Scientists for Balkan Rivers

Balkan rivers are unique and largely untouched ecosystems, but little is known about them. Alarmingly, they are threatened by 3,500 hydropower projects. Scientific data are needed to better understand these pristine ecosystems and to provide evidence for legal fights to preserve these valuable rivers. In order to address the current data deficiencies across Balkan rivers, we are building a network of scientists who actively focus their research on the Balkan region with the aim to collect scientific data. The scientists in the network not only lend their own data but also use their independent voices to advocate for the protection of rivers. Together, we are in search of senior partners and young motivated scientists, ready to contribute scientific expertise, tools, work-power, and data collection methods – all to keep the Balkan rivers wild and free.

By participating, you have the benefit of meeting fellow scientists with shared values, who work in related study fields. This can lead to valuable collaborations and knowledge exchange, as well as to innovative research ideas that focus on a larger geographical scale. For early-career scientists, such collaboration can be a true career boost.

On this page, you find more information on the network, which you can also find in this PDF. You are welcome to share this within your own networks!

Not registered to the network yet? Please do so by filling in the form below (or link).

Next online network meet-up: December 7th 2022, 6pm CET. 

Origin of the Network
The will to unite scientists who support the fight for Balkan Rivers has been growing over the years. Researchers combined their efforts around the Vjosa River in Albania, advocating for a Vjosa Wild River National Park. Contemporarily, many others conducted valuable studies that showed the uniqueness of the Balkan River systems. Students gather yearly during the Students for Rivers Camps from the River Collective and simultaneously, researchers have been pitching new ways to collaborate on the Balkan scale, naming it grassroots ecology.

All these experiences now come together in this network which is supported through the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign. It becomes an important pillar in this campaign that has been running for over 10 years. Other important pillars are a network of Lawyers for Balkan Rivers and a network of Artists for Balkan Rivers.

Grassroots Ecology: Check out this poster to read about the collaborative network pitched during the SEFS meeting in Zagreb 2019.
Save the Blue Heart of Europe:
Learn more about this campaign
, through which this network is now gaining momentum.
The River Collective: Check out the River Collective to learn how students turn their knowledge into action.

 Press Conference on the Vjosa River © jens-steingaesser
 

Vjosa Model
A big motivation for the initiation of the Scientists for Balkan Rivers Network is the proven success of the “Scientists for Vjosa” group. The Vjosa model consists of four pillars: 1) Dedication and stamina: A group of dedicated scientists from Albania and abroad research and advocate for the Vjosa and its tributaries jointly for a long period of time. 2) Science weeks: In 2017 and 2021a large group of scientists from many disciplines spent a week in the field to collect data. The results were summarized in reports During these weeks, the scientists were accompanied by international and national media representatives and film teams. 3) Research Center: A Vjosa Research Center was established in Tepelena right next to the Vjosa. This house functions as a science hub in the region and offers accommodation and working facilities for students and senior scientists. 4) Advocacy: The scientists for the Vjosa not only collect data, but also raise their voice so that their position is heard. They promote their findings and recommendations to the public and political decision-makers.

The Scientists for Vjosa hugely contributed to successfully fending off planned hydropower projects on the main river and to increasing the chances of this river becoming the first Wild River National Park of Europe.

Check out this video for a summary of the 2021 Science Week: 

Collaborative Research 
With a growing network of scientists across the Balkans, we believe it is possible to produce high-quality science with minimum means by collaboratively gathering data at an unparalleled, sub-continental scale. We welcome campaigns collecting data based on protocols that can be executed by fellow scientists. Network participants can also contribute by analyzing data, potentially resulting in a collaborative paper. With such work, senior scientists can take societal responsibility by pinpointing destructive impact and promoting conservation, while meaningfully fostering careers of young engaged colleagues. The figure below graphically explains the possible collaboration structure:

Ongoing Research
We keep an overview of all ongoing research by network participants, which you find here. Feel free to scroll through and get excited!

Call for Lead Scientists
Are you planning on doing research focused on, or related to, Balkan Rivers? We would love to hear from you! Whether you are a senior scientist leading a large project, a PhD student planning for their dissertation, or a Master or Bachelor student planning their thesis – we consider you a lead scientist.

We encourage you to think about the benefits of collaborating with a regional network that could help with data collection even when you are not in the field. No matter which stage of planning you are in, let us know what you are thinking of, so we can share it with others in the network, and connections can be initiated.

You can do so by filling in this google form. Your research will then be added to this overview.

Network Activities
The network is currently structured around two main activities: the online network meet-ups and the Neretva Science Week. The Neretva Science Week is limited in capacity, but we invite everyone to connect during online meet-ups! We also encouraged joint fieldwork and are excited to see such campaigns take shape.

Online Meet-ups: Every two months, we gather online to brainstorm, discuss research, and update each other on network activities and news. The meet-ups may focus on a theme to help participants with their research, or host several lead scientists that briefly present their work, after which there is time to give input and discuss their ideas. You will receive an invitation for each of these meet-ups once you have registered for the network. 

Neretva Science Week: From June 28 to July 3 2022 several scientists from the Scientists for Balkan Rivers Network met at the Neretva River in Bosnia and Herzegovina to collect ecological data (e.g. biodiversity and hydromorphology). You find the preliminary results here. A new science week will be planned for 2023. 

 The Neretva River © Amel Emrić

 

Platform
To grow as a network, it is essential that we can connect with each other to exchange ideas, brainstorm about new research projects, and find new potential collaborators. To make such connections possible, we have established a communication platform on slack as well as a research overview on padlet. You will receive information on these once you register for the network. 

Rivers at Risk
With 3.500 planned hydropower dams in the Balkan region, scientific research could be beneficial everywhere. We, therefore, provide you with a list of rivers and river stretches where your work would be needed the most in the Balkans, in order to collect data for the fight against dam projects. This list is based on the rivers that the Lawyers for Balkan Rivers network are currently trying to defend legally.  You find an updated list here.

Contact
Thank you for your interest in the Scientists for Balkan Rivers Network. We hope you are excited to start collaborating with other network participants and look forward to welcoming you into the network soon. If you haven't signed up yet, please do so here! If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to get in touch through the slack workspace or by sending an email to scientists@balkanrivers.net.

 

DOWNLOAD the SBR Network Guide as PDF

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