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.

LifeWatch Slovenia: new website launched

The picture shows a snapshot of the new LifeWatch Slovenia website

The new LifeWatch Slovenia website is online since 31 May 2023. It provides biodiversity and ecosystem researchers with facilities, data resources, web services and Virtual Research Environments. LifeWatch Slovenia remains fully integrated with LifeWatch ERIC in facilitating open data sharing, aggregation and modelling. Besides that, it offers immediate access to national priority projects, as in the case of karst groundwater habitat research and conservation of that national symbol, Proteus anguinus, the only exclusively cave-dwelling aquatic salamander in Europe.

In 2022, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia adopted the Research Infrastructure Roadmap 2030 (NRRI 2030) in which LifeWatch was listed as a priority area in the field of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Technologies. LifeWatch-SI is also part of the Slovenian Strategy for Smart Specialisation (S4) and Horizon 2020, focusing on the development of technological solutions in the field of biodiversity and socio-ecological research.

Since 2015, the Slovenian Consortium has been promoting the importance of integrating and networking information and data to:

  • Coordinate biodiversity research in marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems;
  • Plan common access to a vast array of data from various sources and observatories;
  • Predict computing capabilities with analytical and modelling tools in virtual laboratories; and
  • Support training and educational programs that will enable a proper understanding of biodiversity.

The LifeWatch Slovenia Consortium consists of the ZRC SAZU Karst Research Institute, the National Institute of Biology, the Slovenian Forestry Institute, the Slovenian Natural History Museum, the Škocjan Caves Park, the Tular Cave Laboratory, the University of Ljubljana, the University of Maribor, the University of Nova Gorica, and the University of Primorska. Of these, ZRC SAZU serves as the national coordinator and headquarters of LifeWatch-SI.

For more information, please explore the lifewatch.si website.

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[@]lifewatch.eu.

Voices of Women at LifeWatch ERIC for International Women’s Day

Voices of Women

In preparation for this year’s International Women’s Day, LifeWatch ERIC International Gender Officer, Africa Zanella, had a clear request: amplify women’s voices. As explored in the “Gender, Equity and Research” campaign for last year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, statistically, we know that while more women than ever are getting involved in STEM, there are significant obstacles still to overcome for women in research. 

In light of International Women’s Day 2023, we have therefore created a podcast miniseries specifically dedicated to learning more about authentic experiences of women working in LifeWatch ERIC fields of interest. We asked scientists from our eight member states to talk candidly about their work and experience. The guests were invited to speak in pairs, which produced spontaneous and insightful conversations on these topics, facilitated by LifeWatch ERIC podcast host, Julian Kenny. Being of all ages and hailing from a diversity of backgrounds, the end result produced is an enriching range of experiences and contemporary points of view of women working in research today. Listening to their voices, our eyes are opened to their contribution to society, to science, and the potential offered by the European Union’s Gender Equality Strategy, which LifeWatch ERIC actively supports and incorporates into its everyday work life.

The guests featured in “Voices of Women” are:

The episodes will be released over the course of the week beginning 6 March and will be consolidated with an overview and considerations from LifeWatch ERIC International Gender Officer, Africa Zanella, interviewed by Chief Communication Officer, Sara Montinaro, to be released on 8 March (International Women’s Day). This podcast will examine the progress of the infrastructure as a whole in terms of achieving gender sustainability and equity, a year on from the appointment of LifeWatch ERIC’s International Gender Officer, and explore future plans to continue the commendable and tangible work that she has already set in motion.

The podcasts are available here below. They can also be found on Spotify, Google, Apple, and Amazon.







LifeWatch Slovenia Publishes New Research Paper

LifeWatch Slovenia Research

Researchers affiliated with LifeWatch Slovenia have published the research paper: “Karst Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems—Typology, Vulnerability and Protection” (Nataša Ravbar, Tanja Pipan). You can read the abstract below and click on the link to access it in full.

Karst Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems—Typology, Vulnerability and Protection

Nataša Ravbar, Tanja Pipan

Karst groundwater dependent ecosystems (KGDEs) represent an important asset worldwide due to their ecological and socioeconomic values. In the contribution the main KGDEs of the Dinaric karst in Slovenia are presented. The main hydrological processes (i.e., extent, duration and frequency of groundwater inflow), the main biota and indicator communities, and the factors limiting the evolution of species (e.g., darkness) were identified. An overview of rare, endemic and charismatic species was also shown including Proteus anguinus, Marifugia cavatica, Monolistra racovitzae racovitzae and others. Due to its location in an area of very high geographical diversity and between different climate types, the Slovenian Dinaric karst is one of the hotspots of subterranean biodiversity on a global scale. The interaction between orographic, climatic, hydrological and edaphic conditions, as well as the fact that the area served as a hub for different species and as a refuge during the ice ages, are crucial for the very high biodiversity in this area. Due to deforestation in prehistoric times, man has even contributed to the diversification of the flora by creating space for the appearance or spread of habitats that are now considered natural (e.g., dry grasslands). An important factor in maintaining a particularly rich diversity of karst flora and fauna is also the low human impact and the very well preserved landscape in its natural state. KGDE sites in Slovenia with the greatest known species diversity are the Postojna -Planina and Škocjanske Jame cave systems, Cerkniško and Planinsko Polje, and the intermittent lakes of Pivka. Characterization of KGDEs is a prerequisite for a better understanding of the processes that control them, their biological function, and their vulnerability. The ecohydrological characterization of KGDEs of Slovenian Dinaric karst can serve as a pilot study for other karst regions with high biodiversity.

Photo credit: B Kogovšek, N Ravbar, Adobe Stock.

International Women’s Day 2022: Angela Piskernik

Angela Piskernik

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. 

Angela Piskernik, born in 1886, was a botanist, the first Slovenian conservationist and the first Slovenian woman to receive a doctorate in biological sciences. She was internationally renowned for her conservationist work, responsible for the establishment of the Triglav National Park, amongst many more feats.

She studied at the University of Vienna, specialising in biological systematics and graduating with a dissertation entitled “Plasma compounds in mosses”. She went on to teach in secondary schools from 1926 to 1943, when she was imprisoned for two years in the Ravensbrück Nazi concentration camp. Afterwards, she became director of the Natural History Museum in Ljubljana, where she worked until she retired in 1953. Her retirement, however, marked the beginning of some of her most famous work – becoming the first professional nature conservation officer, noted for her involvement in the restoration and protection of the Julian Alpine Botanical Garden in Trenta and the establishment of the Triglav National Park in 1961. Her lasting achievements as a nature conservation officer also included preparations for the legal protection of several other landscape parks, initiating the protection of the first nature reserves in Slovenia.

In addition, Piskernik proposed the establishment of a mountain guard in 1954, was active in the International Alpine Commission and edited the journal ‘Nature Protection’. She was part of the Slovenian Natural History Society and Association of Society for the Protection of Birds, as well as several international nature conservation associations such as IUCN and VNP. For her long and active involvement in this organisation, she was made an honorary member of the International Commission for the Protection of Alpine Regions (CIPRA) after her death in 1967. Over her lifetime, she published 42 scientific papers on nature conservation. She received the Van Tienhoven International Award for her work, as well as an award from the Friderich-Wilhelm University in Bonn.

Other special honours include the naming of a prize after her by the Natural History Society of Slovenia, which is given to individuals who have shown outstanding services to the protection of natural heritage, as well as the issue of a commemorative stamp with her image in 2019.

Completion of RI-SI-LifeWatch Project

RI-SI-LifeWatch

In December 2019, the “Development of research infrastructure for the international competitiveness of the Slovenian RRI space – RI-SI-LifeWatch” project was granted by the Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science and Sport and the European Regional Development Fund. The aim of the project was for the LifeWatch Slovenia consortium to build a network for monitoring and collecting biodiversity and environmental data obtained and processed through the acquisition of high-performance research equipment. 

With the help of the new research equipment from the RI-SI-LifeWatch project, the Slovenian consortium is now collecting a large amount of research data in digital form, which will be included in the national Karst database, harmonised with FAIR principles and designed to provide a temporal and spatial link between specific sites.

The LifeWatch Slovenia Data Centre has also been established and consists of very powerful server and computer units. Although it is still in an early stage of development, the current functionality of LifeWatch Slovenia Data Centre is beginning to collect the various large datasets obtained with the new instruments and catalogue their metadata within a GeoNetwork portal to build a standardised database with system management and user interface for data mining and access to data products. The architecture of the new data centre proposes to replicate the functionality and standards of LifeWatch ERIC to be compliant with FAIR data principles and data lifecycle. Data collected by RI-SI-LifeWatch’s equipment will support the development of data and services planned and/or already developed and operating within the LifeWatch Slovenia consortium.

In addition, LifeWatch Slovenia is now providing new ecological research measurements and observations leading to scientific publications, as well as new datasets for the Bird Ringing database (BRDbase), for the FOR-PLAT forest database and for the Buoy VIDA marine database

With the new equipment we will develop two virtual labs in the near future: ProteusWatch vLabKarst Groundwater Habitats vLab to assess and monitor the inaccessible and unique karst groundwater biodiversity hotspots (e.g. Proteus anguinus and various cave invertebrates).

The RI-SI-LifeWatch project has also enriched the international research infrastructure LifeWatch ERIC with new research opportunities and incentives. The project has helped to:

  1. conduct modern biodiversity research for marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems
  2. establish open access to Big Data related to various databases and observatories
  3. conduct data visualisation from virtual labs with modelling tools and enhance the LifeWatch RI by developing new analytical capacity for open research data
  4. support targeted user training and collaboration to monitor and predict the impacts of global change on biodiversity

A national hub of distributed biodiversity and ecosystem research data centres will be implemented at individual national partners. The RI-SI-LifeWatch project was successfully completed on 31 August 2021.

LifeWatch Slovenia Project

ERDF LifeWatch Slovenia

The Slovenian Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy issued a grant decision on 23 December 2019 (from the ERDF) that will help LifeWatch Slovenia to enhance its international competitiveness. The LifeWatch-SI project grant of €2.6 million will enable the purchase of equipment to support the implementation of international research projects in monitoring and predicting the impacts of global changes on biodiversity. 

The research infrastructure, established in 2015, will be better able to collect, manage and save biodiversity data by establishing a tissue sample bank, an analytical centre, a molecular laboratory with the necessary software for analysing genetic diversity, and instruments in the field of genomics and biotechnology. The RI-SI-LifeWatch project fulfils a national priority under the Research and Innovation Strategy of Slovenia 2011-2020.

Professor Tanja Pipan, national coordinator of LifeWatch Slovenia in Postojna, was delighted with the grant and declared, “This European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) commitment will allow us to set up a national network of Smart Specialisation Strategy of Slovenia partners under Horizon 2020, and to establish a national data center to meet the needs of Slovenian researchers in ecosystems and biodiversity”. 

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.