The online workshop "Open Science for the Ocean: Meet the Blue-Cloud demonstrators" took place on 23 March 2021 with the main objectives of introducing the Blue-Cloud Virtual Research Environment and presenting the five Blue-Cloud demonstrators to the wider marine research community. The consortium also provided an overview of the project's goals, the technical architecture of the Blue-Cloud framework, as well as the Strategic Roadmap to 2030.

Unveiling the Blue-Cloud Virtual Research Environment

The webinar was moderated by Sara Pittonet Gaiarin, Senior Project Manager at Trust-IT Services and Blue-Cloud Project Coordinator, who provided a comprehensive overview of the Blue-Cloud project, its long-term goals, as well as the main objectives of the workshop. The ocean is crucial for life on Earth and plays a vital role in mitigating climate change. Blue-Cloud was funded in order to enhance ocean science, harmonise and improve existing resources for research, and facilitate evidence-based support to decisionmakers and blue economy actors in the context of EU and international frameworks, such as the EU Green Deal and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

She was followed by Dick Schaap, Managing Director at MARIS and Blue-Cloud Technical Coordinator, who outlined the existing European Marine Data landscape and offered insights on its key role in the Blue-Cloud context, particularly for the Data Discovery and Access Service. This service collects data from these top-class European data infrastructures, bringing together quality data including both in situ and remote systems, and contributing to the effort of making them interoperable and FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). The data collected are relevant to stakeholders who conduct marine research across disciplines, in order to have a better understanding of the ocean and contribute to finding solutions to pressing challenges like water quality, climate change and assessment of stocks and fisheries.

The first session was concluded by Pasquale Pagano, Technical Director at CNR-ISTI, who presented the Blue-Cloud Virtual Research Environment, a trusted virtual space to promote Open Science practices and foster collaboration between researchers, facilitating data sharing and analytical methods. The VRE also includes notebooks (Jupyterhub, Rstudio, Analytics Engine and the Catalogue) to enhance the reusability of data and reproducibility of science. The Blue-Cloud Catalogue will also make it easier for researchers and providers to integrate their outputs and services into central parts of the European Open Science Cloud environment, such as the EOSC Portal.

Demonstrating Blue-Cloud's potential

Fisheries and aquaculture

The second session featured representatives of the five Blue-Cloud demonstrators, who provided exciting updates about the work on the Virtual Labs developed by their teams. The first presentation was delivered by Anton Ellenbroek, Consultant at FAO, who introduced the Fisheries and Aquaculture Blue-Cloud demonstrators. Their Virtual Labs have been created exploiting the potential of the flexible Blue-Cloud VRE, ingesting FAIR and interoperable data from existing infrastructures. A tutorial for the Global Record of Stocks and Fisheries Virtual Lab was also shown, and users can already access it via this link. The Fisheries Atlas, on the other hand, is expanding and improving the existing FAO Tuna Atlas, a global vertically integrated toolset to manage public fisheries statistical data from ingestion, through harmonisation, to publication.

The Aquaculture Monitor also includes two services: an Aquaculture Cage Atlas, offering an overview of satellite data derived maps of cages and cage clusters; and an Aquaculture Ponds Atlas, which will result in a coastal land-use classification map.

Plankton biodiversity and genomics

Pavla Debeljak, Researcher at Sorbonne Université, presented the Plankton Genomics demonstrator, which focuses on the development of two notebooks to assess plankton distributions: Species and functions discovery; Biodiversity and ecology. The dataset used in the notebooks comprises the biggest Eukaryotic plankton database built from metagenomics and metatranscriptomics sequences, it provides information on biogeographic distribution and global ocean modelling.

Patricia Martin-Cabrera, Science Officer Data Center at VLIZ, introduced the demonstrator Zoo and Phytoplankton EOV products.The objective of this demonstrator is to derive zoo and phytoplankton biomass and diversity products using data compilation and processing, big data and machine learning methods, as well as NRT models data to create innovative plankton products. The demonstrator is composed by three parts: Phytoplankton EOV products which develops a global ocean 3D chlorophyll-a concentrations with the support of machine learning systems, the second part aims to derive gridded data products for zooplankton distribution using variational analysis and neural networks; the third part, modelling phyto- and zooplankton interactions, aims to understand what are the drivers that limit phytoplankton abundance and spatiotemporal changes based on the nutrient phytoplankton and NPZD model. 

Marine environmental indicators

Last but not least, Massimiliano Drudi, Research Associate at CMCC Foundation, outlined the Marine Environmental Indicators demonstrator. Its objectives are linked to the calculation and the online distribution of information and indicators on the environmental quality of the sea. Through this Virtual Lab, researchers can obtain new added value data applying Big Data analysis and machine learning methods on multisource data sets, in order to perform operations, such as selecting portions of a dataset, bringing the information together, visualising them and scaling the working domain to the global scale through the development of the Ocean Patterns Indicator, the Storm Severity Index and the Marine Carbon Indicator. Learn more about how to use this Virtual Lab in our tutorial.

Discussing the Blue-Cloud framework and Roadmap to 2030

The interactive Q&A session saw the participation of key actors in ocean science and members of the Blue-Cloud External Stakeholders Expert Board (ESEB), such as Sheila Heymans (European Marine Board), Linda Fourdain (FAO), Robert Huber (MARUM) and Jaume Piera (ECSA), who provided key insights and suggestions which will be taken into account by the Blue-Cloud consortium.

The session was concluded by Kate Larkin and Julia Vera, respectively Director and Senior Expert Consultant at Seascape Belgium, who summed up the main features of the Blue-Cloud Strategic Roadmap to 2030, a policy document stating the long-term goals and showcasing the added value brought by Blue-Cloud, also highlighting Open Science's fundamental role in all branches of marine research.

In particular, the Blue-Cloud long-term strategy is going to take into account other relevant documents such as the EOSC Strategic and Research Innovation Agenda (recently published by the EOSC Association), and fundamental policy frameworks including the EU Green Deal and UN Sustainable Development Goals, while contributing to the Decade of Ocean Science launched by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. A new round of consultation on a draft of the Roadmap is opening in June 2021, inviting the entire marine and maritime community to participate.


The webinar was well-received by a total of 142 participants, mainly coming from Europe, with a participation rate of 68%


The majority of participants came from Research and Academia, National Authorities, NGOs and Blue Data Infrastructure, as shown in the picture below.


Q&A from the open session

Below we have collected some of the most relevant questions and answers from the open session.


  • Very interesting with regard to application to aquaculture.  Are there other case studies in addition to Chile and Tunisia?  Is there the opportunity for others in the aquaculture industry to engage in this work? 
    • FAO and CLS tested cage detection over Chile, Malta, Greece, Turkey, Zambia. We also work with them on coastal pond detection over South Sulawesi (AI Classification of S2 data). Cage monitoring over a season is more challenging, and this is now being developed over Chile and Tunisia as test sites. The innovation of Blue-Cloud is to put this in the hands of local organisations that hold the cage information. We use Blue-Cloud SDI for that.
  • Can the implemented tools handle the different data QCs from different sources? Is there documentation on this?
    • Yes. The QCs performed at the pre-processing steps are described in the scripts in the VRE (e.g. the phytoplankton product in the jupyter notebooks). Data infrastructures have different standards - and apply several QC steps in their workflows. e.g. The VLIZ team applies several EMODnet quality control steps to our data before it's ingested in the EMODnet Biology and EurOBIS database.
  • This is an exciting way to bring data together. How do you foresee to be able to build the capacity to build such an infrastructure leveraging on data on such a global scale?
    • We work with regional fisheries bodies, local institutes that detect the cage locations. For the Global Record of Stocks and Fisheries this was a huge record across 3 different organisations, now a wide audience can log in and validate their data.
  • What's the next step? QCs of the data For instance I am a biologist interested in the temperature of some taxonomic groups - how is this passed to different users?
    • It’s a cultural change and we can be helped by IoT to create more metadata in a data centre where there is a quality control before it goes outside the production environment. It’s also about how scientists handle their data. Data collection is a key step in the verification phase.
    • In addition, EMODnet and CMEMS as long-term marine data services (working with SeaDataNet and many others) already offer clear metadata to describe integrated (diverse sources) open data sets and data products, specifying the provenance of the data and also the data processing levels. Providing this information and the levels of processing, quality control etc to provide more information on the data provenance. This is continuously improving. For example, see the EMODnet data and data product portfolio here: Blue-Cloud is leveraging on this existing EU capability and connecting assets and capabilities in marine open data and open science.
  • How do you work with other projects that might be doing something similar?
    • The Blue-Cloud VRE has a large potential to boost scientific productivity by collaborating with other projects. We invite everyone to use and build further on the products generated in the demonstrators.
  • A long-term strategic vision for Blue-Cloud and its role within the marine ecosystem is a key way to bring visibility to the initiative and ensure buy-in from relevant stakeholders. In a way, the concept is similar to the EOSC Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda. Will both documents be aligned?
    • Yes, the B-C Roadmap to 2030 is being drafted with consideration of the marine knowledge landscape, policy context and relevant developments surrounding EOSC and other related initiatives. The B-C Roadmap to 2030 will seek to align its recommendations with those brought forward by the EOSC SRIA - including its roadmap of implementation - welcoming, supporting and benefitting from them, but also underpinning them with specific recommendations and actions that are relevant for unlocking and realizing the potential of open science in the marine domain.


Watch the recording and download the slides


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