The Action has provided grants for the following completed STSMs:

Dr Vasiliki Kousteni


STSM start and end date: 16/02/2019 to 18/03/2019

Grantee name: Vasiliki Kousteni, MSc-PhD

Home institution: Institute of Marine Biological Resources and Inland Waters (IMBRIW), Hellenic Center for Marine Research (HCMR), Athens, Greece

Host institution: Directorate D - Sustainable Resources, Water and Marine Resources Unit, Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy

STSM summary:

The current STSM aimed to assess the contribution of citizen science (CS) to the existing records of alien fish in the marine ecosystems in all European Seas, including also the Mediterranean African coasts. The Macaronesia region was excluded. This was accomplished through a thorough review of the alien marine fish CS records hosted in the European Alien Species Information Network (EASIN:, with particular emphasis to the records retrieved from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), and published in scientific literature. Given the limited number of the available CS records on alien fish, the Grantee contacted several Marine Institutions and Organizations that run CS projects in order to enrich the dataset. However additional CS alien fish records were retrieved only for the freshwater ecosystems and not the marine which was the initial purpose of the STSM. After consulting the EASIN team, the Phylum Mollusca (Classes: Bivalvia, Cephalopoda and Gastropoda) was also included in the study. For each marine alien fish and mollusc taxon recorded by CS, detailed information was retrieved including: a) the taxonomic classification (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family and Species) following WoRMS (2019), b) country of record, c) sub-regional sea of record based on the MSFD context, d) date of record, e) source, and f) level of data validation. All CS records were compared with the existing scientific knowledge on the marine alien fish and mollusc distribution in Europe by using the EASIN Geodatabase and its network of Data Partners, and scientific literature. The CS records that fell outside the known alien range of the investigated alien species across Europe were highlighted. The methodology and results of this STSM are summarized in the scientific publication entitled “Citizen scientists contributing to marine alien species detection: the case of alien fish and molluscs in the European marine waters” which is currently under review.

Dr Ana Sofia Vaz

STSM title: Improving the surveillance of alien plants through social participation: a comparison of distinct citizen science-generated data

Grantee name: Ana Sofia Vaz, PhD

Home institution: IISTA-CEAMA - Andalusian Inter-University Institute for Earth System Research, University of Granada, Spain

Host institution: CIBIO/InBIO - Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, Research Network in Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, University of Porto, Portugal

STSM summary:

Citizen science represents a great opportunity for collecting data on the occurrence of alien and invasive species under great time- and cost-efficiency. These data are needed to feed modelling approaches that support the surveillance and monitoring of alien species distributions. However, evaluating the usefulness of different citizen science approaches to support the monitoring of alien species through modelling exercises is far from being explored. The goal of this STSM was to evaluate the usefulness, strengths and limitations of data collected by different user groups and citizen science approaches for predicting the potential distribution of alien plant species and for guiding future surveillance efforts. For that, we first compiled species occurrence data from:

Stakeholders’ participatory mapping – involving the organization of a workshop with different decision-makers who where invited to identify (on a “printed” map of Portugal), the locations of different invasive alien plants;
Biodiversity-oriented mobile apps - collecting pictures of invasive species observed and respective coordinates from popular apps on nature observations in general (iNaturalist) and on Portuguese invasive species (invasoras:;
Public social media data - considering georeferenced pictures from social media platforms (Flickr: and identifying those pictures where invasive species occur.

After compiling the previous data, we developed habitat suitability models (HSM), which aimed to identify the social-ecological drivers and the predicted spatial distribution of alien invasive plants in mainland Portugal. For the stakeholders’ participatory mapping, results showed the lack of awareness on the location of invasive plants from the participating stakeholders, emphasising the need for training and information outreach strategies. For data based on mobile apps we were able to identify those areas more prone to the invasion by Cortaderia selloana, and therefor to identify the priority areas for the species management (Figure 1). For the social media data and due to the high number of available data (i.e. 583369 Flickr pictures), we decided to implement an automated detection approach of C. selloana in social media data, using Faster RCNN-ResNet machine learning models in Google Colab (Figure 2). The model has been trained and is now ready to be tested in the social media networks. Results are expected to be published soon.

This STSM has been achieved with the collaboration of João Honrado, Joana R. Vicente (University of Porto, Portugal), Hélia Marchante and Elizabete Marchante (University of Coimbra, Portugal). Results from this STSM contribute to the Working Group WG2 by testing the value of new and emerging technologies for citizen science in the context of alien and invasion species, as well as to WG4,  by evaluating the strengths and limitations of methods used for managing different kinds of citizen science data to provide relevant information for decision-making (WG4).


Figure 1 - Occurrences of Cortaderia selloana in the citizen-science mobile app invasoras app (a) and respective results of the habitat suitability models (b).

Figure 2 - Distribution of publicly available Flickr pictures for Portugal (a). Example of an annotated picture from invasoras app (b), currently being used for model refinement (c).

Dr Raluca Bancila

PDF icon Poster STSM - Bancila R.pdf


Grantee name: RALUCA I. BĂNCILĂ

Home institution: Institute of Speleology “Emil Racoviţǎ” of Romanian Academy, Calea 13 Septembrie, No. 13, 050711, Bucharest, Romania

Host institution: Institute of Marine Biological Resources and Inland Waters, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Attica, Greece

STSM summary:

Invasive alien species (IAS) represent serious threats to biodiversity worldwide. Yet, the introduction and spread of IAS in extremely vulnerable environments, such as caves ecosystems, are disregarded. We aimed to enhance data collection through citizen science about IAS colonising the subterranean environments in Europe. Specifically we proposed to: (1) compile a list of non indigenous species in subterranean environments from Europe; (2) identify likely future invasion of alien species and prioritise threats posed by potentially new IAS not yet established; (3) select five cave-dwelling species to be added on the Union list and prepare the factsheets for future inclusion in the “Invasive Alien Species Europe” App; (4) participate in the validation process of citizens’ records through the App and data integration into European Alien Species Information Network database (EASIN); (5) set up additional tools of outreach and data collection through citizen science by the use of social media. 


  • gather data of non indigenous species (NIS) by performing a comprehensive screening of literature 
  • check the current status of the species 
  • implement a horizon scanning approach 
  • apply additional selection criteria: (i) similarity with close related native species; (ii) difficulty to identify species in natural habitats by non experts; and/or (iii) species already known to pose great threats to biodiversity and to be maintained under investigation and updated 

Results and discussion 

    71 NIS, 59 from submarine caves, 11 from terrestrial caves and one from an artificial subterranean habitat 8 cryptogenic species: Aplysia dactylomela, Bugula fulva, Ectocarpus siliculosus, Filellum serratum, Microporella harmeri, Monocorophium sextonae, Oculina patagonica and Teredo navalis one native species, i.e. Mitrocomium medusiferum, one species that is estuarine, i.e. Ficopomatus enigmaticus, one questionable species, i.e. Schizoretepora hassi 60 alien species the five species selected for preparing the factsheets were: Brachidontes pharaonis, Percnon gibbesi,Nesticella mogera, Psilochorus simoni, Caenoplana coerulea

    Future work 

    • factsheets will be sent to the Joint Research Centre to be included in the App 
    • validation of the factsheets and inclusion of the species on the IAS Union concern list
    • data integration into EASIN database 
    • set up additional tools of outreach and data collection through citizen science