Bridging science, policy, and innovation at the last Thematic Service Workshop in Portugal

LifeWatch Portugal, in collaboration with all LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities and National Distributed Centres, organised the sixth and final Thematic Service Workshop at the University of Aveiro in Portugal on May 3. The workshop, entitled “Habitat Mapping: From Science and Policy Needs to Solutions”, aimed to explore the intersection of science, policy and innovative solutions in habitat mapping. It attracted a wide range of participants working in environmental conservation and data-driven decision-making.

The workshop had 14 online and 17 face-to-face participants. Alberto Basset from the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre presented the LifeWatch Thematic Core Service (TCS) and explored habitat mapping initiatives. Julien Radoux, representing LifeWatch Belgium remotely, provided insights into habitat mapping practices in the Belgian context. Tiago Múrias of LifeWatch Portugal further enriched the discourse with his presentation, followed by a Q&A session.

During the World Café session, moderated by Ana Lillebø, Bruna Oliveira and Daniel Crespo, participants were divided into groups to discuss various topics. These included services inside and outside the LifeWatch ERIC, identifying community needs and requirements, and developing strategies for further integration into the infrastructure. This interactive session facilitated collaborative dialogue and led to the development of actionable strategies to advance habitat mapping efforts.

In the final session, participants discussed how the TCS could work with the broader community. Alberto Basset and Ana Lillebø concluded the day’s proceedings by emphasising the importance of the discussions and the commitment of all participants to contribute to the advancement of habitat mapping initiatives. The workshop allowed stakeholders to come together and exchange ideas, share their best practices and make connections that could lead to significant progress. 

To learn more about our Thematic Service Workshop Series, please visit the dedicated 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.

A Dive into Parque das Serras do Porto’s Invertebrate Habitats

The park Serras do Porto in Portugal spans almost 6000 hectares across the municipalities of Gondomar, Paredes, and Valongo in the metropolitan area of Porto. It boasts a stunning array of natural wonders, including the mountains of Santa Justa, Pias, Castiçal, Santa Iria, Flores, and Banjas.

To better understand this region, which is so crucial for biodiversity, LifeWatch Portugal has published a free guide to invertebrates that includes 117 species observed in 6000 hectares of protected territory.

This guide is in two parts. The first looks at the challenges and needs of species conservation, providing valuable insights and guidance. The second part delves into the park’s landscapes, with photographs and information on the 117 species divided into 15 groups – including butterflies and moths, flies, beetles, dragonflies, grasshoppers, crickets, bees, wasps and leeches. Sónia Ferreira, the content coordinator and researcher at Associação BIOPOLIS/CIBIO, explains that the purpose of this guide is to provide valuable and accessible information to people of all ages, whether they are using it as a reference at home or during a visit to the park.

The guide celebrates the diverse ecosystem and beckons nature enthusiasts, families, and scholars to explore the enchanting world of butterflies, grasshoppers, and other species that live in this regional protected landscape. Inside, you will find species like the European stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) and the Kerry slug (Geomalacus maculosus), as well as invaders like the Red Palm Weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus). 

The guide also includes a chapter on the history of research carried out on the park, from the first observation by Spanish naturalist Ignacio Bolivar in 1887 to the legal creation of the protected area in 2017, which was written by José Manuel Grosso-Silva, curator of entomology at the Natural History and Science Museum of the University of Porto.

Are you ready to explore the species that inhabit Parque das Serras do Porto? Then grab your boots and your guide, and immerse yourself in nature! You can find more information on this page.

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[@]

Fortifying Spanish-Portuguese Cooperation on Technology for Research at IBERGRID 2022


IBERGRID 2022, the 11th Iberian Grid Conference, took place 10–13 October at the University of Algarve in Faro, Portugal. IBERGRID stands for the Iberian Grid Structure, federating computing and data resources across the Iberian area to support research and innovation. The theme of the conference was “Delivering Innovative Computing and Data Services for Research”, and LifeWatch ERIC had a strong presence at the event, with a presentation “EOSC Activities in the Environmental Sciences”  from ICT-Core e-Infrastructure Operations Coordinator Antonio José Sáenz on behalf of CEO Christos Arvanitidis and CTO Juan Miguel González-Aranda, as part of the EOSC tripartite event which took place on day 1, and a two-part workshop on “IBERLifeWatch” – focusing on a good practices approach for scientific, technology and innovation communities and on funding opportunities for Spanish-Portuguese cooperation on day 2 and day 4.

During the IBERLifeWatch workshop, LifeWatch ERIC was able to highlight its collaboration several prestigious research entities, with engaging presentations from representatives from FCTCSICMIRRI ERIC, the University of Huelva, the University of Granada, the FCCN UnitLIPGBIF, the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid, the Spanish government, the Junta de Andalucía, the Interreg Spain-Portugal programme, the LIFE programme, Estacão Biológica de MértolaUniversity of PortoLeuphana Universität LüneburgADRAL, the University of Aveiro, the University of Minho and many more, as well as coordinators of the Spanish and Portuguese nodes of LifeWatch ERIC itself. State-of-the-art LifeWatch ERIC tools were presented, such as LifeBlock and Tesseract, alongside important ERDF projects in the region involving the participation of the infrastructure, such as SmartFood and Smart EcoMountains, as well as wide-reaching agroecology initiatives such as ALL-Ready. To learn about the technology underpinning these projects, please see the presentations below.

LifeWatch ERIC would like to thank event organisers University of AlgarveLIPINCD and CSIC. The Iberian Peninsula is a biodiversity hotspot and it is key that synergistic initiatives and projects such as those mentioned during the meeting are maintained and expanded, and IBERGRID 2022 provided the perfect opportunity to acknowledge and reinforce cross-border collaboration.

To see photos from the event, please see our gallery.

Presentations from the IBERLifeWatch workshop are available below:

José Manuel Ávila | Innovation on Agroecology to support a transition to more sustainable and resilient agrifood systems

Kety Cáceres Falcón & Sofía Vaz | Funding European opportunities for ES-PT collaboration

Estação Biológica de Mértola | Presentation

Juan Miguel González-Aranda | IBERLifeWatch: A scientific, technology and innovation Communities of good practices approach

Pablo Guerrero, Jaime Lobo & Emilio de Leon | Improving the environmental monitoring cycle, remote sensing & space technologies

Rohaifa Khaldi | Application of Artificial Intelligence in the study of Ecosystems

Emilio de Leon | Early detection of invasive species using metabarcoding

Joaquín López | LifeBlock and semantic environment status and roadmap

Carlos Javier Navarro | Remote Sensing in ecology and conservation of mountain systems

Nuria Pistón | Ecosystem Services modelling in mountain systems

José Rodriguez Quintero | University of Huelva cross-border projects

Teresa del Rey | Improving connectivity between populations of the endangered Iberian lynx

Antonio José Sáenz Albanés | Tesseract

Antonio José Sáenz Albanés | Technical Presentations Report

Diego de los Santos | Spanish-Portuguese cooperation for the conservation of Iberian biodiversity

Ester Serrão | Biodiversity and Function of underwater habitats

Centro Internacional de Investigacion e Innovacion en Biodiversidad

Oficina Técnica de apoyo a proyectos FEDER LifeWatch ERIC con Junta de Andalucía

Parque Natural Los Alcornocales

Valorizacion de servicios ecosistemicos mediante plataforma AI

Unravelling Biodiversity in Parque das Serras do Porto

LifeWatch Portugal Biodiversity Day

To celebrate International Biodiversity Day 2022, LifeWatch Portugal and partners are organising a 4-day BioBlitz, from 19–22 May, in collaboration with Vila do Conde – Ciência Viva Center – and the Serras do Porto Natural Park (Parque das Serras do Porto). The first two days will be dedicated to school groups and the weekend will be open to families and adults.

Researchers from the Natural History and Science Museum of the University of Porto (MHNC-UP) and the Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources (BIOPOLIS/CIBIO-InBIO) are inviting everyone to step out into the wild and unravel the beautiful biodiversity of some of the most iconic natural sites in Northern continental Portugal, in the regions of Valongo, Gondomar and Paredes.

Among the taxonomic groups represented in this LifeWatch Portugal BioBlitz are micromammals, insects, vascular plants, bryophytes, amphibians and reptiles, birds and bats. All activities are free of charge and the data collected will be entered into the BioDiversity4All platform, a member of the iNaturalist Network.

The International Day for Biological Diversity commemorates the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity on May 22, 1992, at the Rio Earth Summit. This United Nations-sanctioned international day reminds us that despite all our technological advances, humanity is completely dependent on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for our water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter and energy, just to name a few. The International Day for Biological Diversity theme for 2022 is “Building a shared future for all life”. The slogan invites the global community to re-examine its relationship with the natural world and emphasises that biodiversity is the answer to sustainable development challenges.

International Women’s Day 2022: Rita Covas

Rita Covas

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. 

A principal researcher at BIOPOLIS/CIBIO-InBIO and an Honorary Research Associate at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, Rita Covas has dedicated her career to the study of biodiversity. She focuses her research on birds and especially social behaviour, with relevant implications for our understanding of the evolutionary concepts of solidarity and cooperation. She has a passion for fieldwork and has authored or co-authored 27 scientific publications.

Covas completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Lisbon, in Portugal, which included a graduation dissertation on the biogeography of Mediterranean birds conducted at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Montpellier. After graduating, she was given a BP Conservation Award, to work on the poorly-known seabird community of São Tome and Principe in the Gulf of Guinea, West Africa. In 1998, she moved to Cape Town to start a PhD at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute studying cooperative breeding behaviour in the Sociable Weaver, and afterwards she moved to the University of Edinburgh and started work on the birds from the Gulf of Guinea islands. 

The quality of her work led her to obtain a Marie Curie fellowship to expand her research at the CEFE-CNRS in Montpellier, France. At the end of 2008, she returned to South Africa to re-launch the sociable weaver study, and in 2019 she was awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant to lead her research in the African savannah, with the goal of studying the relationships between species and the way they cooperate.

Covas’ research demonstrates the intrigue of cooperation from an evolutionary perspective; cooperation is beneficial to the group, but has costs for each individual. Despite this, cooperation is prevalent in nature, from microorganisms to human societies. Understanding what enables evolution and maintains cooperation is a fundamental issue in evolutionary biology.

Celebrating European Researchers’ Night 2021

European Researchers' Night 2021

Friday 24 September marked the 2021 edition of European Researchers’ Night (ERN), the Europe-wide event which takes place every year on the last Friday of September. The aim of the initiative is to bring research and researchers closer to the public, displaying the diversity of science and its impact on citizens’ daily lives.

The LifeWatch ERIC Common Facility in Spain celebrated the occasion by taking part in ERN Seville (Spain), setting up its own designated area in the Plaza de San Francisco. Here it presented the SUMHAL Project (Sustainability for Mediterranean Hotspots in Andalusia integrating LifeWatch ERIC), which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund. The core objective of this project is biodiversity conservation in sustainable natural/semi-natural systems of the Western Mediterranean, using high-tech infrastructures. Speakers included Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC CEO, Margarita Paneque, National Research Council of Spain and Delegate for Andalusia and Extremadura, and Juan Miguel González-Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC CTO and ICT-Core Director, in the left-hand photo above.

In Portugal, on the other hand, ERN2021 saw activities taking place in 20 cities, with the active involvement of PORBIOTA, which coordinates LifeWatch Portugal. The Researchers for European Green Growth and Education Consortium, coordinated by the Ciência Viva Agency, together with the Institute for Research & Innovation in Health and the Institute of Chemical and Biological Technology ‘António Xavier’, mobilised 18 science centres, which promoted 78 build-up activities and over 100 activities. Altogether, around 7000 participants of all ages were engaged in the programme.
In turn, Science for Climate, coordinated by the Portuguese National Museum of Natural History and Science of the University of Lisbon, brought together the Universities of Minho, Coimbra and Évora, the University Institute of Lisbon, the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, the Estoril Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotel Studies, and the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory. The partners, several of which belong to PORBIOTA, promoted 7 build-up activities, including a bioblitz, and an open day for school groups, which set up 13 activities in various scientific fields. In addition, an online programme with 90 different activities was promoted, and on the 24 September, an onsite programme with 156 activities took place in Évora, Lisbon, Coimbra and Braga, mobilising a total of 4581 participants. The right-hand photo shows the open night at the Portuguese National Museum of Natural History and Science of the University of Lisbon.

Spatial modelling in Portugal

Spatial Modelling

study from 2012 to 2019 in the Sabor river in northeast Portugal focused on stream fish affected by hydropower development. Trajectory analysis was used to quantify the directionality and velocity of community change across 30 sites, and geometric modelling provided a simple framework to understand where and why temporal community dynamics vary across dendritic stream networks.

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Crowdsourcing platform for Coimbra Herbarium


The Herbarium of the University of Coimbra, Portugal, celebrated its 140th anniversary in 2020, but it is only since 2002 that the collection has been moving online to make sure that these priceless resources will be available to future generations. As the digitisation is a painstakingly slow process, the University has developed a platform to enable citizen scientists to contribute to the transcription of information to the database. The COI Catalogue, as it is known internationally, contains approximately 800,000 specimens, many of which are of great historical interest. The new crowdsourcing platform – EXPLORATOR – allows registered citizens to update the descriptive labels within the database workflow, with which it is fully integrated. The data validated by the platform is progressively added to the master database and therefore made available through the online catalogue. 

EXPLORATOR was developed by the Herbarium COI team within the framework of PORBIOTA, the Portuguese e-Infrastructure for information and research on biodiversity, which manages LifeWatch Portugal. It provides each user with an image and a form to be completed one field at a time. A help icon is available for each field to provide support at every stage of the process. When a value is submitted, the platform verifies whether different values have been submitted for that field and issues an alert for discrepancies.

This validation function allows less experienced citizen scientists working in EXPLORATOR to start with fields that are easily identified and helps them become familiar with the herbarium specimens and the type of information required. When a given number of responses are validated as correct, the user is given access to the next levels which unlock more complex fields.  The architecture therefore encourages learning and greater proficiency, as well as avoiding inadvertent errors.

User proficiency levels determine the assignation of confidence values to the data entered. Validation occurs when the sum of points for a value reaches 60. Answers from an expert user are worth 50 points and those from a basic user are only worth 10, so the same value would have to be submitted by six basic users to equal the work of one expert. As an additional safeguard, manual validation by an administrator is also possible. 

The EXPLORATOR platform currently accounts for 300 registered users and a total of 140,000 submissions, which relate to 36,000 validated fields. As only 12 percent of the catalogue materials have been processed so far, it is hoped that more citizen scientists will step forward and help speed up the work of the PORBIOTA e-infrastructure consortium in storing and managing biodiversity data that is essential for the national agenda for biodiversity research.