World Conference on Marine Biodiversity 2020

The World Conference on Marine Biodiversity 2020 was successfully presented online between Sunday 13 – Wednesday 15 December 2020, by the University of Auckland, New Zealand. A state-of-the-art virtual conference platform, that facilitated interactive plenary sessions, live panel discussions, filmed presentations, e-posters, a meeting hub and virtual exhibition areas, attracted over 400 participants.  

LifeWatch ERIC was privileged to be able to support the international event as platinum sponsor. Chief Executive Officer Christos Arvanitidis, in a pre-recorded video message broadcast at the start of proceedings, warmly welcomed the participants, wishing them good luck and a great remote conference, inviting them to support the United Nations decade of ocean science for sustainable development and to become part of the LifeWatch ERIC global community.

The CEO’s emphasis on open access data, reproducible analytics and mobilised communities was reinforced by a dedicated webpage offering details of those LifeWatch ERIC products of greatest interest to marine biologists, with the Metadata Catalogue in prime position. National Nodes contributed materials on Micro-CTvLab, RvLab and MedOBIS (Greece), the LifeWatch Species Information Backbone, the Marine Observatory and three Antarctic services (Belgium), and EcoPortal (Italy).

LifeWatch ERIC staff from these member countries were also on hand at the virtual stand during the coffee breaks to maximise human interaction, in spite of the 12-hour time zone difference. The booth created considerable interest, with over 200 visitors overall and 85 downloads of brochures and other links. 

Castelporziano Estate Species Checklist

Castelporziano Biodiversity

The Castelporziano Presidential Estate, just outside Rome, Italy, is one of the three residences of the President of the Italian Republic. Dating from the fifth century, and declared a State Nature Reserve in 1999, the grounds at Castelporziano cover nearly 6000 hectares and are home to majestic oaks, laurel groves and free-roaming deer, foxes, badgers and wild boar. 

The Estate has now made its biodiversity dataset of 6329 taxa accessible through the LifeWatch Italy data portal and the LifeWatch ERIC metadata catalogue. The dataset is the result of the “Systematisation and geospatial analysis of the environmental monitoring data of the Castelporziano Estate” project, funded by the National Academy of Sciences (known as the XL), under the scientific supervision of Prof. Alberto Basset (University of Salento) and Prof. Emilia Chiancone (President of the Academy of XL). In parallel a series of 4 serious games were designed to support citizens and students in discovering the Castelporziano Presidential Estate, its biodiversity and ecosystem richness, and to further disseminate the species checklist (Check the dedicated minisite).

The first phase of creating the dataset involved the digitization of two checklists relating to the species found on the Estate from 1885 to 2006, with the integration in 2013 for the Insecta class. Subsequently, a literature search was carried out regarding all the publications on Castelporziano biodiversity from 2006 to 2019 and the data obtained were integrated into the dataset. All the observation records have been validated by botanical experts, wildlife specialists and entomologists of the Technical Scientific Commission of Castelporziano – Professors Sandro Pignatti, Carlo Blasi, Paolo Audisio and Marco Apollonio, who also provided unpublished data that were integrated into the dataset.

In the second stage, the data standardization and care/maintenance procedures were carried out using the services made available by the LifeWatch Italy platform. The dataset has been structured according to the LifeWatch Italy Data Schema which is based on the Darwin Core standard and on controlled vocabularies. For the dataset, 23 fields were selected that include information of a geographical, taxonomic nature, of the conservation status of the species according to the IUCN Red List and the Habitats and Birds Directives, as well as the alien trait and bibliographic references.

The dataset was subsequently screened for digitization errors and duplicate values removed. A taxonomic check was performed using the LifeWatch ITA nomenclatural reference system (Global Name Architecture; GNA). The GNA uses as its main Taxonomic Authority File the names present in PESI (Pan European Species directories Infrastructure; www.eu-.‐nomen.eu/portal), and for supplementary and subordinate purposes, two other nomenclators: WoRMS (www.marinespecies.org ) and the Catalogue of Life (www.catalogueoflife.org).

At the end of the standardisation and validation procedures, the dataset obtained presents 6329 taxa of which 6117 are species, 3073 genera, 801 families, 242 orders, 72 classes, 28 phyla, and 6 kingdoms.

The best represented of the latter is the animal kingdom with 3488 species, of which 2922 belong to the Insecta class. 0.77% of the species surveyed, or 49 species, are classified as alien. As for the conservation status, 492 species are present in the red lists of the IUCN (7.8%), 44 (0.7%) in the Habitat Directive 92/43 / EEC and 98 (1.55%) in the Birds Directive 2009/409 / EC. Overall, this represents 10% of the species present on the Estate and in particular 40% of the sedentary or migratory avifauna in the area.

The dataset and its metadata are accessible through the LifeWatch Italy data portal and the LifeWatch ERIC metadata catalogue. The metadata is freely available, while access and use of the dataset is guaranteed by a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license (“CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International”).

CNR Senior Fellowship with PhD announced

The Italian National Research Council Research Institute on Terrestrial Ecosystems (CNR-IRET) has issued a call for applications for a new Senior Fellowship with PhD position, based at the Research Unit (URT) CNR-IRET at the University of Salento in Lecce, Italy, under the supervision of professor Alberto Basset.  Applications close on 30 November 2020.  With an initial research grant for two years, the successful candidate will conduct research activities within the Internal Joint Initiative of LifeWatch ERIC, on the topic of: “Short- and long-term responses of aquatic ecosystems to alien species colonisation and invasiveness”. The research programme covers:

  1. Data mining on species and ecosystem responses to alien species patterns of ecosystem colonisation and invasion,
  2. Data aggregation, curation, analysis and modelling using the LifeWatch ERIC virtual research environments, and
  3. Developing models required for the scenario development of species and ecosystems responses to recent and growing Non-Indigenous Species (NIS) invasion on model aquatic ecosystems. 

 Applicants must have a Master’s and PhD in an appropriate discipline – Biology, Physics, Chemical Sciences, Sciences and Technologies Forestry and Environmental, Sciences and Technologies for the Environment and the Territory, Mathematics, Statistical Sciences – and two years of professional experience, documented with scientific publications. Knowledge of ecological theories, open access digital archives, a good command of the English language and proficiency in Italian (for overseas applicants) are also required. Please refer to the official Selection Procedures in English document and its Italian original. Look for Bando IRET162020LE on the CNR site here. Applications will not be accepted after 30 November 2020.

SItE Roundtable event

SItE Roundtable

When the annual Congress of the Italian Society of Ecology (Società Italiana di Ecologia – SItE), planned for 14-18 September in Lecce had to be postponed until next year because of Covid-19, the organising committee, in conjunction with LifeWatch Italy and the Ecology Laboratory at the University of Salento, decided to offer its members a day of online Roundtables entitled “SItE – Towards Lecce 2021” to celebrate Ecology Day on 14 September. Around 300 registrations were made to follow the 20 presentations offered across a comprehensive range of topics:

• Ecosystem health and chemical mixture risk assessment and management

• Ecosystems and their services for human well-being 

• Healthy Ecosystems, Healthy People

• Landscape ecology: sustainable landscape management, and

• Arctic and Alpine ecosystems in the face of climate change.

Dr Christos Arvanitidis was called up from LifeWatch ERIC to contribute to the Healthy Ecosystems, Healthy People session, which was organised by the European Ecological Federation and chaired by its President, Cristina Maguas. Dr Arvanitidis’ talk was on the topic of ‘Biodiversity and Emerging Infectious Diseases: the role of the RIs in combating threats to public health’, starting with the connection between environmental factors during the Plague of Athens (430 BC) and moving forward on to how modern European Research Infrastructures (RIs) contribute to analysing the connections between human and ecosystem health. An RI like LifeWatch ERIC offers a one-stop disruptive technology-based architecture combined with docker technology, that guarantees authentication, transparency and reproducibility, which form the cornerstones of the modern process of scientific knowledge production. In addition, Dr Arvanitidis argued, it enables “the linking of facts and fact-based theory across disciplines to create a common groundwork of explanation”. Click here to download the presentation. The 2021 Italian Society of Ecology congress will take place in Lecce, from 13 to 17 September.

Four post-doc positions at URT CNR IRET Lecce

Four post-doc positions have just been announced at URT-CNR IRET in Lecce for research activities in the framework of LifeWatch Italy.

The application deadline for all these calls is 10 September 2020.

Please check these attached documents for more information:

Development of data quality control and data analysis services in the context of e-Science 

Semantic technologies to support the distributed data centres of LifeWatch in biodiversity and ecosystem research

Development of a Virtual Research Environment for the implementation of scientific applications in a distributed cloud infrastructure

Harmonisation and analysis of morpho-functional trait data and the organisation of phytoplankton guilds.

S4BioDiv 2020

3rd International Workshop on Semantics for Biodiversity

The S4BioDiv 3rd International Workshop on Semantics for Biodiversity, to be held in Bolzano, Italy, on 16 September, has issued a call for papers. Authors are invited to submit for inclusion topics related the application and development of semantic technologies to support research in the biodiversity and related domains. In the light of the coronavirus crisis, the conference may need to be held virtually. The final format of the conference will be determined in June.

Biodiversity deals with heterogeneous data and concepts generated from a large number of disciplines in order to build a coherent picture of the extent of life on earth. The presence of such a myriad of data resources makes integrative biodiversity research increasingly important, as well as challenging given the variety of ways in which data and information are produced and made available. The Semantic Web approach enhances data discoverability, sharing, interoperability and integration through a formalised conceptual environment providing common formats, standards, and terminological resources.

The S4BioDiv 2020 Workshop, which is supported by LifeWatch ERIC, aims to bring together computer scientists and biologists, working on Semantic Web approaches for biodiversity, ecology and related areas such as plant sciences, agronomy, agroecology or citizen science related to biodiversity. The goal is to exchange experiences, build a state of the art of realizations and challenges, and reuse and adapt solutions that have been proposed in other domains. The workshop focuses will be on presenting challenging issues and solutions for the design of high-quality biodiversity information systems leveraging Semantic Web techniques.

Click here for conference details and important dates.

5th LifeWatch ERIC General Assembly

5th General Assembly

The Dirk Bouts Building in the Flemish Administrative Centre (VAC) in Leuven, Belgium, was the scene for the 5th LifeWatch ERIC General Assembly, from 11–12 December 2019, chaired by Gert Verreet. Composed of the representatives from all full Member States and observers, the purpose of General Assembly Meetings, the highest governing body of LifeWatch ERIC, is to set the overall direction and to supervise the development and operation of LifeWatch ERIC. 

At the heart of this 5th General Assembly lies the prototype of the LifeWatch ERIC Platform, an integrated initiative of LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities presented by the CTO, Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda. Thanks to its application layers and user-friendly interfaces, the prototype will enable the integration of all the resources, including web services developed by National Nodes over the years, as well as those resulting from Common Facilities and Joint Initiatives, like the recent investigation undertaken by the infrastructure members on the current and future challenges of NIS in Europe, into Virtual Research Environments (VREs). The prototype was adopted by the General Assembly, officially marking the beginning of the deployment and operational phase, with its implementation expected to continue until the end of next year.

With many other important issues on the agenda, this rich two-day meeting moved from a review of LifeWatch ERIC activities in 2019 to forward planning for 2020 and delivering general frameworks for implementation. Among these, the Assembly approved the general framework for Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to be used as the basis for a roll-out to national nodes in the course of the year, and an engagement policy to reinforce our dialogue with – and capacity to reach out to – external stakeholders. By finalising the rules and procedures for subsidiary bodies, and having established the selection committee to complete the recruitment of one of the most strategic positions, the Chief Financial Officer, LifeWatch ERIC will be in good shape to hit the ground running in 2020.

2nd Dahlem-Type Workshop

2nd Dahlem-Type Workshop

The LifeWatch ERIC Internal Joint Initiative was launched in October 2019 to design and construct a Virtual Research Environment capable of processing and modelling available data on one of the planet’s most burning biodiversity issues, the proliferation of Non-indigenous and Invasive Species (NIS), in order to help mitigate their impacts. 

Development of a new Virtual Research Environment (VRE) is essential to further integrate the tools and services available in the LifeWatch ERIC web portal. The process will allow stakeholders greater ability to develop their research activities within the e-Science Infrastructure, whilst also clearly demonstrating the added value that LifeWatch ERIC’s advanced technologies can bring not only to the biodiversity and ecosystem scientific community, but to policymaking and human wellbeing around the globe. 

The conceptual paper and workflow-timeline developed at the 1st Dahlem-type workshop in Seville, Spain, 14-18 October, formed the basis of this 2nd Dahlem-type Workshop, organised in Rome, Italy, from 2-6 December, this time coordinated by the LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda. This 2nd Dahlem-type workshop delivered the first prototype of the new LifeWatch ERIC Non-indigenous and Invasive Species Virtual Research Environment. The collaborative construction and deployment approach and the intense interaction between ICT and NIS experts made it possible to achieve definition of the requirements and needs of the scientific community and of the main architecture layers (application, e-Services composition, e-infrastructure integration, and resources) that underpin the VRE. 

1st Dahlem-type Workshop

LifeWatch ERIC just launched an Internal Joint Initiative (IJI) focusing on the topic of Non-indigenous and Invasive Species (NIS) with the aim of developing new dedicated Virtual Research Environments. The IJI kicked off with the organisation of the LifeWatch ERIC 1st Dahlem-type Workshop: Current and future challenges of NIS in Europe, which took place from 14th to 18th October, in the Casa de la Ciencia, and the V. De Madariaga Foundation, in Seville, Spain. 

The choice of the Dahlem-type1 workshop stems from the desire of the infrastructure to use the most participative interdisciplinary approach in the search for new perspectives to drive the international research agenda on NIS and to involve relevant communities in the development of validation cases. For this reason, experts from different domains – from scientists working in the field of NIS, to ICT specialists and bio-informaticians – gathered in Seville to select the most promising research and management questions, identify the resources and tools available and specify those to be developed.

As a first step, participants identified and clustered the main issues related to NIS and discussed two macro topics, 1) risks and impacts of NIS, and 2) long-term responses of both the NIS and the native communities after invasion. Participants agreed on the development of a general framework to describe and estimate both risks and impacts of NIS (Topic one) and responses from the perspective of both NIS and native communities (Topic two) in the context of climate change. Several validation cases were proposed for each topic to apply this new framework.

On topic one, the suggested validation cases focus on the EU-scale assessment of ecosystem and habitat-type vulnerability to NIS in the context of climate change, including an assessment of sink source dynamics for specific, model, ecosystem types such as harbour ecosystems. On topic two, the chosen validation cases are based on the availability of long-term data series on a number of relevant invaders: (1) Caulerpa taxifolia and racemose; (2) Callinectes sapidus & other Crustaceans; (3) freshwater fishes at a global scale; (4) Mnemiopsis; (5) Rugulopteryx; (6) Ailanthus invasion and response monitoring with satellite images; (7) Metagenomics for invasive species; and (8) early detection of NIS with the metagenomic approach. An additional validation case was also proposed for later collaboration dealing with the risk for human health of NIS as vectors of pathogens.

The  LifeWatch ERIC ICT team’s contribution was to highlight those data resources and services required for the development of the validation cases and to suggest the implementation of an innovative approach, LifeBlock, a LifeWatch ERIC service that for the first time ever applies blockchain technology to biodiversity science. 

As an immediate result of this collaboration, scientists and ICT experts jointly outlined a conceptual paper and designed a workflow that will serve as an organised timeline along which different e-tools have to be developed to help address relevant issues related to NIS for scientists, managers, decision-makers and society.

The next Dahlem-type workshop will take place in Rome from 2nd to 6th December 2019, this time driven and coordinated by the ICT community, to produce a second technical paper and pave the way towards developing the required Virtual Research Environments.

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1 A Dahlem-type Workshop is defined as a quest for knowledge through an interdisciplinary communication process aimed at expanding the boundaries of current knowledge, addressing high-priority problems, identifying gaps in knowledge, posing questions aimed at directing future inquiries, and suggesting innovative approaches for solutions. 

ISEM Global Conference 2019

The biennial conference of ISEM, the International Society of Ecological Modellers, is truly global.  From the level of interaction at the LifeWatch ERIC stand in Salzburg, Austria, from 1–5 October, it was clear that that ecologists, modellers and statisticians had come from all over the world, with 52 countries represented.

LifeWatch ERIC was the only infrastructure with a stand at the event, and the tools, services and catalogues available through the LifeWatch ERIC portal were of great interest to the 414 delegates present, all involved in the use of ecological models and systems ecology. 

Thanks to the activities organised at our stand, and the work of LifeWatch ERIC and Italy representatives, many new connections were established with members of community, the modelling one, which is of utmost interest for LifeWatch ERIC and, generally speaking, for biodiversity and ecosystem research. The infrastructure’s capacity to store and curate massive datasets is evidently very attractive to researchers dealing with spatial simulations, economic modelling, ecosystem management and geoinformatics around the world. 

Demonstrations delivered by Alberto Basset, Interim Director of the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre, and Francesco Cozzoli, LifeWatch Italy/University of Salento, attracted healthy crowds every lunchtime. LifeWatch ERIC demonstrations focused on virtual laboratories and matched the conference theme of “eco:model:spaces”. Delegates inspecting the 130 poster sessions were able to drop in to ask questions.

The Phyto and the Alien Species VREs demonstrations, backed up with leaflets and promotional materials, were complemented by video content on EcoPotential, the European H2020 project using Earth Observations to assist the management of Protected Areas, supported by LifeWatch Italy.