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INSPIRE Shares Scheldt Use Case Developments at VMSD 2024

VLIZ Marine Science Day, in Ostend
VLIZ Marine Science Day, in Ostend

The INSPIRE team at VLIZ participated in the 2024 edition of the VLIZ Marine Science Day, in Ostend at the beginning of March, on a day dedicated to scientific discussions around marine research and exploration.

The 2024 edition of VLIZ Marine Science Day (VMSD) welcomed over 460 participants on its special edition dedicated to the EU Mission Ocean and Waters and framed within the Belgian EU Presidency and the UN Ocean Decade. Keynote speakers John Bell, director Healthy Planet of the European Commission DG Research & Innovation, and Paul Rose, National Geographic explorer and broadcaster, highlighted the importance of youth participation in environmental research and causes.

The programme included two sessions of doctoral candidates presentations, poster sessions, interviews with the grant winners of the Brilliant Marine Research Idea and interactive sessions. John Bell talked enthusiastically about “Shaping our blue future: The EU Mission ‘Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030’”, and appealed to the young audience to continue to creatively contribute with ideas and novel research to restore the health of our ocean and waters. Bell also highlighted how citizen engagement and blue investments, are key to reach the Mission 2030 targets, which are actions also supported by the INSPIRE project which has successfully joined the Mission Charter as an Action since October 2023.

After lunch, Paul Rose guided the audience through the lens of photography and shared extraordinary stories on his leading work at NatGeo on expeditions for Pristine Seas. This program, launched in 2008, aims to restore the health and productivity of the ocean and improve the livelihoods of coastal communities by protecting the ocean from overfishing, global warming, and pollution.

INSPIRE was present in this exciting event through a poster communication entitled “Exploring solutions for plastic pollution: detecting, collecting, and preventing unwanted debris in the Scheldt River”, authored by the Scheldt use case team from VITO Remote Sensing, VLIZ, FishFlow Innovations, River Cleanup, Wageningen University & Research, University of Maribor, and University of Cádiz. With this specific use case, we aim to test four groups of innovative detection methodologies and three collection technologies for macro-, meso-, and microlitter at an urban area in Temse (upstream from Antwerp) and in the port of Antwerp, in Doeldok. In parallel, we have planned prevention actions, which include citizen science activities, via cleanup events, to promote community engagement and increase awareness.

Mariana Miranda and Ana Catarino, INSPIRE VLIZ
Mariana Miranda and Ana Catarino, INSPIRE VLIZ

“During VMSD 2024, I had the opportunity to share with other participants the goals and roadmap of the INSPIRE project, focusing on the work that we are developing at the Scheldt River, in Belgium, to find solutions for plastic pollution in the river waterways and riverbanks. I saw a lot of interest from the participants with whom I interacted during the poster sessions, specially from university students”, Mariana Miranda, INSPIRE/VLIZ researcher.

The INSPIRE VLIZ team played a key role in organizing one of the interactive sessions dedicated to pollution. Both Ana Catarino and Mariana Miranda (VLIZ Plastics in Local and Global Waters research group) guided the curiosity of the public towards “The plastic journey of the senses” where the participants were challenged to use their senses (touch, sight, and hearing) to, in a fun way, identify plastics that we use in our daily life, therefore raising awareness to our unsustainable overuse of plastic. This was also an opportunity to test the participants with questions/myths and better understand their perceptions on plastic pollution and the best responses to this environmental challenge.

“By challenging perceptions and sparking dialogue, we strive to INSPIRE meaningful action towards a sustainable future”, says Ana Catarino. “The road to mitigation measures on plastic pollution requires a joint effort from all sectors of society, and at VLIZ we aim to transform curiosity into action and engage researchers and policy makers, industry and the public in contributing to innovation and solutions. The VMSD was a great platform to continue to raise awareness on the importance of a healthy ocean and clean waters”.

Ana Catarino, INSPIRE VLIZ
Ana Catarino, INSPIRE VLIZ
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