New project MARCO-BOLO just launched!

MARCO-BOLO Kick-off Meeting

A new EU project has been launched to improve how biodiversity is recorded and protected in marine and coastal environments. Funded by the Horizon Europe programme, MARCO-BOLO (MARine Coastal BiOdiversity Long-term Observations) will structure and strengthen European coastal and marine biodiversity observation capabilities, linking them to global efforts to understand and restore ocean health. It is coordinated by the EMBRC and comprises an expert team of 28 partner institutions from 14 countries, among which LifeWatch ERIC.

Coastal add marine areas are incredibly dynamic and productive oceanic regions, providing significant resources and services for both wildlife and people. They are also subject to intense pressures from agricultural and industry pollution in waterways, dredging, and building development. Many national and regional programmes assess environmental health and human impact on our coasts, but these programmes are often fragmented, short term, and uncoordinated at larger scales.

MARCO-BOLO will address this problem by connecting existing initiatives, optimising and improving methods, and further innovating technologies for biodiversity observations. The project aims to deliver a transformative change in how marine biodiversity is monitored and managed. The research team will engage with diverse stakeholders to tailor research and observation data for direct use, delivering practical tools that will allow politicians and companies to determine biodiversity health, predict changes, monitor changes from imposed policies and proactively manage environments and their biodiversity.

The project has four key objectives:

  • Improve acquisition, coordination and delivery of marine, coastal and freshwater biodiversity observations to relevant users.
  • Enable technologies for cost-effective, timely and accurate biodiversity observations.
  • Test new tools, technologies and models to better understand biodiversity decline.
  • Empower European biodiversity observatory operators, data producers and users by creating and sharing best practice guidelines for gathering and using biodiversity data to contribute to biodiversity restoration efforts.

MARCO-BOLO’s innovations will address the full pipeline of data collection and use: from testing new monitoring tools using eDNA, robotics, optical and acoustic techniques, to data integration methods for environmental modelling, and guidance on how data can be stored, shared and applied in policy contexts.

Project coordinator Nicolas Pade from European Marine Biological Resource Centre (EMBRC) said:

“We need good data to protect and restore biodiversity effectively. By engaging with policy and decision makers throughout the project, we will ensure that our tools and techniques will support lasting, positive change in how we monitor and protect marine and coastal biodiversity in Europe and internationally.”

For more information, follow @MARCOBOLO_EU or visit

Civil Society Roundtable: ‘Gender, climate change and health: how can we do better for women and girls?’

On August 1st, 2023, an interactive online roundtable alongside gender, climate, and health experts to devise gender-responsive climate strategies focusing on health. Africa Zanella, LifeWatch ERIC International Gender Officer, had been invited to share her viewpoint and make her recommendations.

As many studies pointed out, climate change disproportionately affects women, girls and marginalised communities, compromising the rights of women and girls and slowing the advancement of gender equality.
Growing evidence shows that the climate crisis has an impact on women’s health and their access to health services. Health impacts related to food insecurity, infectious diseases, mental illness, and poor sexual and reproductive health are increasing due to the warming climate.
International commitments emphasise the importance of gender equality and women’s participation in climate action, but the reality is that gender considerations are yet to be effectively mainstreamed in ongoing climate change strategies, activities and national planning.
The interactive roundtable ‘Gender, climate change and health: how can we do better for women and girls?’ alongside gender, climate, and health experts aimed to study the intersection of these issues and devise gender-responsive climate strategies focusing on health.

Africa Zanella, LifeWatch ERIC International Gender Office, had been invited to join the event and share her viewpoint and perspective on these critical issue with other fellow civil society leaders and specialists in gender, health and climate, including inspirational women working in climate-affected rural communities. Africa is a renowned global expert in gender issues and a social scientist; currently based in Europe, she comes from Australia, one of the eleven Commonwealth member states in the Pacific region (and among one of its historic, founder members in 1931 along with New Zealand).
She made her recommendations during the live event while explaining LifeWatch ERIC’s vision, and how our Research Infrastructures could support researchers and climate action.
“LifeWatch ERIC is the European e-Science and Technology Consortium for biodiversity and ecosystems research, composed of eight member states (Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain), with a Statutory office in Seville and Common Facilities in Italy and the Netherlands”, she explained. “LifeWatch ERIC provides access to a multitude of datasets, webservices and other research resources, allowing the accelerated capture of data, their analysis and support for knowledge-based decision-making for biodiversity & ecosystem management. Under a Gender Equality Plan and EU guidelines, LifeWatch ERIC has promoted a greater participation rate of professional women scientists to help us have a more cohesive as well as fair and scientific gender balance vision of our climate issues and solutions”.

Moreover, she focused on climate finance, illustrating in particular the World Bank Climate Investment Fund, highlighting the nexus between climate, health and gender, and the importance of an inclusive and rights-based approach towards development and disaster risk reduction frameworks.
“Women and girls are reportedly disproportionately affected by disasters: some estimates show for example that women comprised 70% of casualties after the 2004 Indian ocean tsunami; women’s higher vulnerability to risks is rooted in socially defined roles within reproduction and caregiving – women with families suffered the most because of the ‘family commitment’ with aging parents and children-. As Gender Focal Point for the Climate Investment Fund (CIF), I’ve been engaged in integrating gender into programmes, e.g. in the Nature People and Climate Programme, when we focused on differential impact of climate change on men and women, and the specific vulnerabilities of women and girls in disaster situations, exploring even the intersectional nature of women’s realities that are manifested through age, class, caste, disabilities, health status, migrant status, sexual orientation, gender identities, health status, etc.”

Organised by the Commonwealth Foundation, the Commonwealth’s agency for civil society supporting people’s participation in democracy and development, the roundtable aimed to be useful to identify and devise collective positions on gender, climate and health ahead of the 13th Women Affairs Ministerial Meeting (13WAMM) in August where the conclusions from this roundtable will be presented to Ministers and Senior Officials.
Commonwealth Member States use the Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting to set shared priorities for gender equality and women’s empowerment. This year’s Meeting will also shape the gender equality agenda for the 2024 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Samoa.

“In summary”, she concluded, “climate change is a global issue that affects communities, decision-making, economic activities at global, national and regional level; for this reason, we have to consider the global and the ‘local’ dimension of the problem, looking at the organisational culture and socio-economic aspects of each countries and regions. We must address the challenge of a just and sustainable transition for all, mainstreaming health, gender equality and women’s empowerment in climate policies”.

Policy recommendations and video highlights from the Roundtable with Ministers and Senior Officials will be shared next month.

For further information, visit the page of the event.

SUBMERSE to Leverage Existing Subsea Infrastructure for Exciting New Fields of Research

Started in May 2023, SUBMERSE (SUBMarine cablEs for ReSearch and Exploration) project aims to utilise existing submarine cables already used by the research and education networking community, to monitor the Earth and its systems. By utilising existing equipment and infrastructure in a new way, SUBMERSE not only avoids the need for extra hardware under the sea, but also improves the return on investment by enhancing and widening its use.

The 36-month project, in which LifeWatch ERIC is a partner, will work closely with the diverse research communities who intend on using the data, to design and build the data generation service together, thereby creating a highly collaborative environment where data is generated by and for all parties. In this way, SUBMERSE goes beyond the traditional model of supporting and facilitating global research and education with infrastructure, to an environment where project partners and research communities together generate and share research from that infrastructure for multiple purposes.

Over the past five years, national seismic and oceanographic infrastructures, together with NRENs, and partners from universities, research institutes, and industry in parts of Europe have pioneered techniques to use submarine optical fibres to monitor the Earth and its systems. The methods and technologies used vary. However, two techniques show promise in the detail and scalability of their deployment: Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) and State of Polarisation (SoP). The geographic locations where experiments have taken place, the length of experiments, the types of technologies used, and technological readiness levels of those technologies used also vary substantially from country to country.

SUBMERSE seeks to create and deliver a pilot activity which would serve as a blueprint for continuous monitoring upon many more cables in the future, which would lead to the opening of new market opportunities and the demonstration of methods to maximise the investments in research infrastructures, by using the by-products of their operations for the purposes of new scientific research. This would lead to the integration of established regional and national research infrastructures, thereby enabling world-class European research not possible before.

The Biodiversity Knowledge Hub is Online!


The Horizon 2020 BiCIKL Project, of which LifeWatch ERIC is partner, announces that the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub (BKH) is now online.

The BKH is a one-stop portal that allows users to access FAIR and interlinked biodiversity data and services in a few clicks. BKH has been designed to support a new emerging community of users over time and across the entire biodiversity research cycle providing its services to anybody, anywhere and anytime.

“We have invested our best energies and resources in the development of BKH and the Fair Data Place (FDP), which is the beating heart of the portal” – says Christos Arvanitidis, CEO of LifeWatch ERIC – “BKH has been designed to support a new emerging community of users across the entire biodiversity research cycle. Its purpose goes beyond the BiCIKL project itself: we are thrilled to say that BKH is meant to stay, aiming to reshape the way biodiversity knowledge is accessed and used.”

The BKH is designed to serve a new emerging community of users over time and across the entire biodiversity research cycle.

“The Knowledge Hub is the main product from our BiCIKL consortium, and we are delighted with the result! BKH can easily be seen as the beginning of the major shift in the way we search interlinked biodiversity information,” says Prof. Lyubomir Penev, BiCIKL’s Project coordinator and Founder of Pensoft Publishers

“Biodiversity researchers, research infrastructures and publishers interested in fields ranging from taxonomy to ecology and bioinformatics can now freely use BKH as a compass to navigate the oceans of biodiversity data. BKH will do the linkages,” he adds.

“The BKH outlines how users can navigate and access the linked data, tools and services of the infrastructures cooperating in BiCIKL,” said Joe Miller, Executive Secretary of GBIF—the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. “By revealing how they harvest, liberate and reuse data, these increasingly integrated sources enable researchers in the natural sciences to move more seamlessly between specimens and material samples, genomic and metagenomic data, scientific literature, and taxonomic names and units.”

A training programme on how to best utilise the platform is currently being developed by the Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities (CETAF), Pensoft Publishers, Plazi, Meise Botanic Garden, EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), ELIXIR Hub, GBIF – the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, and LifeWatch ERIC and will be finalised in the coming months.

A detailed description of the BKH tools and services provided by its contributing organisations is available here.


The MARCO-BOLO (MBO) project launched a survey to assess biodiversity data and monitoring needs of stakeholders in and beyond the EU.

MBO invites the broader biodiversity community to take part in this research and encourages biodiversity data users and non-users to share their experiences. The survey takes 10-12 minutes to complete and includes 25 questions.

Access the survey here and participate by 30 August 2023.

The results of this survey will feed into the creation of better data products usable by different stakeholders engaged in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. MARCO-BOLO aims at supporting decision-making with the best available knowledge and data!

The survey is part of MARCO-BOLO “MARine Coastal BiOdiversity Long-term Observations: Strengthening biodiversity observation in support of decision making”, coordinated by Nicolas Pade (EMBRC-ERIC) and funded by the European Commission Horizon 2020 Programme (Grant Agreement No. 101082021)

For general questions or comments regarding the study and survey, please contact:

For questions regarding the project, please contact:  

LifeWatch ERIC presence at Climate Investment Funds deliberation on Gender

Our International Gender Officer at the CIF meeting with delegates from Kenya and Nepal

On 27 June 2023, at the 15th anniversary meeting of Climate Investment Funds (CIF) in Brasilia, ministers from 14 countries released a declaration emphasising that climate change is a global challenge that affects us all but especially developing countries that may have fewer resources to handle these changes. Our International Gender Officer Africa Zanella attended the CIF meeting in Brasilia, pictured here with delegates from Kenya and Nepal. She is CIF Gender Focal Point and represents civil society, helping integrate gender with climate funding programmes.

She is also an official observer of the World Bank, which met with the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs). They discussed allocating funding for mitigation and adaptation to climate change programmes. During the meeting, Brazil, Fiji, Indonesia and other African Nations made collaboration and investment proposals. The Global committee considered a Nature People Programme and renewable energy funding.

Ms Zanella’s overviewed policy and programmes presentation at Brasilia’s capacity building panel session. Her presentation, ‘Gender Integration for Climate Investment Fund Projects’, shows a lack of progress towards gender parity. This is a catastrophe for the future of our economies, societies and environment, she said

There is an urgent need to promote women’s employment in renewable energy and agricultural technologies through internships, quotas, skill training and human resource policy reforms.

The 14th International Polychaete Conference kicks off in South Africa

International Polychaete Conference

The 14th International Polychaete Conference (IPC) has started and will run until July 7. The conference is hosted by the Stellenbosch University and the Iziko Museums of South Africa, which houses the historic Day Polychaete Collection. IPC14 is dedicated to Prof. John Day, whose contributions to polychaete taxonomy still significantly contribute to current taxonomic research.

Our CEO, Christos Arvanitidis, will present the European Research Infrastructure LifeWatch ERIC and its potential to support the Polychaete Community. The conference brings together taxonomists, systematists, and evolutionary biologists worldwide to exchange ideas and share research. This year, the conference received 159 abstracts from 31 different countries.

The IPC provides an excellent opportunity for polychaetologists to network and share their work. This year marks the first International Polychaete Conference in Africa, and it will also co-host the XVI South African Society for Systematic Biology 2023 Conference (SASSB) from July 5-7, 2023.

For further information, please visit the official IPC website:

DecaNet: A Portal For Decapod Biodiversity Informatics

A picture of a decant

DecaNet is a database for decapod species and associated biodiversity information. Published on 23 June 2023, it falls under the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS). Besides marine species, it aims to provide an authoritative list including freshwater, terrestrial biomes and a growing number of fossil taxa.

Decapoda are one of the best-researched groups of Crustacea. Researchers studied 17,229 species (December 2022), far beyond taxonomy in various scientific fields. Hopefully, DecaNet will act as a one-stop shop for taxonomic and biodiversity information on the group.

The taxonomic/systematic backbone of DecaNet is now largely complete. The fifteen volunteer editors for recent taxa and two for fossil taxa will continually update it.  Over time, the database will incorporate more trait information, distributions, and perhaps even more.

DecaNet grew out of a meeting held in May 2022, at VLIZ (Oostende). Ten of the decapod editors met to discuss data content and structure and LifeWatch ERIC funded it. The first public presentation of the portal was at the 10th International Crustacean Congress in Wellington, New Zealand, in May 2023, a full year after the initial discussions.

The Data Management Team (DMT) is supported by LifeWatch Belgium, part of the E-Science European LifeWatch Infrastructure for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research.

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 website.