, in as much detail as possible, its presence in the Salento area, so that we have the necessary tools for any assessment”.

Semantic Academy: the registration for the LifeWatch ERIC Intensive School is now open!

In recent years, one of the major challenges in Environmental and Earth Sciences has been managing and searching larger volumes of data, collected across multiple disciplines. Many different standards, approaches, and tools have been developed to support the Data Lifecycle from Data Acquisition to Data Curation, Data Publishing, Data Processing and Data Use. In particular, modern semantic technologies provide a promising way to properly describe and interrelate different data sources in ways that reduce barriers to data discovery, integration, and exchange among biodiversity and ecosystem resources and researchers. Therefore, we are delighted to announce the launch of the 2023 edition of The Semantic Academy – The LifeWatch ERIC Intensive School: Boost your research with semantic artifacts. And this time, we are back in person!

This school is organized by LifeWatch ERIC and will take place in Lecce, from 25 to 29 September 2023.
This edition’s title is “Boost your research with semantic artifacts”. This course is built as a five-day intensive school providing the knowledge on how to create semantic artifacts for a specific domain and use them to annotate and analyse data in a Virtual Research Environment (VRE). It will cover topics such as Data Science, Semantics, Ontology, Vocabularies, Virtual Research Environments (VREs). The School is therefore mainly aimed at IT architects, Research Infrastructure (RI) service developers and user support staff, and RI staff.

The Semantic Academy will welcome participants with a welcome cocktail event and social dinner, while the actual Intensive School programme will last from Monday afternoon to Friday morning, closing with a certificate ceremony.

The outline of the School programme is as follows:

  1. Introducing the LifeWatch ERIC eScience Infrastructure
  2. Ontology Engineering
  3. Designing and Developing vocabularies
  4. Using Semantics for discovering, accessing and analysing data in the Notebook-as-a-VRE (NaaVRE)
  5. Putting everything together: practical activity with participants projects presentations

EXTENDED DEADLINE: Interested persons are invited to apply by 30 July by filling in the sign-up form here
Participation is free, but registration is compulsory. Three grants are made available by LifeWatch ERIC to support applicants younger than 30 years. Successful candidates will be offered accommodation for the whole duration of the intensive school on the basis of their motivation letter and their curricula, while travel must be self-funded. LifeWatch ERIC is an equal opportunity organisation, and encourages all qualified candidates to apply, regardless of race, gender, age, national origin, or sexual orientation. Follow LifeWatch ERIC updates!

You can access the dedicated minisite with more detailed information on the Semantic Academy here.
You can find information about other Summer Schools on Data FAIRness previously organised by LifeWatch ERIC and the ENVRI Community on our Training & Education page.

LifeWatch ERIC at the Congress of the Italian Society of Marine Biology

From 12 to 15 June, the 52nd Congress of the Italian Society for Marine Biology (S.I.B.M.) took place. The Science Department at the University of Messina hosted it a few steps away from the Strait of Messina.

Alessia Scuderi, our Marine Megafauna Scientific Assistant, contributed an account of the Alborán project. Her ‘Cetaceans and maritime traffic in the Strait of Gibraltar: difficult but possible coexistence‘ presentation explored the vulnerability of species streams.

The LifeWatch Alborán project monitors flora, fauna and pollution of the marine and terrestrial environments, protecting and promoting biodiversity. The project is also highly inclusive and participatory, involving the scientific community, citizens and public administrations. It focuses on the Málaga coast in Andalusia, Spain.

The role of LifeWatch ERIC in Alborán is to provide electronic services and the construction of a Virtual Research Environments that contribute to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility network and promote the Smart City Cluster.

The SIBM congress – which featured personalities such as the Rector of the University of Messina, Salvatore Cuzzocrea, the Director of Biomorph, Sergio Baldari; and the Director of Chibiofaram, Sebastiano Campagna – was structured around four themes:

  • Extreme environments: new frontiers, resources and threats
  • Possible biotechnological applications of marine organisms: from bioactive molecules to bioremediation
  • History of Italian marine biology, and
  • Vulnerability of species, habitats and resources in the coastal marine environment.

The Italian Society of Marine Biology is a Not-For-Profit organisation, founded in 1969, dedicated to the protection and enhancement of nature and the environment, with particular emphasis on study and scientific research in the marine and coastal environment.

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.

Kick-off meeting of ITINERIS, the Integrated Environmental Research Infrastructures System


On 19 December 2022, the kick-off meeting of ITINERIS, the Italian Integrated Environmental Research Infrastructures System, was held in Rome. The project, funded with €155 million from the PNRR and coordinated by the CNR (the Italian National Research Centre), involves 22 European research infrastructures.

Gelsomina Pappalardo, CNR researcher and Italian delegate at the ESFRI Forum, who chaired the event, highlighted that: “this is a unique project of its kind, even if it has a formal duration of 30 months, it will change the future of Research Infrastructures in Italy with an impact on research for at least the next ten years”. The project aims to establish an Italian hub for accessing data, services and facilities for interdisciplinary study in the four environmental domains: atmosphere, marine, terrestrial biosphere and geosphere.

Work Package 2 of the project, presented by Carmela Cornacchia (CNR-IMAA Potenza) in collaboration with Ilaria Rosati (CNR-IRET Lecce and LifeWatch Italy) is in fact dedicated to “access”. Access to research infrastructures refers to the regulated use of research infrastructures, and to the services offered by them, be it physical, remote, or virtual access – as in the case of data and digital services. With WP2, ITINERIS aims to ensure the FAIRness of the access as well (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reproducible). The challenge is to coordinate the 22 infrastructures towards alignment with the requirements set by the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).

WP3, coordinated by Alberto Basset, Director of the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre and Manager of the LifeWatch Italy Joint Research Unit (JRU), will take care of training internal staff and future users of the infrastructures. More than 60 training courses are foreseen for the next 30 months.

After the presentation of WP4, 5, 6 and 7 dedicated to the four domains, each with the development of specific case studies, Antonello Provenzale, CNR-IGG and Coordinator of the LifeWatch Italy JRU, presented WP8. This WP will develop the Virtual Research Environments for data analysis and modelling of future scenarios in ITINERIS’ domains of interest. “Having a central hub that functions as a gateway for users to the infrastructures” said Provenzale, “will make us an example at a European level”.

Article originally posted on LifeWatch Italy.