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. 

LifeWatch ERIC Internal Joint Initiative

Non-indigenous and Invasive species (NIS) are considered a major threat to biodiversity around the globe: they can impact ecosystems in many ways by outcompeting or predating on native species. Who has not heard of the Burmese pythons in Florida that eat alligators? The negative impact of imported rats and cats that have decimated island fauna populations? However, the long-term impacts of NIS on ecosystem integrity are poorly explored, and policy-makers are often left without sufficient information to make wise management decisions.

In the belief that the first steps in tackling biodiversity loss must be to improve our knowledge by developing better inter-disciplinary paradigms, LifeWatch ERIC is launching an exciting new Internal Joint Initiative (IJI), involving the scientific communities of National Nodes and other European Research Infrastructures, that will thoroughly describe the issues involved in ecosystem and habitat type vulnerability, and produce future scenarios under changing vectors to help decision-makers combat the impacts of climate change. 

The LifeWatch ERIC Internal Joint Initiative will combine data, semantic resources, data management services, and data analysis and modelling from its seven member countries – Belgium, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain – to bring together national assets on a scale never attempted before. This integration of Common Facilities and National Nodes will provide the comprehensive and synthetic knowledge so much needed by institutions and administrators.

By deploying and publishing on the LifeWatch ERIC web portal the federated resources and e-Tools and e-Resources, the Internal Joint Initiative will also define the requirements and architecture of the LifeWatch ERIC virtual research environments, and provide a clear demonstration of the Infrastructure’s added value for researchers in addressing specific biodiversity and ecosystem management issues. 

Non-indigenous and Invasive Species are a global problem. They are distributed among most plant and animal taxa, and present a number of key issues that remain challenging for both researchers and policy-makers. The knowledge produced by the Internal Joint Initiative will thus be of global significance. It is to be hoped that this demonstration case will be seen to have scientific and socio-economic implications for many different fields of investigation over the coming decades.

50th Anniversary of NIB-Marine Biology Station Piran

When the Slovenian Consortium, LifeWatch-SI, was established in 2015, the National Institute of Biology (NIB) was a founding partner, but marine research and monitoring of seawater quality operations at the NIB’s Marine Biology Station Piran began a long time before that. Indeed, in 2019, the interdisciplinary marine station is celebrating 50 years of physical, chemical and biological oceanography. The Marine Biological Station (MBS) was founded in 1969 by a small group of enthusiastic researchers and the very first premises were in small house located in coastal city Portorož. Today it is one of the largest departments within the National Institute of Biology, a truly trans-disciplinary, vibrant and modern marine station. From the very beginning, research work was focused on ecological research and the consequences of anthropogenic impact in the coastal sea. Now that LifeWatch ERIC plays a key role in data management, historical records can be updated and analysed to deliver the ultimate in biodiversity and ecosystem research. Modern approaches to biology in the widest sense, spanning disciplines that include microbial and phytoplankton ecology, and geochemistry, provide scientific knowledge and solutions on current issues for the benefit of society and stakeholders. The unique environment of the Northern Adriatic Sea and its rapid changes demand constant monitoring and efficient observation systems, in which a crucial part is covered by the “Vida” buoy with sensors that provide a vast amount of useful data. Infrastructure facilities also include also a diving base and the “Sagita” research vessel. As a marine station, Piran is always open to the general public and has been awarded many times for its extensive dissemination of knowledge. Global changes and enormous pressure on marine environments demand greater international collaboration for scientific work to be truly efficient. MBS is closely connected with many European marine institutions and networks, and being part of the LifeWatch ERIC community ideally complements its long-term research and conservation commitment to marine biodiversity.

Towards a cultural change | First LifeWatch ERIC Scientific Community Meeting

The Scientific Community Meeting held in Rome from 27  29 May 2019 was designed to bring together the wider LifeWatch ERIC scientific communities of researchers and developers to generate and advance the discussion of the most promising lines of scientific development. In the view of the conference coordinator, Alberto Basset, Interim Director of the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre in Lecce and Professor of Ecology at the University of Salento, the 3-day event hosted by the Italian National Research Council, leader of the Italian contribution to the infrastructure, “was a great success”.

A truly international event, the meeting boasted 150 participants from 12 different countries which, thanks to the contributions given by LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities and National Nodes (Belgium, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain), delivered to its participants a rich programme featuring 20 plenary sessions and 40 presentations in working sessions. The Scientific Community Meeting was the first of its kind and ended in widespread positive feedback and calls for greater interdisciplinary cooperation.

The three days were structured around the three complimentary strands of Biodiversity & Ecosystem TheoryMarine Biodiversity & Ecosystem Functioning, and Data, Modelling & Supporting Disruptive Technologies. There was widespread appreciation of the e-Science capabilities that LifeWatch ERIC provides, and agreement that the architecture is flexible with a user-friendly interface.

Many technologies and innovative case studies were also on display: from remote sensor monitoring of fauna and flora populations, to collecting data on marine life. But beyond gizmos, the working groups ended up agreeing on the need for collaboration, to work across borders and to use metadata to create user stories that everyone can relate to, to create greater common understanding.

Over these three days in Rome, LifeWatch ERIC has moved closer to identifying major gaps in scientific knowledge that need to be addressed, has emphasised key societal challenges that biodiversity and ecosystem science are required to address, gathered indications of the services and VRE developments that user communities need, proposed innovative approaches, like the use of blockchain, and has identified the need to reinforce collaboration and trust. 

LifeWatch ERIC CEO, Christos Arvanitidis, closed proceedings by saying that the processes of life on this planet are complex; that we need complex infrastructures to model and understand that complexity, a task which no country can do alone; and that the scientific community has a responsibility to answer global concerns about climate change. He concluded, “We will use all our arsenal to integrate everything we have and try to give a synthetic knowledge to many more recipients, so we can make a proper response to society. All disciplines need to come together with open communication.”

You can find all of the presentations from the meeting on the minisite: www.lifewatch.eu/scientific-community-meeting

LifeWatch Slovenia

LifeWatch-SI

The Slovenian Research Infrastructure Roadmap 2011-2020 (Revised 2016), listed LifeWatch among the international RI projects in the field of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Technology. Slovenian researchers cooperating in this project are aiming to raise the Slovenian science to an internationally comparable level in Environmental sciences. The project is part of Slovenian Strategy for Smart Specialization (S4) and Horizon 2020, focusing on the development of technological solutions in the field of biodiversity and socio-ecosystem research.

Founded in 2015, the Slovenian Consortium LifeWatch-SI advocates  the importance of integrating and networking information & data to: (i) combine biodiversity research in marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems; (ii) plan common access to vast arrays of data from various databases and observatories; (iii) predict computing capabilities with analytical and modeling tools in VLs; and (iv) support training and programs that will enable proper understanding of biodiversity.

The LifeWatch-SI consortium consists of nine partners of nationally and internationally recognized scientific institutions and NGOs, very active in the field of biodiversity and ecosystem research, with the Karst Research Institute at the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU) as a national coordinator and headquarters. Last year, LifeWatch Slovenia started active  collaboration with several LifeWatch ERIC working groups  and co-organized the 1st working meeting on Data Centres, in December 13-14, 2018, in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

LifeWatch ERIC Data Centres Working Meeting

LifeWatch-SI

Biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems, including those precious services sustaining our life and our societies, are at risk, affecting the ecological sustainability of our Planet, our well-being and our future.

LifeWatch ERIC, the European e-Science Infrastructure of Biodiversity and Ecosystem research (www.lifewatch.eu) has organised a meeting in Ljubljana, on 13–14 December 2019, discussing with representatives of Common Facilities, National Nodes and the wider Slovenian scientific community and partners in the LifeWatch Slovenia consortium on the vision, mission and operational priorities of the research infrastructure. The ambition was to deploy the proper e-Infrastructure to scientists in order to build the science-based knowledge needed by all stakeholders, including local communities, in order to address these key global challenges.

The meeting has been focused on biodiversity and ecosystem data management, since the data already available, and big data, that are going to be collected through new technologies and the work of thousands of scientists in Europe, are the foundation to build the new knowledge required within the context of climate changes and biodiversity loss. However, it is necessary that Open Science becomes a reality and proper tools, allowing scientists to find, access, integrate, re-use and analyse the data already collected by the scientific community, actually developed and made available. These issues and the organisation of Distributed Data Centres on biodiversity and ecosystem research have been discussed in the meeting with the contribution of scientists from Belgium, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Slovenia LifeWatch Nodes, as well as from other environmental research infrastructures, particularly researchers also contributing to DiSSCo, Distributed Systems for Scientific Collections.

The meeting has also highlighted the global relevance of the scientific research of the Slovenian Institutions on biodiversity and ecosystems to address these global challenges from experience on model ecosystem types distributed at the Biosphere scale and relevant in the context of climate change.

Metadata, Vocabularies & Ontologies

Metadata Vocabularies Ontologies

On 12 & 13 November, the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre organised the first working meeting on “Metadata, Controlled Vocabularies and Ontologies” in Lecce, Italy.

The aim of the meeting was to set a roadmap for a common strategy to be adopted on these within the LifeWatch ERIC community and in accordance with the FAIR principles.

Welcome, LifeWatch ERIC!

Deepening biodiversity and ecosystem related issues has become a crucial value in contemporary society, which is tackling global scale challenges on capital elements, such as resource supply, economic development, environmental security and human well-being. The European Commission recognises research in this area as a priority, moving further from the punctual programmes funding the many fixed-term projects, to the institution of a European Research Infrastructure Consortium, as a long term strategy to ensure sustainability of research. Welcome, LifeWatch ERIC!

LifeWatch ERIC is the 14th European research infrastructure to be granted this important status, and it is composed by eight founding member states and three common facilities. Through the use of the ICT, the infrastructure guarantees the access to big sets of data on biodiversity, ensuring their standardisation and interoperability, and providing researchers and institutions with tools and services allowing the creation of customised virtual research environments, supporting policy making.

Italy, through its Ministry for Education, University and Research (MIUR) and its National Research Council (CNR), plays a key role in LifeWatch ERIC, hosting its Service Centre, one of the three common facilities, at the University of Salento, and contributing with its e-Biodiversity Research Institute, powered by a Joint Research Unit counting more than 30 among top level universities, national institutes, regional agencies and academies of the country.

On 8 and 9  May 2017, the first General Assembly of LifeWatch ERIC took place in Seville (Spain), and elected the interim members of the statutory bodies which will manage the Consortium until the formal ones will be appointed. Prof. Alberto Basset has been named interim Director of the Service Centre and interim Member of the Executive Board.

On 23 May 2017, European Commission Director-General for Research & Innovation, Robert Jan-Smits, awarded the LifeWatch ERIC Plate to the Spanish Secretary of State for Research, Development & Innovation, Carmen Vela, who received it on behalf of the entire LifeWatch ERIC community.

Welcome, LifeWatch ERIC!

To see the LifeWatch ERIC statutes, please click here.

You can find the Communication of the European Commission here.