LifeWatch ERIC and Andalusian Government Announce Details on SmartFood Nanosatellite Launch

SmartFood nanosatellite launch

The Councillor for Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development of the Junta de Andalucía, Carmen Crespo, was welcomed to LifeWatch ERIC’s ICT-Core office in Seville yesterday, accompanied by the director of the Andalusian Agricultural and Fisheries Management Agency (AGAPA), José Carlos Álvarez, to discuss trailblazing agroecology initiatives which will have wide-ranging impacts. 2023 is an exciting year for LifeWatch ERIC, as it gains traction in the EU research and innovation sector.

LifeWatch ERIC has a strong historic collaboration with the Junta de Andalucía, one such synergy being with the AGAPA on the ERDF SmartFood project, for which a nanosatellite equipped with a very high resolution multispectral camera will be launched in October this year from a Space X base in the United States. The aim of the SmartFood project is to monitor the impact of agriculture, livestock and fishing on the sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems ­– LifeWatch ERIC has the technological lead here, and is creating the nanosatellite mission control centre “eBRIC” (eBiodiversity Research & Innovation International Centre) in the Doñana National Park, in partnership with the University of Huelva. Among other things, the centre will focus on interconnected sensorisation at the terrestrial, atmospheric (observation stations, drones) and spatial level (satellites); the study of invasive species; aquifer conservation; native flora and fauna protection; and virtual laboratories for scientific research in the Cloud, using ICT such as Big Data, Artificial-Deep Intelligence “Deep Learning”, and especially Blockchain, through the LifeWatch ERIC LifeBlock tool. The infrastructure conceives the e-BRIC as an international reference centre for Europe, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean, aligned with the United Nations through the UNOOSA Office for Biodiversity and Climate Change.

Crespo also congratulated the infrastructure on being chosen to play a key technological role in the AELLRI EU Partnership initiative proposed by the European Commission, as part of the Horizon Europe topic provisionally entitled “Accelerating farming systems transition: agroecology living labs and research infrastructures”, to pioneer the EU’s agricultural transition towards sustainable agroecological models. She highlighted “the importance of the research work carried out by Lifewatch ERIC, offering important data that allows better decisions to be made in the pursuit of sustainable agriculture and preserving biodiversity”, citing how these technological innovations will support Andalusia in reaching and maintaining EU ecological agricultural objectives, both on land and at sea.

CTO Juan Miguel González-Aranda underlined the importance of the agricultural, fishing and livestock sector within the green and blue development paradigms, in coordination with the Green Deal and Blue Growth policies of the EU, and expressed his gratitude for the institutional support, especially from the Ministry of Agriculture, pointing out that “biodiversity cannot turn its back on the primary sector, which is so important for the Autonomous Community of Andalusia”.

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.

LifeWatch ERIC at COP15 US-Africa Summit in Washington

COP15 US Africa Summit

LifeWatch ERIC continued its contribution to COP15 on 12 December, when Chief Technology Officer Juan Miguel González-Aranda gave a presentation to the US-Africa Summit in Washington D.C. entitled “United in BIOdiversity: e-Research Collaboration on (e-)Biodiversity & Ecosystem Sustainable Management in support of the accomplishment of SDG 2030. A Global Challenge”.

Dr González-Aranda’s thesis is that we are moving towards the Sixth Great Extinction, and that it is of essential importance that we address our current environmental challenges and provide knowledge-based strategic solutions to biodiversity loss. LifeWatch ERIC’s Big Data tools allow researchers to assess and monitor ecosystem functions and then provide science-based knowledge so decision-makers can intervene to restore the biodiversity on which human wellbeing depends.  

The US-Africa Summit, 12–16 December, is a side event to the 15th Conference of the parties in Montreal, Canada, the main objective of which is to adopt the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, released in July 2021, and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. COP15 recognises that urgent policy action globally, regionally and nationally is required to transform economic, social and financial models to reverse the trends that have exacerbated biodiversity loss.

LifeWatch ERIC Contributes to United Nations COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal

COP15

COP15, the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, is not as well-known as the COP27, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention and Climate Change, held last month in Egypt. However, the Biodiversity Conference, 7-19 December in Montreal, Canada, is the most significant conference on biodiversity in a decade because it will see the adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, which provides a strategic vision and a global roadmap for the conservation, protection, restoration and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems for the next 10 years.

LifeWatch ERIC, the European Infrastructure for biodiversity and ecosystem research, was represented, virtually, by Chief Technology Officer and Executive Board member Juan Miguel González-Aranda, in an ancillary event on 8 December 2022, organised by the Indigenous Knowledge Research Infrastructure (IKRI), dedicated to addressing the challenges for biodiversity and resiliency of ecosystems. Dr Milind Pimprikar, Chairman of CANEUS, moderated the session, emphasising that indigenous knowledge and practices need to recognised and documented to leverage, integrate and address the urgent challenges the world is facing.

Dr González-Aranda’s contribution described LifeWatch ERIC’s provision of data services as structuring tools in the federation of indigenous knowledge to assist sustainable environmental management, and cited case studies in food, agroecology and green medicine systems. Indigenous knowledge is key to collaborating in a global climate change scenario, he argued, adding that LifeWatch ERIC’s e-Science tools a “Tactical Perspective Action” of not reinventing the wheel, but bringing together sustainable management communities of practice. The infrastructure already works with many countries in guaranteeing the FAIR-ness of data, their interoperability, providing science-based examples of best practice.

The IKRI session at COP15 featured nine other speakers from around the globe and the panel consisted of: Ms. Joan Carling, Executive Director, Indigenous Peoples Rights International, Philippines; Ms. Nāmaka Rawlins, Director of Neʻepapa, Aha Pūnana Leo, Hawaii; Dr. Hussein Isack, Kivulini Trust, Kenya; and Dr. Terence Hay-Edie, GEF Small Grants Programme Advisor, United Nations Development Programme. 

LifeWatch ERIC CTO COP15

Celebrating 15 Years of WoRMS

WoRMS 15 years

In 2007, the digitally available European Register of Marine Species (ERMS) expanded into a World Register of Marine Species, et voila, WoRMS was born. WoRMS is hosted by VLIZ, which is the national focal point for LifeWatch Belgium. In 2022, WoRMS can be seen as the number one authoritative classification and catalogue of marine names.

WoRMS is managed by a small Data Management Team (DMT) and an elected Steering Committee (SC), but the actual driving force behind the high-quality content of WoRMS is the Editorial Board. Completing and correcting WoRMS requires an enormous continuing effort and is entirely dependent on the expertise and time of the editors. On top of that, it is a race against time as species are at risk of disappearing due to changing environmental conditions such as warming, pollution and acidification, before they are discovered.

To celebrate its 15th birthday and 15 years of collaboration with (taxonomic) experts all over the globe, WoRMS designed an exclusive t-shirt, with proceeds used to coordinate and disseminate funds to the WoRMS editors. With the funds raised, editors will be able to continue to fill gaps in coverage, expand the content and enhance the quality of taxonomic databases, attract interns and students to assist in the verification of taxonomic information, and purchase scientific literature.

And there’s more! Check out all the stories below on the LifeWatch Belgium website in celebration of 15 years of WoRMS!

Get to know the WoRMS editors here!

The growth of WoRMS over the years

Developing the database

Setting priorities to address gaps

Behind the scenes

Taxonomy – a science, an art, or a battleground?

The challenge of author names

Dark literature

Type localities

LifeWatch ERIC at the International Conference on Ecological Sciences in Metz

Metz

The SFE2, GFÖ & EEF International Conference on Ecological Sciences is taking place in Metz this week, from 21–25 November, organised by the LIEC (University of Lorraine, CNRS) and other labs in northeastern France working in the fields of ecology and evolution. LifeWatch ERIC is not only there with a stand, but is contributing to the agenda with cutting-edge topics in the field of biodiversity– namely, Non-indigenous and Invasive Species (NIS), considered one of the major threats to ecosystem functioning and one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss.

The European Infrastructure for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research is putting on two events at the Conference on Ecological Sciences, a Workshop on 21 November to train scientists in the use of e-tools and resources to address key ecological questions on Non-indigenous and Invasive Species, and a Symposium on European Research Infrastructures (RIs).

The Workshop consists of a 4-hour training session in which interested attendees learn how to access and use LifeWatch ERIC Virtual Research Environments (VREs) from their personal computers, in which NIS case studies and workflows are embedded. The hands-on session is introduced by an interactive session to guide the attendees on their first approach to the VREs and related e-tools.

At the Symposium on 24 November, the discussion focuses on major scientific and societal challenges presented by biodiversity loss. Speakers are to present their RIs, then illustrate the services and facilities that these RIs can provide to address major threats for biodiversity (e.g., alien species, habitat degradation and fragmentation, etc.) and tackle climate change impacts affecting ecosystem functioning and services. It is therefore also an occasion to explore multidisciplinary expertise and synergies on these key topics.

Please follow the links for more information on the Workshop and the Symposium.

EU, Latin American, Caribbean and Ibero-American Community Meeting on Sustainable Ecosystem Management

Seville Meeting

This week, coordinators of national biodiversity information networks linked to GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, providing the largest biodiversity data network in the world, will work together to accelerate the development and use of data technology networks and services, with the support of the EU and the UN. The meeting will be held in the Cartuja Science & Technology Park in Seville, home to the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core.

Understanding and coordinating biodiversity information is essential to respond to current social and environmental challenges and for the sustainable management of ecosystems. The strategic meeting, organised by LifeWatch ERIC, will bring together 30 experts and coordinators from 15 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Ibero-America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Spain, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Portugal, Uruguay and Venezuela, with the following aims:

1. Development of a common roadmap for the development and consolidation of (e-)Infrastructures and services that, from the perspective of e-Science, contribute to:

– the best sustainable management of the territory;

– the conservation of biodiversity and the natural environment;

– the achievement of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, in synergy with the EU Green Deal, EU Blue Growth, EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 and EU Farm to Fork programmes, among others.

2. Exchange of experiences and capacities in handling issues and challenges common to national and international infrastructures, data, information and knowledge in (e-)biodiversity. A consensus document of conclusions including a EU-LAC Roadmap to co-develop, build and deploy through the financial support of the relevant calls (CYTED, GBIF, Cooperation Agencies, Horizon Europe, the NDICI, etc.)

3. The development of the above based on the paradigm of biogeographical regions in the CELAC area, through national cross-border collaboration between the states involved, in collaboration with the EU and the UN, e.g., through IKRI, the Indigenous Knowledge initiative Research Initiative, based on the aforementioned financial instruments.

Participating in the inaugural session of this initiative are Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC CEO; Juan Miguel González Aranda, CTO and Head of LifeWatch Spain; Joe Miller, GBIF Executive Secretary; Margarita Paneque Sosa, Institutional Coordinator of CSIC in Andalusia; Francisco Pando de la Hoz, representative of GBIF Spain; Melisa Ojeda, representative of GBIF nodes in CELAC area, and many others. Javier Castroviejo Bolívar, eminent Spanish biologist, UNESCO Consultant and former president of IberoMaB, the Network of National MaB Committees and Biosphere Reserves of Ibero-America and the Caribbean, will give a keynote address.

ALL-Ready Regional Workshop Hosted by LifeWatch ERIC: Accelerating the Agroecology Transition

ALL-Ready Workshop

LifeWatch ERIC is hosting a hybrid regional workshop on 2 November for the ALL-Ready Project, at its ICT-Core office in Seville, located in the Cartuja Science and Technology Park. It will be attended by the project partners and more than 50 experts from Spain, Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria and Italy, of which 50% of the attendees are members of the Andalusian agricultural and agri-food sectors. Presenting will be Consolación Vera, General Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock and Food of the Junta de Andalucía, and José Carlos Álvarez, Managing Director of AGAPA, the Andalusian Agricultural and Fisheries Management Agency, alongside representatives of workshop organisers LifeWatch ERIC (Juan Miguel González-Aranda, CTO) and INRAE (Heather McKhann, Muriel Mambrini-Doudet). The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development of the Junta de Andalucía and its organic farming working group are also collaborating in the organisation of the event, to involve the Andalusian community of farmers (through the SmartFood project). They will present as a success story their experience promoting and stimulating the creation of Living Labs in Agroecology to enhance the presence of Andalusian farmers in the European Association. More information on the workshop and attendees here.

The important news from this Horizon2020 project is that the European Commission, through Horizon Europe, is designing the European Association to Accelerate the Transition of Agricultural Systems through Living Labs (collaborative workspaces) and Research Infrastructures in Agroecology, formed of the ALL-Ready project consortium and the experts in attendance at the workshop. The aim is over the next seven years to mobilise more than 500 million euros in order to bring the green and digital revolution to fruition in the agricultural sector, in line with the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Biodiversity Strategy 2030, the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the UN SDGs. At the workshop, the participants will work together to propose the focus, maturity and financing of their initiatives, taking into account the practices and values ​​of ALL-Ready, to define their respective roles in the network. Another goal is to boost the participation of local agents from Southern Europe in the initiatives that will be organised by the Association.

For its part, LifeWatch ERIC has been designated by the European Commission as the Reference Research Infrastructure for the management of knowledge, data and infrastructure of Information Technology Association, and to help contribute to a green and digital revolution across Europe. To this end, the infrastructure is developing an innovative Virtual Research Environment based on its Tesseract and LifeBlock (which uses Blockchain) platforms, which will support the tokenisation of ecosystem services to enable ecosystem monitoring and tracking and CAP schemes based on agroecological practices and low-carbon agriculture. These developments carried out from Andalusia through its AstarteWatch network will be duly federated at a pan-European level through the LifeWatch ERIC e-Infrastructure.

In the two days following the regional workshop on 2 November, the ALL-Ready Annual Meeting morning will take place between the 13 entities of the project consortium, hosted by LifeWatch ERIC. Together, they will analyse the achievements made in the first phases of the project, define and plan the next steps, organise the growing involvement of all sectors linked to agroecology and model the training courses that contribute to systematising the legacy of this project and its continuity.

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

One Biodiversity Knowledge Hub to link them all: the II BiCIKL General Assembly

BiCIKL General Assembly


The Horizon 2020 – funded Project BiCIKL, in which LifeWatch ERIC is a partner, has reached its halfway stage. The partners gathered in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) from 22 – 25 October for the Second General Assembly, brilliantly organised by Pensoft Publishers

The BiCIKL project will launch a new European community of key research infrastructures, researchers, citizen scientists and other stakeholders in the biodiversity and life sciences based on open science practices through access to data, tools and services. BiCIKL’s goal is to create a centralised place to connect all key biodiversity data by interlinking 15 research infrastructures and their databases. The 3-year European Commission-supported initiative kicked off in 2021 and involves 14 key natural history institutions from 10 European countries.

BiCIKL is keeping pace as expected (16 out of 48 deliverables have been submitted, 9 are in progress/under review and due in a few days, 21 out of 48 milestones have been achieved).

The hybrid format of the meeting enabled a wider range of participants, which resulted in robust discussions on the next steps of the project, such as the implementation of additional technical features of the FAIR Data Place (FAIR being an abbreviation for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). This online platform – the key and final product of the partnership and the BiCIKL initiative – is meant to provide scientists with all types of biodiversity data “at their fingertips”. 

This data includes information, such as detailed images, DNA, physiology and past studies concerning a specific species and its ‘relatives’, to name a few. Currently, the issue is that all those types of biodiversity data have so far been scattered across various databases, which in turn have been missing meaningful and efficient interconnectedness.

Additionally, the FAIR Data Place, developed within the BiCIKL project, is to give researchers access to plenty of training modules to guide them through the different services.

Halfway through the duration of BiCIKL, the project is at a turning point, where crucial discussions between the partners are playing a central role in the refinement of the FAIR Data Place design. Most importantly, they are tasked with ensuring that their technologies work efficiently with each other, in order to seamlessly exchange, update and share the biodiversity data every one of them is collecting and taking care of. 

By Year 3 of the BiCIKL project, the partners agree, when those infrastructures and databases become efficiently interconnected to each other, scientists studying the Earth’s biodiversity across the world will be in a much better position to build on existing research and improve the way and the pace at which nature is being explored and understood. At the end of the day, knowledge is the stepping stone for the preservation of biodiversity and humankind itself.

“Needless to say, it’s an honour and a pleasure to be the coordinator of such an amazing team spanning as many as 14 partnering natural history and biodiversity research institutions from across Europe, but also involving many global long-year collaborators and their infrastructures, such as Wikidata, GBIF, TDWG, Catalogue of Life to name a few. I see our meeting in Plovdiv as a practical demonstration of our eagerness and commitment to tackle the long-standing and technically complex challenge of breaking down the silos in the biodiversity data domain. It is time to start building freeways between all biodiversity data, across (digital) space, time and data types. After the last three days that we spent together in inspirational and productive discussions, I am as confident as ever that we are close to providing scientists with much more straightforward routes to not only generate more biodiversity data, but also build on the already existing knowledge to form new hypotheses and information ready to use by decision- and policy-makers. One cannot stress enough how important the role of biodiversity data is in preserving life on Earth. These data are indeed the groundwork for all that we know about the natural world” – said BiCIKL’s project coordinator Prof. Lyubomir Penev, CEO and founder of Pensoft, a scholarly publisher and technology provider company. 

“The point is: do we want an integrated structure or do we prefer federated structures?” – says Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC – “What are the pros and cons of the two options? It’s essential to keep the community united and allied because we can’t afford any information loss and the stakeholders should feel at home with the Project and the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub.”

“We are a brand new community, and we are in the middle of the growth process” – says Joe Miller, GBIF– “We would like to already have answers, but it’s good to have this kind of robust discussion to build on a good basis. We must find the best solution to have linkages between infrastructures and be able to maintain them in the future because the BKH is the location to gather the community around best practices, data and guidelines on how to use the BiCIKL services… In order to engage even more partners to fill the eventual gaps in our knowledge.”

“BiCIKL is leading data infrastructure communities through some exciting and important developments”, says Guy Cochrane, EMBL-EBI. “In an era of biodiversity change and loss, leveraging scientific data fully will allow the world to catalogue what we have now, to track and understand how things are changing and to build the tools that we will use to conserve or remediate. The challenge is that the data come from many streams – molecular biology, taxonomy, natural history collections, biodiversity observation – that need to be connected and intersected to allow scientists and others to ask real questions about the data. In its first year, BiCIKL has made some key advances to rise to this challenge.”

“As a partner, we, at  Biodiversity Information Standards – TDWG, are very enthusiastic that our standards are implemented in BiCIKL and serve to link biodiversity data.  We know that joining forces and working together is crucial to building efficient infrastructures and sharing knowledge”, says Deborah Paul, chair of the Biodiversity Information Standards-TDWG.

The project will go on with the first Round Table of experts in December and the publications of the projects who participated in the Open Call and will be founded (https://bicikl-project.eu/open-call-projects) at the beginning of the next year.

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

Marine Regions Launches Extended Continental Shelves Dataset

Extended Continental Shelves Dataset

Marine Regions, the database managed by focal point of LifeWatch Belgium, VLIZ, is proud to have launched the first version of the Extended Continental Shelves dataset. This latest dataset contains the portion of the continental shelf that extends beyond 200 Nautical Miles. Similar to the Exclusive Economic Zones dataset, it consists of both the outer limits of these areas and their polygon representations. Marine Regions is a standard list of marine georeferenced place names and areas.

How does it work?

The Marine Regions Gazetteer is a standard list of marine georeferenced place names and areas. Beside this list, shapefiles of Maritime Boundaries are created and/or shared. The Marine Regions Gazetteer provides the link between the species registers and the species occurrence databases in the LifeWatch Species Information Backbone. Various web services of Marine Regions are part of the LifeWatch Belgium e-lab.

Please contact info@marineregions.org if your organisation is interested in contributing to Marine Regions.

More detailed information about the dataset can be found in the original article on the LifeWatch Belgium website.