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Meet the BioFresh team: Aaike De Wever

August 1, 2011

Lake Tanganyika near Ujiji, Tanzania. Image: A De Wever

Continuing our series of interviews with BioFresh partners, we hear from Aaike De Wever, BioFresh Science Officer at the Freshwater Laboratory, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

 1. What is the focus of your work for BioFresh, and why?

My main focus within the BioFresh project is coordinating the development of the freshwater biodiversity information platform and data portal.  As I outlined in an earlier blogpost, another important aspect of my work is mobilizing freshwater data. As I believe it is necessary to communicate on this issue, I am currently preparing a series of blogposts on this topic.

Lake Tanganyika near Ujiji, Tanzania. Image: A De Wever

2. How is your work relevant to policy makers, conservationists and/or the general public?

One of the main aims of BioFresh, in which I am heavily involved, is to make data discoverable and encouraging the on-line publication of biodiversity data. In doing so, we hope to contribute to an increased efficiency and transparency in science by helping the discovery of relevant datasets and reducing the need to do certain surveys over again. In addition, the mobilised data will be made open access so that anyone interested can consult it. In addition, I will be involved in integrating the Climate Vulnerability Index and Key Biodiversity Areas tools in the portal. These tools developed by BioFresh partners are specifically targeting policy makers and conservationists.

3. Why is the BioFresh project important?

From the data point of view, I believe BioFresh has a major role in creating a change of mindset in the way (freshwater) scientists deal with data, data publication and openness of data.

Liemba ferry on Lake Tanganyika. Image: A De Wever

4. Tell us about a memorable experience in your scientific career

For my PhD, I had the chance to do fieldwork on Lake Tanganyika, which was quite memorable in itself. But one of the creatures that really fascinated me was the freshwater jellyfish Limnocnida tanganyicae, which I really enjoyed observing. I even tried to do some grazing experiments with them, but sampling and picking out these fragile creatures wasn’t very straightforward…! Another great experience was crossing the lake on the Liemba, which really confronts you with the immense size of the lake and the importance of fisheries in the basin.

Liemba ferry on Lake Tanganyika. Image: A De Wever

5.  What inspired you to become a scientist?
I grew up in quite a green environment (surprisingly so for Flanders) and hence was fascinated by nature form a very young age. I am not completely sure what convinced me to go forward in this direction, but in afterthought I have always been fascinated by computers as well, so that would have been my second option. So working on databases and coordinating IT developments isn’t that far off after all.

6. What are your plans and ambitions for your future work?

Although not really scientific, my main ambition for the years to come is to make the BioFresh data portal really work. I believe that, by creating a high quality data portal, which allows to integrate biodiversity data in different tools, we will be able to demonstrate the importance and possibilities that emerge when several scientists are sending in their data and convince more scientists to do the same.

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