LifeWatch ERIC to Collaborate in New Observatory in the Mar Menor

Observatory in the Mar Menor

Three members of the LifeWatch ERIC Executive Board, alongside collaborator Professor Angel Pérez-Ruzafa, attended the Life Transfer Summit in Murcia today, to mark the opening of an observatory in the Mar Menor, an initiative in which the research infrastructure will actively collaborate. CEO Dr Christos Arvanitidis, CTO Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda, Service Centre Director Professor Alberto Basset and Professor Ruzafa all made presentations at the meeting, which was attended by Mr Antonio Luengo, Environmental Minister of the Murcia region, to bring his support of the infrastructure on the occasion.

The Life Transfer project, Seagrass Transplantation for Transitional Ecosystem Recovery, aims to trigger the process of recolonisation of aquatic phanerogams –known as “ecosystem engineers”– in selected Mediterranean lagoons. These lagoons are all part of Natura 2000 sites in Spain, Italy and Greece, and the project is funded through the Life programme. You can read more about the project and its initial results here.

CTO Live on ‘Despierta Andalucía’ to Speak on Ecological Crises

Despierta Andalucía

This morning, LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, went live on Andalusian TV to discuss the ecological crises we are facing and to explain the role, the structure, and the ambition of the research infrastructure. He spoke on the programme ‘Despierta Andalucía’ of Canal Sur, noting that the region home to the LifeWatch ERIC Statutory Seat and ICT-Core is known for its excellence in the fields of open software and sustainability research.

During his interview, Dr González-Aranda explained how LifeWatch ERIC makes use of vast amounts of data and cutting-edge technology, such as remote sensing, to monitor and predict changes in the climate and ecosystems, crucial knowledge that can be shared with policymakers and used to develop solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises. He also pointed out the key relationships that the infrastructure holds with various regions all over the world –not just in Europe, but also in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America– which allows for international collaboration in generating and interpreting data, and for the infrastructure to fulfill its ethos of “acting locally, thinking globally”.

LifeWatch ERIC would like to thank Despierta Andalucía, Canal Sur and RTVA for dedicating broadcasting time to shining a light on the current ecological crises, and for raising awareness of European initiatives like LifeWatch ERIC, which offers its free resources and services to researchers and citizen scientists globally.

Click here to watch the full interview, starting at 1:11:07.

Wrapping up the first year with a BiCIKL ride in Seville

BiCIKL Seville Meeting

One year after the debut of the BiCIKL Project, partners and research infrastructures will meet all together in person for the first time. A three-day of presentation of the tasks completed, bilateral meetings and technical forums will take place in Seville (Spain) between 2 – 4 May 2022.

We are all thrilled about this convention,” Project Coordinator Prof Lyubomir Penev comments. “It is going to be a huge step forward and an important moment for planning the activities to come.”

During the meeting, which will be held at La Casa de la Ciencia, Seville, LifeWatch ERIC and GBIF will be presenting The Biodiversity Knowledge Hub (BKH), a structure at the core of the BiCIKL Project.

We can’t reveal much before the meeting,” – says Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC CEO, “but BKH will be a single knowledge portal that helps researchers access and use interlinked and machine-readable FAIR data (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) relying on unique stable identifiers on specimens, genomics, observations, taxonomy and data in publications.”

There will be much more in the Andalusian venue: technical discussions will take place on linking between data classes, for instance, and the event will be wrapped up with a Forum on the BKH and the Fair Data Place.

Follow the project on Twitter for continuous updates with the hashtag #BiCIKL_H2020

Doctoral Thesis Defence on AI, Biodiversity and Sustainable Ecosystem Management 

AI biodiversity

On 27 April 2022, a presentation of a doctoral thesis by doctoral candidate Francisco Pérez-Hernández, entitled “Pre- and Post-Processing Strategies in Deep Learning for Multi-class Problems in the Field of Security and Biodiversity” took place at the “Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Informática” (ETSII) of the University of Granada. This thesis is one of the results of the Thematic Centre on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Learning, and High Mountains Ecosystems, under the umbrella of the so-called LifeWatch ERIC SMART ECOMOUNTAINS Andalusia ERDF project, hosted by the University of Granada as one of the distributed facilities engaging with LifeWatch ERIC.

This is an outstanding milestone in the application of state-of-art AI and Deep Learning techniques in, e.g., advanced satellite image processing for the study of biodiversity and ecosystems, to be made available to the scientific community and environmental decision makers in the form of a LifeWatch ERIC Virtual Research Environment.

Among those attending the defence were the doctoral tutors, supervisors and member of the evaluation committee: Juan Miguel González-Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Enrique Herrera Viedma, Vice-Rector for Research and Transfer of the University of Granada; Siham Tabik, Professor of the Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence; Francisco Herrera Triguero, Professor at the Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Granada; Domingo Alcaraz Segura Professor at the University of Granada; Juan Mario Haut Hurtado, Professor at the University of Extremadura,  and Gloria Ortega López, Professor at the University of Almería. 

IFAPA Visit LifeWatch ERIC

IFAPA

On Tuesday 19 April 2022, LifeWatch ERIC had the honour of receiving Lourdes Fuster Martínez, President of the Andalusian Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries, Food and Organic Production Research and Training (IFAPA) at the LifeWatch ERIC facilities in Seville, in the Italian Pavilion in La Cartuja.

LifeWatch ERIC is carrying out a series of strategic collaborations with IFAPA, within the framework of agrobiodiversity, agroecology and fisheries, with a strong European and international impact.

ALL-Ready Pilot Network on Living Labs and Research Infrastructures for Agroecology

ALL-Ready Pilot Network

On 11 April 2022, as part of the preparatory work for the EU Partnership on Agroecology Living Labs and Research Infrastructures (ALL-Ready), LifeWatch ERIC Agroecology Officer, José Manuel Ávila-Castuera, participated in a meeting with several German ministries such as the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and funding agencies such as BLE and Project Management Jülich (JÜLICH), to demonstrate how Research Infrastructures (RIs) are a key instrument to in the transition towards agroecology.

The European Commission has proposed a new initiative provisionally entitled “Accelerating farming systems transition: agroecology living labs and research infrastructures” as one of the candidate European Partnerships in food, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture and environment, under Horizon Europe’s new approach. These partnerships aim to deliver on global challenges and industrial modernisation through concerted research and innovation efforts, alongside EU and associated countries, the private sector, foundations and other stakeholders.

During the meeting, Korinna Varga (Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi) presented the Pilot Network developed in ALL-READY and the Living Labs. ALL-Ready is a H2020 Coordination and Support Action (CSA), funded by the European Commission, that aims to prepare a framework for a future European network of Living Labs and RIs that will enable the transition towards agroecology throughout Europe. Based on the premise that agroecology can strengthen the sustainability and resilience of farming systems, the project will contribute to addressing the multiple challenges that they are facing today, including climate change, loss of biodiversity, dwindling resources, and degradation of soil and water quality.

LifeWatch ERIC To Support Sahel Coalition’s Green Development

SAHEL COALITION

LifeWatch ERIC in support of the Sahel Coalition Pillar 4 for Green & Environmental Sustainability Development Actions 

On 5 April 2022, a meeting took place between LifeWatch ERIC Executive Board members and representatives from the Sahel Coalition and the Spanish government to discuss collaborative synergies. Attending the meeting were LifeWatch ERIC CEO, Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, Secretary General of the Sahel Coalition, Djime Adoum, Diplomatic Advisor to the Sahel Coalition, Jérôme Spinoza, and Enrique Alonso García, Permanent Advisor of the Council of State of the Kingdom of Spain (Eighth Section, in charge of matters related to Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenges). 

The Coalition is constituted of Sahel Member States, supported by external bodies such as the United Nations and the European Union. It is structured around four pillars, aiming to facilitate the coordination and interaction between the various dimensions of international action to support the G5 Sahel countries, ensuring coherent action at the regional level and encompassing all levers and actors involved in the Sahel, including on security, political and development issues.

LifeWatch ERIC will mainly collaborate in Pillar Four, Development Assistance, being the infrastructure of reference for matters regarding the environment and biodiversity, under the umbrella of the 2030 SDGs and the EU Green Deal. This cooperation will be reinforced through the EU financial tool called the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI).

To Infinity… And Beyond! LifeWatch ERIC in Initiative to Launch Nanosatellite

Nanosatellite

LifeWatch ERIC is proud to be a key partner in an initiative to launch the first nanosatellite for terrestrial observation in Andalusia, alongside longstanding collaborator AGAPA from the Junta de Andalucía. The initiative in question is the SmartFood project, which has planned the nanosatellite launch for 2023, integrating a high-resolution camera, as well as the corresponding power supply equipment and the communications system necessary for transmitting data to the ground control station.

The SmartFood project has a budget of almost €1 million, 80% financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), through the Pluriregional Operational Programme for Spain 2014-2020. Its mission is to deploy a land network of sensors to monitor variables related to climate, soil, water and plants; capture aerial images through drones and balloons, as well as capture images from space. The collection of these data from a range of different spatial-temporal scales will allow for a comprehensive approach to monitoring agricultural and livestock systems.

“Another aim of the SmartFood project is to establish standardised protocols for the monitoring, quantification and evaluation of biodiversity through the integration of open data. To this end, the ultimate goal is to offer tools and collaborative work environments for the research community, also making the information and applications developed available to the different end users involved in the primary sector” said LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel Gonzalez-Aranda, as PI of the project. This will be made possible through LifeWatch ERIC; the entire ecosystem of data and applications collected will be shared with the LifeWatch ERIC community, thus facilitating consolidation and collaborative analysis in relation to:

  1. monitoring and controlling the impacts that agriculture and fishing have on biodiversity, as well as;
  2. measuring the effects of climate change on the sustainability and profitability of agriculture and fishing;

by means of the implementation of the proper VRE.

International Women’s Day 2022: Montserrat Vilà

Montserrat Vilà

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. 

Montserrat Vilà Planella, born in Figueres (Girona), is a research professor at the Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC). She carried out a PhD in Biology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, where she was a lecturer in Ecology and scientific secretary of CREAF, followed by a post-doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley. Her research work mainly focuses on the ecology of biological invasions and their application to ecosystem conservation, for which she was given the most prestigious award in Spain in the field of scientific research, and with which she and her team have developed Impact Risk Assessments for major invaders in Europe.

Vilà is a member of the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group, chair of NEOBIOTA, and member of the Scientific Forum on the European Regulation of Invasive Alien Species. With more than 200 publications in SCI scientific journals and more than 40 book chapters, in the last 8 years she has been highlighted by Thomson-Reuters as among the top 1% of the world’s most cited researchers in the field of Ecology and Environment. She is associate editor of the journals Biological Invasions, NeoBiota, Ecology Letters and Bioscience, serving on several project evaluation panels. She was previously deputy director at EBD-CSIC, and has coordinated proposal evaluations in the area of Plant Biology, Animal Biology and Ecology at the AEI. She is also a lead author on the Impacts chapter of the IPBES Invasive Alien Species Assessment.

More recently, during the pandemic, she has reflected on the evolution of COVID-19 and found out that the epidemiology of human pathogens and the biology of invasions by plants and animals share many mechanisms, phenomena and challenges, but also potential solutions. She has brought her ideas to a synthesis study published in BioScience, arguing for an interdisciplinary perspective to bring together research on infectious diseases and non-native species invasion, in order to better understand current and future threats in biosecurity, and to improve prevention and response measures.

Transfiere 2022: Meetings with Collaborators

IFAPA AGAPA

Every year, the Transfiere Forum serves as a brilliant opportunity to further cooperation with collaborators of LifeWatch ERIC, particularly in terms of ongoing projects in Spain.

Meeting with IFAPA 

On the first day of Transfiere 2022, 16 February, there was a meeting with Lourdes Fuster and Vicente Pérez, President and Secretary General of the Andalusian Institute for Research and Training in Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Organic Production (IFAPA), where it is worth highlighting IFAPA’s firm commitment to LifeWatch ERIC, especially in the field of agroecology.
IFAPA’s main task is to respond to the demands of the Andalusian agricultural, fishing, aquaculture and food sectors, with the intention of being an agile and effective instrument in its operation, realistic and pragmatic in its action programmes, and focused on in promoting research, technological innovation and training in the agricultural, fishing and food industries.

Meeting with AGAPA

The day after, on 17 February 2022, a meeting took place between LifeWatch ERIC CTO Juan Miguel González Aranda and Juan Carlos Álvarez Martín, Managing Director of the Andalusian Agricultural and Fisheries Management Agency (AGAPA), and Amós García Hueso, Secretary General of AGAPA.
Of note is AGAPA’s involvement with the SMARTFOOD project, one of the projects financed by the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF), which LifeWatch ERIC is currently carrying out. AGAPA, as the promoter of this project, has the objective of developing infrastructure in the Andalusian agriculture and fishing sector, for the future measurement of the impact in terms of sustainability.

At Transfiere 2022, LifeWatch ERIC also held an important meeting with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which you can read about here.