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

ITINERIS

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.

“The Blue Crab” Wins International Prix Italia Festival

Prix Italia

Focused on sustainability, the 74th edition of the international Rai Festival of radio, TV and web productions took place from 4 – 8 October in Bari in southern Italy. The short film, realised by the students of University of Salento DAMS Filmmaking Laboratory in collaboration with LifeWatch ERIC, centres on the Blue Crab, an alien species that is increasingly replacing native species and changing the balance of the marine ecosystems in Europe.

Readers familiar with LifeWatch ERIC’s work will know that it spent its first five years focused on five validation cases on Non-indigenous and Invasive species in the development of its Virtual Research Environment. Students from the University of Salento, host of the LifeWatch Italy node and LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre, chose one of these validation cases as the premise for their submission to the “Sustainability” category of the Prix Italia festival this year: the infamous Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus).

This year’s theme being sustainability, students of the DAMS course quickly accepted Rai’s invitation to participate in the festival’s YLAB challenge, with a documentary made in collaboration with LifeWatch ERIC, the infrastructure’s Multimedia Production Centre and the Master’s course e-Biodiversity and Ecosystem Sciences (EBES). The short film centres on the Blue Crab, an alien species that is increasingly replacing native species and changing the balance of the marine ecosystem in Europe – a focus for research supported by LifeWatch ERIC. It was produced by the University of Salento DAMS Filmmaking Laboratory under the technical supervision of Emiliano Carico by students Martina Di Noi, Immacolata Parisi, Mirko Clemente, Gaia Pascali, Federica Gianfreda, Alessia Merico, Valentina Capone, Cosimo Micelli, Stefania Bocco and Giorgia Chirico.

The students’ creative efforts paid off during the award ceremony at the Kursaal Theatre on Friday 7 October, where “The Blue Crab” won the YLAB challenge prize! To learn more about the effects of the Blue Crab in Europe, read the paper published in the Biodiversity Data Journal “An individual-based dataset of carbon and nitrogen isotopic data of Callinectes sapidus in invaded Mediterranean waters”.

Following this success, DAMS student Mirko Clemente went to the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development (ASviS) Festival in Rome on Thursday 20 October to present the winning documentary in the session “Sustainability, Culture and Communication”. The aim of the Festival is to spread awareness about sustainability, make sustainable development a topical issue and draw national and local attention to the problems and opportunities related to the achievement of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda). The videos will soon also be broadcast on Sky.

Watch all the entries now on the LifeWatching Science Channel!

Il granchio blu (in Italian)

Our Earth, Our Home

Sonata breve (in Italian)

About the Prix Italia Festival

The 74th edition of the annual international Festival of radio, TV e web productions took place, organised by the Italian channel Rai, from 4 – 8 October in Bari in southern Italy, with the title “Sustainable Me”. Founded in Capri in 1948, the festival grows in influence each year, with 13 new members participating in the Prix Italia for the first time in 2022, among these Public Service broadcasters of Algeria, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Cuba, Jordan, Peru and the territory of Kosovo. This time round, the productions entered in the shortlists came from 31 different broadcasters and 23 different countries. Sixty-for competing products were selected by 86 jurors from the 321 works presented: 155 television programmes, 94 radio and 72 web projects. More than just a competition, Prix Italia is a celebration of creativity, with the three days full of conferences, shows, webinars and masterclasses, presented by a variety of international talents and attended by representatives from the UN, the Executive Board EBU (European Broadcasting Union) alongside the most noteworthy European broadcasters.

Second open access data paper published in the Biodiversity Data Journal

procambarus clarkii

The “LifeWatch ERIC Collection of Data and Services Papers” published in the Biodiversity Data Journal is dedicated to the resources and assets developed, upgraded and used during the implementation of the Internal Joint Initiative (IJI), our flagship project focused non-indigenous and invasive species (NIS). Following the debut paper “An individual-based dataset of carbon and nitrogen isotopic data of Callinectes sapidus in invaded Mediterranean waters” (Di Muri et al.) in January, a second open-access data paper in this series was published on 20 October 2022, entitled “Individual and population-scale carbon and nitrogen isotopic values of Procambarus clarkii in invaded freshwater ecosystems” (Di Muri et al.).

Freshwater ecosystems are amongst the most threatened habitats on Earth; nevertheless, they support about 9.5% of known global biodiversity while covering less than 1% of the globe’s surface. One such threat are NIS such as the Louisiana crayfish, Procambarus clarkii. Crayfish species are widely-distributed freshwater invaders and, while alien species introductions occur mostly accidentally, alien crayfish are often released deliberately into new areas for commercial purposes. Native to the south United States and north Mexico, P. clarkii has been introduced in Europe, Asia and Africa, having negative impacts in the majority of invaded habitats where it became dominant, meaning it had become essential to evaluate the ecological consequences and quantify its impact.

The paper presents two geo-referenced datasets of isotopic signatures of the Louisiana crayfish and its animal and vegetable prey in invaded inland and brackish waters. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this effort represents the first attempt to collate in standardised datasets the sparse isotopic information of P. clarkii available in literature. The datasets provide a spatially explicit resolution of its trophic ecology and can be used to address a variety of ecological questions concerning its ecological impact on recipient aquatic food webs.

The research was carried out within the context of the IJI, more specifically the ‘Crustaceans Workflow’, one of the validation cases used to develop an interdisciplinary Virtual Research Environment that utilises disruptive technologies to deal with the impacts of NIS on native species, genetic diversity, habitats, ecosystem functioning and services, and to inform current practices in environmental management and policy implementation. Stay tuned for the next paper!


ACCESS THE PAPER HERE

Semantic Synergies at the OntoPortal Alliance Workshop

OntoPortal Alliance Workshop

At the end of September, members of the team from LifeWatch ERIC and LifeWatch Italy were in Montpellier, France, for the OntoPortal Alliance Workshop. The OntoPortal Alliance is a consortium of research and infrastructure teams (and one SME) dedicated to promoting semantic and ontology services—in science and more—based on the open, collaboratively developed OntoPortal open-source software. Teams in the Alliance develop and maintain several openly accessible semantic resource repositories. This includes BioPortal, the primary and historical source of OntoPortal code, but also AgroPortal, EcoPortal, MedPortal and MatPortal.

The 2022 OntoPortal Alliance Workshop’s main goal was to consolidate the OntoPortal Alliance organisation and shared agenda. External parties interested in re-using and/or participating to the development of OntoPortal, or more generally interested in the management of ontologies and other types of semantic resources (terminologies, vocabularies, thesauri, etc.) were also welcome at the event, which included an open tutorial on “Setting up your appliance” (for condensed technical information on how to quickly deploy your own ontology repository). 

During the session, the representatives from the anthologies repositories discussed how they plan to use the ontology repositories provided by the alliance. Nicola Fiore, Xeni Kechagioglou (LifeWatch ERIC) and laria Rosati (LifeWatch Italy) presented EcoPortal, the repository of semantic resources developed by LifeWatch ERIC and co-managed with the Italian national node, to brainstorm its next evolution together with the alliance partners. Such synergies are fundamental to ensuring the coordination of the development of semantic resources for scientific research.

Serious Games for Students of Sustainability

Serious Game

Next month, LifeWatch Italy and DiSTeBA (the ecology laboratory of the University of Salento) will be taking part in the 31st Conference of the Sea (XXXI Rassegna del mare) organised by Mareamico, an environmental protection and ecological agency. Together, they will be putting on an educational session for students aged 11–14, coordinated by Franca Sangiorgio of the LifeWatch Italy node. The Conference will take place in Gallipoli in the province of Lecce in southern Italy, and this year will revolve around the theme of ‘Safeguarding Biological Resources and the Blue Economy’. In order to increase their awareness and understanding of sustainability issues, the students will be involved in tournaments focused on marine ecosystem protection and sustainability. LifeWatch Italy has for many years been working on the creation and implementation of scientific content for so-called “serious game” competitions, using the Ecologicamente platform; the initiative aims to contribute to raising awareness of sustainability issues, so that future citizens will be more conscientious when it comes to the environment. All the students taking part in the competition will receive a participation certificate and the schools which perform the best will receive a prize.

You can find the full programme for the event on the Mareamico website.

LifeWatch Italy in ParAqua Initiative to Investigate Algae-Parasite Interaction

Paraqua

In May this year, LifeWatch Italy was invited to join the COST Action CA20125 – Applications For Zoosporic Parasites In Aquatic Systems – ParAqua.

The main aims of this project are to organise and coordinate an innovative and dynamic network of academia researchers, industries, and water management authorities to advance and apply knowledge and expertise on zoosporic parasites (i.e. aquatic fungi and fungi-like microorganisms) and the relation with their hosts in natural ecosystems and industrial algal biotech production. 

Among the ParAqua objectives, specific task of WG1 and WG2 is to compile and integrate a database on zoosporic parasites across Europe and inventorise parasite effects on algal hosts in algal biotech and natural systems.

Ilaria Rosati and Andrea Tarallo, from the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) and in charge of several management aspects within LifeWatch Italy, joined the Action as members of WG 1 and 2. They led the workshop to kick off the activity, held in Larnaca (CY) on 5 July 2022, and will coordinate the actions to collect and manage the data provide by the project participants that will be hosted on the ParAqua database.

The final goal is to build the database and use it in order to provide a tool to help researchers and companies to take early data-informed decisions for algae cultures and parasite recognition.

This news item was originally posted on the LifeWatch Italy website.

Environmental Education as a Tool for Teaching Inclusivity

giovani ambasciatori

On 31 May 2022, at the Palazzo Marchesale of the Municipality of Melpignano, the closing event of the activities between schools and universities of the project “young sustainability ambassadors: Environmental education as a tool for teaching inclusivity” took place, funded by the University Consortium Interprovincial Salentino (Proposing body: Municipality of Melpignano, Executive Body: University of Salento, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Technologies and Department of History, Society and Human Studies).

The meeting was attended by: Valentina Avantaggiato, Mayor of Melpignano; Corrado De Concini, President of the National Academy of Sciences called XL; Rossano Ivan Adorno, Delegate for Human Resources of the University of Salento (representing CUIS); Alberto Basset, Delegate for Sustainability at the University of Salento (Project Coordinator); Franca Sangiorgio, Dip. of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Technologies (Project Activities Manager); and 170 students representing schools of every kind which are part of the project.

The project aims to raise awareness among younger generations about environmental issues, by delving into of the topics of sustainability and inclusivity (https://ecologicamente.lifewatchitaly.eu/giamsos/). The approach was based on a co-teaching model that involved students and students of the Bachelor of Science in Primary Education, trainers at primary schools, and secondary school students, as well as students who have been teaching in secondary schools.

In total, about 650 primary and secondary school students from 23 schools in the area of Salento participated in the project, in addition to students and students of the Bachelor of Science in Primary Education Sciences teaching Ecology and Special Pedagogy.

The project also included a training course on the S.O.F.I.A. platform for tutors of the secondary school.

Among the project partners were LifeWatch Italia, which hosts the project site on its platform, and the School Networks: Ambito 17 and RESATUR.

During the closing event, the award ceremony was also held for the winners of the project logo competition and the online serious game competition, on issues of sustainability and inclusivity.

Photogallery of the CUIS Award Ceremony: https://youtu.be/9QuSA_Ou2NY

This news item was originally posted on LifeWatch Italy.

ENVRI Community International Summer School is back in person!

ISS2022_news

We are delighted to announce the 2022 edition of the ENVRI Community International Summer School. And this summer, we are back in person! 

The Summer School, now at its fifth edition, is organised by ENVRI-FAIR and LifeWatch ERIC and will take place in Lecce, Italy, from 10–15 July. This edition’s title is “Road to a FAIR ENVRI-Hub: Designing and Developing Data Services for End Users”, and it will cover topics such as user interfaces, packaging of services, reusability and validation of services, and building and supporting networks through the lens of the ENVRI-Hub approach. 

This School is therefore mainly aimed at IT architects, Research Infrastructure (RI) service developers and user support staff, and RI staff working on user interaction and community/network building.

The Summer School will welcome participants on the afternoon of Sunday 10 July with an opening event, while the actual School programme will last from Monday to Friday afternoon, closing with a certificate ceremony. Two online webinars are also planned to take place in the third and fourth week of June on specific use cases, in preparation for the School or to attend as stand-alone sessions.

The outline of the School programme is as follows:

  1. Introducing the ENVRI-Hub (concept and architecture)
  2. Learning to know your end users and their expectations: requirements elicitation
  3. Creating high quality documentation and usage examples to support service end users
  4. Developing services and fostering reusability/interoperability among them
  5. Validating and evaluating your services
  6. Participants’ presentations, school evaluation and certificates

Successful applicants to “Road to a FAIR ENVRI-Hub: Designing and Developing Data Services for End Users” will be offered accommodation and lunch each day in the beautiful baroque city of Lecce in Southern Italy, and will be invited to “extracurricular” activities such as restaurant dinners and excursions in the surrounding area. 

Interested persons are invited to apply by 26 June by filling in the sign-up form here. Follow LifeWatch ERIC and ENVRI Community updates!

You can access the dedicated minisite with more detailed information on the School here.

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: Emilia Chiancone

Emilia Chiancone

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 Bari in 1938, the late Emilia Chiancone was Professor Emeritus of Molecular Biology at the “Sapienza” University of Rome and the first woman to become President of the Italian Academy of Sciences. Looking back at Chiancone’s life, we are inspired by the story of a prominent Italian scientist who, throughout her life, continuously broke barriers in terms of gender, and knocked down boundaries between disciplines.

Having graduated in Milan in Biological sciences, she moved to Rome which became the centre of her career. Together with the Nobel laureate Rita Levi Montalcini, Cecilia Saccone and Virginia Volterra, Emilia Chiancone was one of the first women to lead an Institute of the National Research Council of Italy (CNR), the Centre of Investigation on Molecular Biology, which under her guidance developed into the Institute of Molecular Biology and Pathology, which she chaired from 2002 to 2008. In 2007 she received the Antonio Feltrinelli Award for Biological Sciences from the Accademia dei Lincei, and in 2015, the Italian Society of Science History gave her its Lifetime Achievement Award for her commitment to the dissemination of science, once again the only woman recognised with this honour. Altogether, she authored over 200 publications in international journals, several monographs and two patents, gaining recognition for her studies on the evolution of the allosteric regulatory mechanisms of enzymes.

From 2011 until her passing, Chiancone was the first female President of the Italian Academy of Sciences, characterising her mandates with a series of initiatives which were positively welcomed by both the scientific community and wider society. She put a special emphasis on scientific dissemination, a pertinent example being  the organisation alongside the CNR of “Wheats&Women international conference – Carlotta Award 2018”. Despite a career in biochemistry, it was under her presidency that the National Academy of Sciences joined LifeWatch Italy in 2012; her commitment was valuable and unwavering, and permanently marked the story of this infrastructure. In her final years, she worked tirelessly to foster the connection between science and society, the participation of students in research projects and a focus on science in schools. Together with CNR and LifeWatch Italy, she was the promoter and organiser of a number of citizen science initiatives, among which the TrovaPiante di Villa Torlonia (an interactive multimedia guide to identify local flora), a complete guide to the rich flora of the metropolitan area of Rome (including over 1600 infrageneric taxa), and the first Italian Citizen Science Conference,  “Biodiversity, Networks, Open Science and Platforms”, as part of a prolonged effort to make science more inclusive. An excellent scientist and resolute woman, Emilia Chiancone distinguished herself for her expertise, dedication and commitment – a true role model and inspiration for all those who want to pursue a career in research, particularly young women.