The 22, 23 and 24 March 2023 saw the active participation of the Oceanography Malta Research Group (OMRG) in the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) Fest which was held at St Ignatius College Ħaż-Żebbuġ Primary School by Nature Trust and Ekoskola Malta through Prof. Paul J. Pace (CEER) and Mr Vince Attard.
Represented by Ms Audrey Zammit, Mr Johann Galdies, Mr Alessio Marrone and Mr Rami Mahmoud Kalfouni, the OMRG (which is part of the Geosciences Department) showcased and promoted four of its ongoing projects, namely CORALLO, BlueNIGHTs, BlueSchoolsMed and Spot the Jellyfish, with a total of eight-hundred and eighty pupils and sixty-four educators which originated from twenty-one different schools!
Of significant interest to the pupils were Gamblu the Robot and the CORALLO VR-sets which, being procured through the CORALLO project (programme: Interreg Italia-Malta), have been set up to educate on, and promote, the sustainable and environmentally-friendly use of Natura 2000 sites in Malta. Lead by the University of Malta, the CORALLO project began in 2020 and sees the active participation of seven Maltese and Sicilian Partners and is focussing on developing interactive and digital tools and means to promote Natura 2000 sites in Malta and Sicily amongst the general public.
The other projects being promoted during this event were BlueNIGHTs, funded by the EU Commission, which deals with promotion and dissemination of ongoing marine-related research with the public through specific events including the European Researchers’ Night; BlueSchoolsMed, funded by the Erasmus+ programme, which aims to promote ocean-literacy in schools from Mediterranean countries through the active participation of pupils and teachers; and the Spot the Jellyfish Campaign, a local citizen-science campaign dealing with jellyfish research which has been ongoing for more than a decade and which is financed by the International Ocean Institute and the Malta Tourism Authority. Prof. Alan Deidun from the Department of Geosciences is the Principal Investigator on all four projects.
Represented by Mr Johann Galdies and Mr Alessio Marrone, the Oceanography Malta Research Group or OMRG (within the Department of Geosciences) showcased and promoted two of its ongoing projects, namely CORALLO and BlueNIGHTs, at the GreenFest which was held in St George’s Square in Valletta from the 3 to the 7 May 2023.
Several hundred members of the public availed themselves of the CORALLO project facilities and amenities on display at the GreenFest and further contributes to the CORALLO Capitalisation (Workpackage 5) objectives, following the several hundred schoolchildren engaged by CORALLO at the end of March at the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) Fest.
Of significant interest to the public were Gamblu the Robot and the MetaQuest headsets which, being procured through the CORALLO project, are being used to promote our Maltese Natura 2000 sites with the public. Lead by the University of Malta, the CORALLO project began in 2020 and sees the active participation of seven Maltese and Sicilian Partners and is focussing on developing interactive and digital tools and means to promote Natura 2000 sites in Malta and Sicily amongst the general public. This three-year project will run till the end of August 2023, with a total budget of slightly over 1.5 million Euros. In previous years, the project participated prominently within the Science in the City event held at Fort St. Elmo in Valletta, organised photographic and videographic competitions for students and even presented HE President George Vella with a commemorative trophy. The 3 Maltese partners on the project (the University of Malta, the ERA and Heritage Malta) have a combined budget exceeding 800,000 euros. Further information on the CORALLO project can be gleaned online.
Meanwhile, the BlueNIGHTs project deals with the promotion of the European Researchers’ Night which takes place every last Friday of September. BlueNIGHTs brings the many facets and faces of people working in oceanography and marine-related fields to the general public by demonstrate that the sea can be a source of inspiration, an object of interest/study, and a field of investigation for people with very different backgrounds, hobbies and passions, including science, history, technology, sociology, pedagogy, economics, art and design. This project’s consortium includes ten different partners, including the University of Malta through the coordination of the OMRG. For more information visit the website. Prof. Alan Deidun, resident academic at the Department of Geosciences within the Faculty of Science, is Principal Investigator (PI) at the University of Malta on both projects.
An estimated 15,000 visited the first ever Public Service Expo, organised this week at the MFCC in Ta’ Qali. It was the first time that all the Public Administration was under one roof, with 20 stands exhibiting the best and most innovative digital tools currently in use.
From an air traffic simulator to statue holograms and 3D costume scanning, one could easily see that technological advancement is truly occurring at a fast pace in the Public Service. An eSports car simulator based on the local Hal Far track, a digital kitchen used by ITS, the passport identifier system and digital scanning of notarial archives also grabbed the attention of many.
The event also served as an ideal opportunity for the public to get acquainted better with various egovernment services. These facilitate and provide immediate access and information on personal healthcare, social security, local permits and various other applications.
Digital systems that assist the country on a national scale were also exhibited
Digital systems that assist the country on a national scale were also exhibited, including the Emergency Management Control Centre, the dashboard of the Malta Stock Exchange, a medicine testing laboratory, and the digital system which operates the Tritoni fountain among others. Other digital tools used in diplomacy, in agriculture and natural resources were also present, together with various virtual realities and virtual tours of attractions of interest.
All this provided the best setting for the Public Service to launch its new rebranded identity. During its launch, Principal Permanent Secretary Tony Sultana said this is part of the modernisation process that the Public Service is undergoing.
During the three-day event, Sultana also addressed the heads of the Public Administration where he explained his vision of one public administration for one people, which does not distinguish between departments, agencies and entities, but is based on ambition to achieve greater results.
“Only this way will we be able to look forward and continue to modernize this country,” concluded the Principal Permanent Secretary.
The Public Service Expo came to an end on Friday night with an Awards Ceremony, to recognise public officers who distinguished themselves in their course of work during the past year. The event, presented by local celebrities Colin Fitz and Valerie Vella, was held under the patronage of the President of Malta Dr George Vella.
In what is a first for any Interreg Italia-Malta project, the CORALLO project, coordinated by the University of Malta, under the aegis of Prof. Alan Deidun (Oceanography Malta Research Group [OMRG], Department of Geosciences, Faculty of Science), was extensively promoted at two high-profile occasions recently held under the patronage of the European Commission in Palermo, within the evocative setting of Palazzo dei Normanni.
The two events consisted of the Mediterranean Lighthouse one for Ocean Mission Charter signatories (Prof. Deidun is a Board member of the Ocean Mission and the University of Malta, the SEA-EU Alliance as well as the CORALLO project are all signatories of this Charter) as well as the BlueMissionMed Forum for different Mediterranean stakeholders. The BlueMissionMed is an EU-funded project which will serve as the vehicle to implement the Mediterranean Lighthouse within the Basin. An interview on the impact of CORALLO digital ocean literacy tools was posted on Instagram by the Mission Ocean communications team band can be accessed online.
Prior to these two back-to-back events, the OMRG shipped, through the support of colleagues from the ERA, Pepper the Robot, holograms, VR headsets and other cutting-edge digital tools which assist ocean literacy practitioners in disseminating information about the assets of different marine Natura 2000 sites featured in the project and on the need for a responsible enjoyment of the same sites. The Sicilian partners on the project (ARPA Sicilia, University of Palermo, Consorzio Plemmirio and CORISSIA) endowed further the CORALLO stand installed within the Palazzo dei Normanni through an innovative projector as well as through an interactive camping tent which offers users an immersive experience which touches upon different marine species and habitats of conservation importance. The CORALLO stand was visited in Palermo by hundreds of Mission Ocean Charter signatories as well as by dignitaries, including Pascal Lamy, Chair of the Ocean Mission Board itself. The CORALLO project was, as a result, included within the first-ever booklet of innovative BLUEMISSIONSMED Forum solutions, available online.
Besides Prof. Alan Deidun, OMRG and Project Support Office staff who participated directly in Palermo during both project-promotion events included Dr Adam Gauci, Mr Johann Galdies, Ms Jessica Busuttil and Mr Marco Iannaccone. The 3 Maltese partners on the project (the University of Malta, the ERA and Heritage Malta) have a combined budget exceeding 800,000 euros. Further information on the CORALLO project, which will run till the end of August 2023, can be gleaned online. The project has, over the past few months, featured prominently in outreach activities, including the GreenFest in Valletta, the FEE Fest organised by Ekoskola as well as the Public Service Fair, through which thousands of end-users, belonging to several different stakeholders, were engaged. A number of additional project activities will be organised by Heritage Malta over the months of July and August, with an add-on project, titled CORALLO +SI, being approved for funding and running in parallel to the CORALLO project. CORALLO +SI focuses on additional islands, including Gozo and Comino in Malta and also features the local council of Ghajnsielem.
The CORALLO project, the only Interreg Italia-Malta 2014-2020 project coordinated by the University of Malta, has been included in a feature on sustainable tourism within the ‘Ocean’ series of Euronews, given the focus of the same project on the sustainable enjoyment of Natura 2000 sites. Prof. Alan Deidun, resident academic within the Oceanography Malta Research Group of the Department of Geosciences (Faculty of Science), was interviewed at the Blue Grotto by the Euronews crew, with the same interview being publicly available online.
The full array of innovative CORALLO digital tools being deployed for ocean literacy purposes has recently been showcased to different categories of stakeholders within an outreach event organised recently at the Hagar Qim visitors’ centre. The event, which was opened by Culture Minister Owen Bonnici, Heritage Malta Chief Operating Office Kenneth Gambin and by ERA Chairman Vincent Cassar, saw the participation of representatives from the SCUBA diving industry, from environmental NGOs, tourist operators, the boating community, from local councils as well as representatives from the educational sector. The event was extensively featured in the local media, including on the Times of Malta portal, TVM News and One News.
During the same stakeholder conference, a code of conduct for users of marine Natura 2000 sites (i.e. Marine Protected Areas) was launched in order to instil a greater sense of responsibility towards the natural assets of conservation importance within the same sites. The same code of conduct will be available from the CORALLO website in the coming weeks.
Still within the CORALLO project and its sister CORALLO +SI one, a number of interesting events are planned for the upcoming weeks, including informative snorkelling trips for the San Lawrenz community at the Inland Sea (Dwejra, Gozo) and the PANACEA environmental education centre and a final didactic boat trip visiting the Marine Protected Areas featured in the CORALLO project at the end of August. A CORALLO smart phone app, providing an enhanced experience to Hagar Qim visitors through a guided virtual walking trail, will also be launched in the coming weeks and a cohort of interactive panels and touch-tables will be installed at the Mdina Natural History Museum, Hagar Qim visitors’ centre and at the University of Malta itself.
Besides Prof. Alan Deidun, Dr Adam Gauci, Mr. Johann Galdies, Ms Martina Busuttil, Ms Rebecca Scerri, Ms Jessica Busuttil and Mr Marco Iannaccone are also engaged at the University of Malta on the project. The 3 Maltese partners on the project (the University of Malta, the ERA and Heritage Malta) have a combined budget exceeding 800,000 euros. The project has, over the past few months, featured prominently in outreach activities, including the GreenFest in Valletta, the FEE Fest organised by Ekoskola as well as the Public Service Fair and the Mediterranean Lighthouse event organised by the European Commission in Palermo, through which thousands of end-users, belonging to several different stakeholders, were engaged.