A brand new meeting formula and new members make CETAF55 a success

After two intense days, the 55th CETAF General Assembly is officially concluded.


The meeting in Oslo, Norway, was an opportunity for the new executive board, which took office in November 2023, to experiment with a meeting formula focused on active participation, interactivity, and the exchange of opinions among participants.


Welcomed by our host Brit Lisa Skjellkvåle, Director of the Natural Science Museum in Oslo, the GA opened with keynotes by Bjarte Rambjør Heide (Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre), followed by Torbjørn Ekrem (Norwegian University of Science and Technology). The two speakers emphasized the importance of integrative taxonomic research and data collection as a foundation for natural sciences and appropriate policy-making. New technologies and adequate funding are critical to that.


The director of Senckenberg, Klement Tockner, presented ‘Unknown Europe,’ a project proposal to improve biodiversity monitoring in Europe. He showed how much biodiversity—even our European biodiversity—is still largely unknown. We must be concerned about the daily loss of many species; we must consider that even when more species are found, many more are disappearing simultaneously. Filling this knowledge gap is crucial to making the right decisions.


The afternoon was devoted to our CETAF working groups, and there were very interesting and stimulating moments of discussion and reflection for our CETAF community of practice.


At the beginning of day two, Ingunn Storrø, Head of IPBES technical support, provided particularly valuable insights. Storr presented the structure and functioning of the intergovernmental science-policy platform and recalled how IPBES could help the formation and growth of biodiversity ambassadors worldwide. Storrø invited CETAF to participate and comment in the preparation phase of the IPBES assessments.


Supported by Nicole Njå, the participants defined the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in a SWOT analysis for CETAF. From this critical moment of self-reflection, the Executive Board will begin to develop a new CETAF strategy for 2025-2030. We will continue discussing the strategy draft with the CETAF community and during the Madrid directors meeting – CETAF56 – hosted by the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, Spain, on 18 and 19 November 2024.


However, the most concrete and happiest news that emerges from CETAF55 is, without a doubt, is the growth of our CETAF family: the delegates enthusiastically welcomed four Institutes from two different countries: the Nature Research Center of Vilnius, Lithuania, and the Natural Science Museums of the Universities of Coimbra, Porto, and Lisbon, Portugal, will join our community. After the presentations by Sigitas Podènas, Teresa Girão, Maria João Fonseca, and Judite Alves, the General Assembly unanimously approved the application of these new members.


With these new members, our community now represents 81 Institutes from 27 countries.


Another highlight was the announcement of the winner of the E-SCoRe award for early career researchers. A video interview with Nathan Vranken, the inspiring early career scientist who applied with a paper on the cichlids of Lake Edward, was presented to the participants. 


Ending the meeting, Celia Santos presented the venue of CETAF 56, the Museo Nacional Ciencias Naturales Madrid. Alexander Weigand presented the venue for CETAF 57, the Natural History Museum of Luxembourg, which will take place in May 2025.


CETAF President Edwin Van Huis summarized: “The Executive Board of CETAF is most happy with the input provided by our community over the last two days. We aimed to change the setup of the GA, making it more interactive and engaged, and we feel that we have succeeded. The EC now has a lot of material to reflect on and work on during the next few months. We highly appreciate the engagement of our community. Big kudos to our CETAF secretariat team and host Hugo de Boer for making the 55th CETAF GA a huge success.”


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