03 Oct 2023

Welcome to the inaugural edition of our EuroMarine Researchers in the Spotlight series, where we engage in captivating conversations with prominent researchers within our network.

For this article, we spoke to Jamileh Javidpour, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) about her experiences leading the EuroMarine Foresight Workshop "Mitigate Invasion".

The EuroMarine Foresight Workshop aimed to address the challenges posed by invasive alien species (IAS) in aquatic environments in Europe.

The primary objective was to assemble a consortium of experts, stakeholders, researchers, policymakers, and industry representatives to collectively address the upcoming Horizon Europe Cluster 6 call on "Biodiversity and ecosystem services" with a focus on IAS. The workshop was hosted by SDU, and held in Odense, Denmark in June 2023.

The Foresight Workshop played a crucial role in addressing invasive species challenges and it facilitated interdisciplinary collaboration by bringing together experts from fields such as ecology, economics, and policymaking. The workshop aimed to bridge the gap between research outcomes and practical actions to counter invasive species. This collaborative effort led to the formation of both a network and a consortium, each dedicated to enhancing biodiversity and addressing invasive species issues within European waters.


With a focus on marine food webs and ecosystem dynamics, Jamileh Javidpour has notably contributed to the study of jellyfish ecology. Her research includes innovative approaches such as the development of the aquaculture cage "Flow2Vortex" for sustainable aquaculture, as well as coordination of the Horizon 2020 project "GoJelly," addressing plastic pollution.

Jamileh's work encompasses diverse topics, ranging from selective feeding protection in jellyfish against microplastics to investigating predation on Baltic Sea herring larvae by invasive ctenophores. Her publications highlight critical issues in experimental approaches to microplastic effects and explore the influence of salinity on diazotrophic communities in the southern Baltic Sea.

EuroMarine: Could you briefly introduce the research topic that your Foresight Workshop focused on and describe its significance in the field of marine science?

I'm a marine ecologist. I'm interested in coastal biodiversity, but in open ocean and plankton. I'm working with the plankton community, but I also cover benthopelagic coupling and I take jellyfish as a model organism to cover theoretical ecology and understand interactions and how it shapes our biodiversity and future ocean.

With regard to GoJelly, that was a little bit of a different direction that I decided to take. Of course, it was not only me doing this big project, but with the whole consortium of 17 partners exploring possibilities and innovative ideas to define new marine resources. In that case, we use jellyfish to explore the blue economy and where to go because we all think about climate adaptation and there are some case studies, and case areas suggesting that we would expect more gelatinous zooplankton in the area. So that was the first step ever taken to find the bridge between ecology, innovation, and blue growth altogether for European waters.

EuroMarine: How did the Foresight Workshop contribute to the evolution and advancement of your research topic? Did it help identify new directions, methodologies, or emerging issues that were previously overlooked?

The Foresight workshop was designed to address invasive species problems for European waters. But this topic is not new and it has been explored largely from a scientific point of view. What we still lack is taking another step to generate ideas - innovative ideas on how to foster our actions to prevent, minimize, and control invasive species.

To my knowledge, this chapter of taking action and helping EPAs who should actually take action at each national point is still lacking. That workshop was designed to build a network of experts coming together and discussing these knowledge gaps. Most of us ecologists have been taking actions and defining our research to understand invasion ecology, invasive species, eDNA, and technology for identification. All these levels of research are expressed in a long list of papers and scientific publications.

However, if we bring economists and lawyers together, it would be very interesting to see the trade-off between economic levels to improve policy and decision-making for more efficient invasive species control. Invasion ecology is one part of the network, but we tried to involve others like economists and policymakers. From a regulatory perspective, we discussed what is better to put together and whether there's a chance to define a semi-perfect way to efficiently stop invasive species spread and manage them.

So within this network, we had three days of brainstorming, inviting speakers from different disciplines to converse, and then forming a working group to write an article and build a consortium to address invasions. This aligns with the topic of invasive species that Horizon Europe calls for integration next year.

EuroMarine: What were the main outcomes or key findings that emerged from your Foresight Workshop? How did these outcomes shape your research trajectory or provide new insights into the topic?

The main conclusion was to write a EuroMarine report which should be publicly available, sharing our discussed points and outlining a smaller draft report that includes opinions of different partners who were invited. We also had another meeting, co-funded by the Danish Funding Agency and EuroMarine, to establish a Danish working group since I lead from Denmark. We plan to write a position paper. Another significant achievement is building a consortium led by Hen Oyave from the Estonian University, supported by DTU Aqua from Copenhagen. In the span of two months, significant actions took place to invite partners to discuss how we want to address Horizon Europe, determine the main topics, aims, and objectives of our consortium, and work together. I'm optimistic that by next year, we will have project roles covering the various discussed topics.

EuroMarine: Did your Foresight Workshop already lead to any follow-up actions or collaborations? Have you applied for additional funding to further develop your research? If yes, could you describe the subsequent projects or initiatives that resulted from the workshop?

One is the Danish national network that we built and we are going to expand. Now we have at our university SDU, this working group that should address invasive species problems and mitigation. 

The other is more international where Euro Marine played a bigger role actually. And then that is also the network that we built but also the consortium that we are actually defined that that's defined and we are gonna work together. Therefore I'm very optimistic that we achieve by next year roles of projects that should cover different topics that we discussed.

EuroMarine: Have you already thought about the kind of research topics that you will specifically focus on for the next year?

We are defining a new niche that brings different disciplines together to address the best and most efficient ways to counter invasive species and increase biodiversity in our European areas.

Specifically, in mitigation actions against invasive species, we identified three major points: preventing invasive species from entering an area, minimizing their effects if they are present, and managing those that have already established.

We also discussed how challenging it is to address these topics for the marine environment due to the complexity of monitoring and understanding the marine realm. We are working on this niche we identified, aiming to create interdisciplinary foundations for more efficient ways to combat invasive species and enhance biodiversity.

EuroMarine: Could you give us a snapshot of the current state of our waters? Which are the major invasive species affecting us, and how well are we managing them?

Each nation reports the status of invasive species in their water bodies individually to the EU. The Environmental Agency compiles these reports, which get updated. Different nations have different activities. For example, in Denmark, we recently issued two reports this year on the status of invasive species in the marine environment, including all actions taken. This includes monitoring biodiversity, including invasive species, regulation, ranking species for invasiveness, etc.

However, unified action among countries is lacking, and that's why we need to discuss how we can improve it at the EU level. Invasive species are increasing due to ongoing climate change. There are always species arriving at different ports, and we need tools to spot them and take the right actions at the right time, which are currently lacking.

EuroMarine: Could you name the major species you are dealing with at the moment in the Baltic area?

I focus on jellyfish, particularly gelatinous zooplankton. The comb jelly, which is among the 10 most spread species in Europe, is the main one I'm working on.

There's also another expanding jellyfish in the East Mediterranean. There are conventions like HELCOM and OSPAR that explicitly work on invasive species. While actions are being taken, a unified action between different countries needs improvement.

EuroMarine: How did you become interested in jellyfish research? When did you start developing an interest in jellyfish?

I was working with fish larvae in the South and Caspian Sea and encountered the invasive comb jelly there. Fishermen were concerned about not being able to catch enough kilka, a small herring, due to the jellyfish. This generated my interest.

Then during my PhD in Germany, I discovered the invasive comb jelly in our areas, which became the most exciting part of my research. This led me to shift from studying the feeding ecology of gelatinous zooplankton to focusing more on invasive species. EuroMarine: Have you presented your research findings to policymakers, EU policymakers, or other stakeholders in the marine science community? How did the Foresight Workshop contribute to turning your research into actionable insights for policy or decision-making?

Regulations exist, but it seems we do not speak the same language. Our colleague took the lead in writing a position paper, highlighting that making regulations for the marine environment needs to involve marine scientists.

This involves defining terms and problems more specifically. We're working on a letter and hope to send it out by the end of the year. We're happy to represent EuroMarine, and this workshop resulted in many collaborations and policy briefs.

EuroMarine: What advice or suggestions would you give to your younger self?

Oh God, giving advice is not easy, but thinking out of box and having a big picture monitoring and asking yourself where you go is very essential. You can always start with a smaller portion of work and research, but you should be able to bring it into the bigger picture. What is the big perspective that I'm covering? And with that, you become more creative in using other fields and other disciplines in your research.

I think that is what I see also in our students. They tend to understand the importance of integrating different topics at the same time and then design their thesis based on a more interdisciplinary approach.  Interdisciplinary is the magic.