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EMODnet 2020 and a new decade of ocean opportunities!

News article |

Dear EMODnet partners, colleagues and friends,

At the start of each New Year, it has become our tradition to take a moment to reflect on the past, take stock of our achievements and look forward to what the coming year will bring for our growing network of partners and users.

As we enter a new and exciting decade for all things oceans, we mark also the end of the first decade of EMODnet. The vision for EMODnet was clear from its inception in 2009, with 2020 as the landmark year to deliver maps of our European seas covering topography, geology, habitats and ecosystems, with highest resolution possible in areas that have been surveyed. These maps are accompanied by timely information on the physical, chemical and biological state of the overlying water column. And we are proud that we have achieved this vision! What is more: we have done so working together across European countries, with more than 120 organisations providing access to data and products of Europe’s seas and oceans in a way which is easily accessible, interoperable and free of restrictions on use. As a result of this immense work, EMODnet has become a major pan-European provider of multidisciplinary marine data, data-products and services fostering a diverse and expanding user base.

A quick look back

2019 saw the release of many exciting new products and data sets from EMODnet’s seven thematic portals (EMODnet portals). Whilst too numerous to mention all, some highlights include the much anticipated release of EMODnet’s new digital vessel density maps from Human Activities in March 2019. These products allows users to visualise and download vessel movement patterns and the distribution of maritime traffic in European waters. They were followed by the release of complementary route density maps created by EMSA using an alternative method, and also made available via the Human Activities portal. New maps showing the extent of marine litter in European seas from EMODnet Chemistry marked a significant achievement for the wider marine observation community who worked collaboratively with EMODnet to assemble the scattered datasets, allowing users to detect trends in litter accumulation on our beaches and the seafloor. Throughout the year, EMODnet Geology’s team continued to release a series of products, including the first pan-European shoreline-migration map of its kind since 2004, helping us to monitor coastal change in Europe. EMODnet Bathymetry also released several new layer and products in 2019, expanding the wealth of resources already available, including the latest release of the EMODnet Digital Bathymetry with resolution up to 1/16*1/16 arc minutes (circa 115*115 meters). EMODnet Physics were happy to announce the inclusion and availability of data-sets from both the T-MED network and the Saildrone network during 2019. Together with the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) community, EMODnet Physics has also re-initiated the collaboration with PANGAEA in order to integrate some of their data into the EMODnet Physics Portal.

Addressing user needs is our priority at EMODnet so the network has put considerable effort into improving the user-driven services as well as connecting with new communities. EMODnet Seabed Habitats launched a new and improved interactive mapper, making it easier for users to view, query and download their unique seabed habitat maps. EMODnet Biology continues to provide data and information on the status of Europe’s marine biodiversity and launched a call for proposals in late 2019 providing grants to initiatives to help them cover existing geographical, temporal and/or taxonomic data gaps. EMODnet Biology also registered in the portal, supporting the community-driven efforts to promote the adoption of the FAIR Principles to make data Findable Accessible Interoperable and Reusable.

Fueling all our thematic portals, EMODnet’s Data Ingestion Portal provides a facility to identify and ingest relevant data sets. The ‘Data Wanted’ service flags the types of datasets that are needed and tries to match these with ingested data. The EMODnet Bathymetry’s Digital Terrain Model continues to be among EMODnet’s most downloaded product. The role of EMODnet Bathymetry as a global actor in the provision of bathymetric data was recognized by the  Seabed 2030 initiative, led by the IHO-IOC GEBCO under the financial sponsorships of the Nippon Foundation. EMODnet actively collaborates with key players in the global ocean observing arena, to reduce duplication of efforts and provide the best possible service for users. To this end it has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Copernicus Marine In Situ Thematic Assembly Centre (INSTAC) and EMODnet Chemistry in June 2019, on cooperation regarding in‐situ biogeochemical marine data. EMODnet’s Central Portal provides the single entry point to all of EMODnet’s resources, as well as news on new EMODnet data and product releases, new use cases and events so it’s well worth a visit.

In September 2017, the EMODnet Secretariat took on the maintenance and further development of the European Atlas of the Seas. Since then the Atlas has undergone an extensive revamp. The catalogue grew from around 60 to more than 250 map layers in 2019 making the Atlas a valuable and user-friendly resource of marine and maritime maps for non-data-savvy professionals, students and citizens alike. Exciting collaborations and the signing of Memoranda of Understanding with Escola Azul in Portugal  and Nausicaá, France - the biggest aquarium in Europe with an important marine education program - were key highlights. These collaborations as well as various workshops with schools and teachers demonstrate how the Secretariat is bringing the Atlas into Europe’s classrooms and nurturing a more ocean literate European society. 

Extending our network and reaching new communities

EMODnet’s visibility and reach continues to grow, in Europe and beyond. In 2019, EMODnet was showcased at various international meetings of the global ocean observation community such as Ocean Obs 2019, EGU General Assembly 2019, IODE-XXV Scientific Conference and WOC Sustainable Ocean Summit. EMODnet has featured frequently in scientific papers with a major collaborative effort coming to fruition in July 2019 with the publication of an EMODnet Community White Paper in Frontiers in Marine Science, led by our former Secretariat colleague Belén Martín-Míguez. Throughout 2019, we have been maintaining the momentum towards building a coordinated European Ocean Observing System (EOOS), with the release in May of the EOOS Conference Report and follow up actions to promote the implementation of the EOOS Conference call to Action.

Whilst ocean observing and data management is central to EMODnet, we are always exploring new ways to increase EMODnet’s impact beyond the marine data and observation community. To this end, 2019 saw the launch of EMODnet’s second Open Sea Lab in Ghent in 2019 in search of bright people with new and innovative ideas to exploit the wealth of EMODnet data resources. Together with the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and imec and with support from the European Commission’s Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE), we were delighted to welcome to the OSL II organising committee both the Copernicus Marine Environmental Monitoring Service (CMEMS) and the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES). We welcomed further collaboration from Marine@UGent, Global Fishing Watch and OVH. With 70 participants from 19 nations, OSLII proved to be a very creative and productive 3 days resulting in many demonstrations and prototypes of new products developed building on our resources. It also worked as a stress-test of EMODnet services helping our technical teams better understand what works well and what doesn’t, so that we continuously keep improving.

Thanks to our Associated Partnership scheme, EMODnet has further expanded and diversified in 2019. We have been delighted to welcome new associated partners such as Lange Research Aircraft GmbH (LRA), Polytechnic University of Catalonia (Obsea), MARETEC, Thames Estuary Partnership (TEP), Helzel Messtechnik GmbH, Nodalpoint System, Saildrone and Sofar Ocean.

The ‘EMODnet for Business’ strategy has fostered better connections with the private sector, and with guidance from the Marine Knowledge Expert Group EMODnet is ensuring it continues to take into account the needs of businesses and deliver to the blue economy. Our engagements are underpinned by our continuous communication campaigns, through organizing or participating in events, our newsletters and social media channels. We have gained over 1000 new twitter followers since this time last year, reaching a total of 4306 followers. We encourage you to join us on Twitter and stay informed of all things EMODnet!

A Network of People

As EMODnet grows, so too does the workload! At the Secretariat, 2019 brought welcome new additions to the team, with the arrival of Kate Larkin, Tim Collart and Xiaoyu Fang. Towards the end of 2019, our Secretariat colleague and friend Pascal Derycke left to explore new challenges. Pascal played an instrumental role as Technical Coordinator at the Secretariat, particularly in the takeover of the European Atlas of the Seas. We wish Pascal a fond farewell and wish him well for the future. We are also delighted to announce that two new colleagues will shortly be joining our team: Conor Delaney will join the Secretariat in March as new Technical Coordinator and Julie Auerbach in February as our new EMODnet Partnership Relations Officer. These are no strangers to EMODnet as our paths have crossed in the past and we are very sure that their knowledge and expertise will significantly contribute to our Network’s goals and objectives.

Across the network, there were also other changes: as we said farewell to Paula Oset-Garcia in 2019, we  also welcomed Joana Beja to the network as coordinator of EMODnet Biology. Paula has not left the data world behind her and we wish her all the very best in her new role at Gent University!

A New Year and a New Decade: EMODnet 2020 and beyond

2020 is a very important year for Ocean Science. The UN Ocean Conference takes place in Lisbon in June. Our understanding of the ocean and its contribution to sustainability is absolutely dependent on access to quality marine data and information, as such EMODnet will be a key initiative for the upcoming Ocean Decade (2021-2030) contributing to delivering a ‘Transparent and accessible Ocean’. EMODnet has also committed to increase its support to IOC’s International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) programme activities with a focus on the Inter-sessional Working Group on Strategy on Ocean Data and Information Stewardship (IWG-SODIS) for the UN Ocean Decade and development of the IOC Ocean information Hub.

Although until now a largely European Network, EMODnet’s data coverage and scope are increasingly extending beyond Europe. Enhancing our international partnerships will be a major focus of our work for the coming year. We are delighted to announce the start of a new EU-China collaborative project in February this year called EMOD-PACE, connecting EMODnet with the Chinese counterpart NMDIS (National Marine Data and Information System) with a follow-up EMODnet-NMDIS meeting in China later this year. More information we will share via our central portal as the projects moves forward.

EMODnet’s international collaborations are very soon likely to include our partners in the UK! Science transcends geographical boundaries and we would like to stress that the close relationship with our valued UK partners, such as JNCC who has played a pivotal role in developing the Seabed Habitats portal and its products, will continue in the future. EMODnet remains an open and inclusive network, both in terms of connecting people and organisations, as well as with regard to data sharing and use, and that will never change.

Come and join us!

Something very exciting is on the horizon: in September this year – a very special year as we look back at a decade of EMODnet – we are organizing the 2nd EMODnet Open Conference (22-23 September 2020) and Jamboree (23-25 September 2020) in Oostende Belgium. It will be a unique opportunity for the entire EMODnet Community to come together, reflect on the past decade of EMODnet and exchange ideas about the future of EMODnet. We will have sessions on EMODnet for Europe, use cases and testimonies, EOOS, global partnerships and initiatives and a back-to-back event on the European Atlas of the Seas. We very much hope to welcome you all there, so stay tuned for more information!

Thank you and warm welcome EMODnet 2020

Finally, we take this opportunity to thank all EMODnet project coordinators, Steering Committee members, partners, data providers and all other contributors for your relentless efforts to shape EMODnet into what it is today. Because of your efforts, EMODnet has become as an essential service for marine data and information users underpinning the EC’s Blue Growth Strategy. We count on you to continue to drive progress in the coming decade and make EMODnet even more service oriented. As we reach our 2020 vision target and embark on a new year, we can be proud of a decade of step-wise developments with tangible results. Now it’s time to look out from where we stand, over the beach and with a better view of the ‘seascape’ ahead to find a warm welcome in an exciting decade of ocean opportunities which we will seize together.

The EMODnet Secretariat Team

Jan-Bart, Oonagh, Andrée-Anne, Kate, Nathalie, Tim and Xiaoyu

Belgian Coast View St.Idesbald - Mieke Hill - Acrylic on canvas ©JP Zinjé