A truly special week in Leiden: CETAF46 and Biodiversity_Next

Thursday, 31 October, 2019

A very special week is behind us, with the CETAF46 Governing Board Meeting and the huge conference Biodiversity_Next taking place back-to-back from 20 to 25 October in Leiden, NL, hosted by the Naturalis Biodiversity Center.

The CETAF46 Governing Board Meeting was opened by its new chair Leif Schulman and the agenda was a busy one due to the meeting being condensed into one day. A special highlight was the welcoming of two new members into the CETAF community, the Natural History Museum of Luxembourg and the Natural History Museum Bern.

CETAF Chair Leif Schulman and MnhnL director Alain Faber

Another high point were the group discussions amongst participants, who intently analysed and reviewed the strategic positioning of CETAF within a complex international landscape and towards its member institutions. The Executive Committee is currently analysing the outcomes from these discussions, so stay tuned!

The CETAF meeting was then followed by Biodiversity_Next. Biodiversity_Next delivered an impressive program in which the CETAF community (i.e. members, General Secretariat, Executive Committee and Working Groups (WG)) significantly contributed:

  • The Biodiversity Monitoring Group organised a workshop on a potential pan-European Biodiversity Monitoring scheme with high-profile speakers. The workshop was convened by WG-chair Livia Schäffler. Lucy Bastin (JRC Digital Observatory of Protected Areas) and Rob Jongman (Wageningen UR) gave talks about the selection of appropriate sampling sites representative for the climatic zones and the variety of habitat types in Europe. Paul Hebert (Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, Univ. Guelph) and Caspar Hallman (Radboud University) then tackled the development of a harmonized sampling scheme to monitor biodiversity across Europe, considering relevant taxa to account for major anthropogenic pressures. The goal was to bring together taxonomists with spatial ecologists, molecular researchers, ecological statisticians, representatives of global monitoring infrastructures and biodiversity conservation, as well as policy makers to exchange ideas and establish fruitful interdisciplinary collaborations. One result of the panel discussion was the recognition that a comprehensive and standardized pan-European biodiversity monitoring program is "giga-science" and should be treated as such. Meaning, it should be led by scientists, receive adequate funding and should assess biodiversity directly as the basis for ecosystem functioning. 
  • Members of the DEST consortium put the outcomes of the BIOTALENT project to the test by having participants try out the new DEST e-Training Course: “Biodiversity in a changing climate: e-learn more". The participants were very active even in the limited time available and the response to the course and the platform was overwhelmingly positive. A great push towards making the BIOTALENT outcomes a staple within DEST.
  • The Earth Science WG was well represented in the science symposium "The role of Earth Science collections within biodiversity research". More specifically, the symposium wanted to address the implementation of metadata standards, publication of collection data via data portals, tools for mapping the data and conducting quality checks discussed at the TDWG Paleo Interest Group meeting. The chair of the Earth Science WG Johanna Eder presented "Palaeontological and biological collections – bridging the gap". Laura Tilley presented "Hazards and Disasters in the Geological and Geomorphological record".
  • CETAF Vice-Chair Michelle Price convened a workshop on "Fostering the taxonomic imperative: the opportunities and challenges of the 2050 biodiversity goals". This was sparked by the continuous action of calling funding for taxonomic research and support for institutions that hold natural history collections into question although taxonomy very much underpins the understanding of biodiversity. The aim of the workshop was to outline how the community of taxonomists and natural history museums can work together to address the taxonomic imperative and ensure taxonomy remains central to the next generation of biodiversity scientists and to society.
  • Laurence Bénichou, chair of the E-Publishing WG chaired a symposium on "Enhancing taxonomic publications for dynamic data exchange and navigation" since taxonomic publications are a prime candidate for text and data mining to discover these elements and make them findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR). The symposium aimed to present the benefits of utilizing existing standards and identifiers as strategies for liberating the data contained within taxonomic publications.
  • Members of the ISTC, led by WG-chair Anton Güntsch, were addressing the problem of the still too fragmented and poorly connected data associated with specimens, which is unable to  fulfill the demands of science. A mentioned first step in the right direction was to equip physical specimens with HTTP-URI-based identifiers in order to publish specimen information in the form of Linked Open Data. A second step would be the necessity to enrich collection data with links to semantic resources such as, representations of people, literature and geographic entities. These semantic annotations will need pragmatic workflows for setting semantic links in an efficient way.
  • The Legislation & Regulations WG, or to be more precise the core group on Access and benefit-Sharing (ABS), discussed ABS, Digital Sequence Information and Biodiversity Data in the light of the CBD goals. The CETAF Code of Conduct on ABS played a prominent role in these discussions.
  • The European Initiatives Advisory Board, led by Carole Paleco, convened a very interactive workshop towards the end of the conference to provide participants with the opportunity to talk directly to policy makers about the new tools under the upcoming EU Framework programme Horizon Europe. The participants split into groups to discuss, among other things, where biodiversity can connect to the already defined topics of the so-called missions. These deliberation proved to be particularly fruitful and the results will be transmitted in a concise form to the European Commission.

Like our working groups, many of our projects were represented well, too, such as DiSSCo during a symposium on "DiSSCo as a model for regional development of collections infrastructure", partially moderated by CETAF Executive Director Ana Casino, and ICEDIG and SYNTHESYS+  e.g. during a mega symposium on the future of digitisation, tackling specifically private collections, pinned insects, transcription, herbaria, and databases.

You can re-live more of the highlights by scrolling through our Twitter feed or searching the hashtag #biodiversity_next on Twitter.

Biodiversity_Next Aftermovie