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European Atlas of the Seas short interview - Chantal Vanhove and Zoi Konstantinou

Published on: Mon, 27/02/2023 - 20:06
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    This short interview is part of a series of monthly publications that will allow you to discover the work and activities of experts involved in the development of the European Atlas of the Seas as well as people from across Europe who use the Atlas and have a keen interest in the ocean, seas and coastal areas. Stay tuned and find out who they are, what they do and why they have a special connection to the ocean! This month, we meet Chantal Vanhove and Zoi Konstantinou from the European Commission’s Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE).
    European Atlas of the Seas short interview - Chantal Vanhove and Zoi Konstantinou

    Chantal Vanhove obtained a translator degree in English and Spanish and quickly got interested in IT.  She worked for several years as system administrator.  She opted for another twist in career to become an assistant policy officer and works on the development and management of the European Atlas of the Seas.

    Zoi Konstantinou is a Marine Scientist MSc-PhD, specialised in Integrated Coastal and Marine Management and in Science-Policy-Society interface. As a European Commission Policy Officer, she works on the management of the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet), on the development of the European Digital Twin of the Ocean and on other issues related to marine knowledge and research.

    The European Atlas of the Seas is an initiative of DG MARE. It is an interactive ocean literacy tool, an educational tool and an information tool that provides users with the possibility to consult more than 275 interactive map layers on a wide diversity of marine and maritime topics and to combine different map layers. Why is it important for DG MARE to make this tool widely available across Europe in 24 languages?

    Chantal: You cannot love what you do not know. There is a wealth of information scattered in all places that can improve our understanding of the ocean and its importance. However, it is sometimes difficult to find that information in a comprehensible way. In the Atlas you can find maps with data from relevant sources on a variety of topics directly linked to the seas and ocean. We would love to be an entry portal to all this information and incite caring of the ocean by reaching out to every European and this would be impossible if we cannot make that information available in the 24 languages of the EU. We are also conscious that education is important and are shaping the Atlas not only into an information source but also in a tool for teachers to use in their classrooms and for students with a keen interest for the ocean.

    Zoi: I couldn’t agree more Chantal! If we want European youngsters and European citizens to understand and get fascinated by what the seas and ocean provide in our everyday life, we need to bring this knowledge –what we call marine knowledge- in their everyday lives, in their classroom, at the tips of their fingers through their tablets and phones. To do this, we had to provide this knowledge in all official European languages, make it accessible to all audiences. This is the only way to ensure that teachers will be able to use this wealth of information in the optimal way. Looking into the future, we want the European Atlas of the Seas to be used as a source of information and maps from national public services, NGOs and other users, easily and in their mother tongue.

    What key messages would you like to share with users of the European Atlas of the Seas?

    Chantal: Dive in the Atlas and explore. You will be amazed by the amount of information available and the variety of topics. Moreover, do not hesitate to give us feedback to further improve the Atlas.

    Zoi: Share the Atlas! Share the maps you find interesting to your social media, accompany them with your message about the importance of the ocean in our life, about the value of the Blue Economy, about interesting facts for our seas. It is our collective duty to protect the ocean that gives us life and the Atlas is an easy and fun way to spread this message and share the knowledge!

    What topics should we currently all learn about? What are the key priorities for the coming years?

    Chantal: The environmental impact on the ocean and seas can be observed through various maps.  You can also see the importance of the sea for our economy. It can give you an idea on how data is collected at sea, which is more complicated than on land. 

    Zoi: For me, there are two “hot” topics! Climate change and Life below water. In no other system is climate change more profound than in the coastal areas, seas and ocean. The Atlas has a lot of information to showcase this and in the following years we are going to enrich it further. Do you know if your favourite beach is in danger from sea-level rise or erosion? In the Atlas you can learn about it.

    Life below water is a fascinating subject as well and very much related with our own prosperity. What are the seabed habitats we have in Europe and what kind of fish and other marine creatures do they host? And how is what we fish and eat changing through the years, because of pollution, of human activity or of overheating and acidification of the ocean?

    We have to learn about these issues before we can act to tackle them or to adapt to them.

    What is your favourite map in the Atlas? Why? 

    Chantal: The drifting buoys map, where you can see what they are exactly measuring (you even have a link to access the platform data) and the drifting buoys temperature tracks, which give a nice overview of where the buoys drift and the temperature they measure.  I find data collection and nature observing a fascinating world.

    Zoi: My favourite category of maps are the ones dedicated to beach and marine litter. I believe they are the maps to start with when you first visit the Atlas as they show very vividly the impact that us humans have at the coastal and marine environment. At the same time, it is something that each and every one of us can change here and now with our behaviour.

    Thank you, Chantal and Zoi!