Community News

Environmental education project in Portugal receives support from FCCN

Nuno Oliveira at Berlenga Island – photo rights belong to SPEA

The Portuguese NREN offers technological support to an environmental education project to raise environmental protection awareness and help create a more sustainable future.

Words: Ana Afonso, FCCN and Fábio Rodrigues

Videocast is a live broadcast service that the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), provides through their FCCN unit – the Portuguese National Research and Education Network (NREN). Videocast allows the transmission of live events to the whole world, via the internet. FCCN provides a customisable web page where video and audio streams, from a specific event, are displayed. Whether the event is a class, an internal TV channel or life inside a seabird’s nest, it is possible via this service, without invasive advertising or commercial breaks interrupting the stream.

Nuno Oliveira, a marine conservation biologist at SPEA – ‘Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves’ (Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds) describes the role that Videocast played in the project “Shearwaters in the Berlengas Island | Nature on the Web”. The initiative seeks to “promote environmental education and awareness” through the uninterrupted live transmission from a nest of
shearwaters.

How did the possibility to use the Videocast service arise for the project “Shearwaters in Berlengas | Nature on the Web”? And what can you tell us about this initiative?

The opportunity arose as an invitation from FCCN in 2019, when the revitalisation of the “Nature on the Web” programme was planned. The “Shearwaters in the Berlengas Island| Nature on the Web” is part of a set of activities developed by SPEA to promote education and environmental awareness – one of the pillars of our mission. As we see it, a well-informed citizen will more likely understand the importance of preserving our natural values.

Shearwater and its baby in the nest – by Miguel Lecoq

What are the main advantages offered by this initiative to the general public?

The main goal of this initiative is to show people something that previously would not be normally accessible: life inside a seabird’s nest, the shearwaters. Thus, with minimum disturbance, people can visit the nest and monitor the growth of the chicks or their feeding by the adult birds. Seabirds, despite being one of the most threatened groups of birds globally, are also the least known.

What Videocast features were ideal for integration into the project? And how do you evaluate the experience so far?

Including “Shearwaters in Berlengas” in a more comprehensive initiative and in partnership with other entities contributes to increase the potential for showing what is happening in these birds little nests. On the other hand, maintenance costs for this system, although low, are a significant burden for a non-profit organisation without self-financing, as SPEA. For this reason, FCCN’s support was vital for the long term life of this project, as it allowed for the cost reduction associated with the streaming service. This way, we can guarantee access to images on the web to a virtually unlimited number of users. The support of FCCN technicians has also been fundamental and has allowed this ‘boat to reach the harbour’.

Are there any other similar projects planned?

The success of “Shearwaters in Berlengas” and the encouraging support by the public, has led us to adopt this type of tool for other projects. We are currently preparing the installation of two similar systems for recent initiatives that we are developing in Ria Formosa Natural Park – Life Ilhas Barreira in Algarve. One of the cameras will be broadcasting the activity of a colony of Audouin gulls, while the other will be placed in a colony of chirps hopefully in early spring next year.

Are there any other SPEA initiatives that you would like to disclose?

The first is an initiative led by BirdLife International (of which SPEA is a partner) that calls for the United Nations to declare a healthy natural environment as a fundamental human right, through a petition available at: https://www.spea.pt/campanhas/ambiente-saudavel-um-direito-humano/

The second follows the “Life Berlengas” project, which, after its successful completion, was selected as one of the 8 final projects for the Natura2000 European Prize. Voting is open and can be carried out at: https://www.spea.pt/life-berlengas-entre-finalistas-do-premio-europeu-natura-2000/

Artificial nest with shearwater incubating an egg – by Nuno Oliveira

How do you foresee the evolution of the relationship between SPEA and Videocast?

Videocast is a tool that has come to stay at SPEA and has an enormous potential that we intend to continue exploring. In this sense, Videocast and FCCN represent essential support that we cherish and hope to keep. We think that the potential of these tools goes far beyond promotion. In the future, it could be used for remote monitoring systems in places with difficult access, for example. When working in small islands and islets, Videocast systems could revolutionise the way we study, monitor, and protect our planet’s natural values.

And how do you evaluate the possibility of integrating other FCCN services?

We would like to look into other FCCN services to maximise the dissemination of SPEA’s mission. Last year, during my visit at their studios, I thought that some of their spectacular equipment could be used for the documentaries we are planning for so many of our projects and initiatives. On the other hand, in the current reality affected by the corona virus pandemic, we could certainly explore the use of Colibri, FCCN’s remote meeting services.


Live link to the nest: https://videocast.fccn.pt/live/fccn/nnw_cagarra_berlengas