Kick off meeting

The first formal COBECORE meeting...

On the 19th of April COBECORE had it’s formal kick-off meeting at “het Pand” at Ghent University. We were lucky to gather most of the partners involved. This means, Koen Hufkens, Hans Verbeeck as project leads and Jan Van den Bulcke (UGent); Kim Jacobsen and Hans Beeckman (RMCA); Filip Vandelook and Piet Stoffelen (Botanical Garden). Due to prior engagements Michael Amara (State Archives) was excused.

General interest generated additional attendance by Tom de Mil (RMCA), Corneille Ewango (WCF Ituri, University of Kisangani), Laurent Nsenga (director WWF DRC), Innocent Banzi Ngulu-kulu (Master student on COBECORE) and Thales de Haulleville (PhD student, RMCA).

Discussions were opened with the news that the project will be funded in two parts. A first part will fund 59% of the project, the remainder will be funded after an internal evaluation and available federal budgets. The budget and workplan was adjusted according to this new financial reality. It is obvious that not all deliverables in the work packages will be met on a partial budget. Both the work packages to deliver and their progress can be tracked on our dynamic Gantt chart. Furthermore, given this new reality it was therefore decided that there is a certain urgency to the project as to demonstrate the group’s capabilities.

Luckily, significant progress was made in the months leading up to kick-off meeting, this provides the project with a small head start. We highlight for example the digitization and valorization of an index of meteorological stations. Although no formal database has been constructed yet data is already visualized online. We also want to mention the preliminary analysis of the aerial survey data. Good contacts with the geology department at the RMCA (Francois Kervyn) and help from Thales will allow rapid progress on this part. Similarly, initial pre-processing algorithms are being developed to speed up the processing of digitized meteorological data records. Furthermore, the botanical garden is in an excellent position to get a rolling start as previous projects complement the proposed work. Additional opportunities were recognized in for example the Stomata project on Zooniverse (not live yet), or the Thoreau’s Field Notes project. Both projects illustrate the benefits of Citizen Science in retrieving botanical information, for example phenology data from herbarium specimen to validate previously digitized Jungle Rhythms data.

Consensus during the meeting was reached on the fact that the focus should be on providing baseline measurements, insights on long term changes, data preservation, accessibility. However, to ensure proper recognition of the COBECORE project a research component is preferred. Within the context of research it was suggested to broaden the reach of the project. Outreach and collaborations should be set up. Potential partners include:

  • WWF DRC (Laurent Nsenga)
  • CIFOR FORETS project
  • FAO
  • University of Kisangani (Corneille Ewango)

Coming November a larger meeting will be organized aiming to reach out to all these partners. Informal communication will be done every first Wednesday of the Month at 10am CET. Finally, additional funding will be sought to support students in DRC through VLIR-UOS scholarships. Here we are gratefull for Corneille Ewango’s continued support and involvement in the project.