Tbilisi PONTOS Joint Open Workshop_Feature

AUA PONTOS Team Attends Joint Open Workshop in Tbilisi

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TBILISI, Georgia Within the framework of the European Union (EU)-funded “Copernicus Assisted Environmental Monitoring Across the Black Sea Basin PONTOS” project, the American University of Armenia (AUA) Acopian Center for the Environment team attended the Joint Open Workshop (JOW) held in Tbilisi on May 20. The event was organized by the Green Alternative (GRAL) NGO, a partner of the EU-funded PONTOS, for which AUA has assumed the lead partner responsibility. 

The aim of the JOW was to share with the participants from various Georgian NGOs, the authorities of Georgia, and international organizations about PONTOS activities and their contribution to environmental monitoring efforts. 

The workshop brought together 69 participants, (some joining remotely) representing regional and local administrations, sectoral agencies, civil society, universities, enterprises, international organizations, media, and Project partners. The event focused on presenting the PONTOS project and its activities, implementation in pilot areas, and briefings by partner organizations implementing Black Sea Basin Cross Border Cooperation projects. 

Event organizer Irakli Matcharashvili of GRAL opened the Joint Open Workshop, greeting the participants and briefly presenting the partnership’s success in becoming a solid team responsible for everything from administration to research. 

The partnership has endured through the Covid-19 pandemic and two wars, but the team’s commitment, dedication, and high sense of responsibility towards the consortium have enabled the project to continue and grow.

“EU programs bring us together, allowing organizations in neighboring countries to partner on research and regional collaboration. This offers us the opportunity to build bridges, and we look forward to continuing to do that. At least in Armenia, the EU is the single biggest partner in building capacity in the academic community. Partnerships like the ones we’ve developed in PONTOS give us the foundation to take the next steps towards deepening collaboration,” highlighted Alen Amirkhanian, director of the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, the lead partner of the PONTOS project.

The opening session continued with welcoming remarks by Dr. Nato Sultanishvili, head of the Planning and Development Division, Agency of Protected Areas of Georgia, Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia; Nino Antadze, team leader of the Energy and Environment Portfolio, UNDP Georgia; and Alexandre Daddras, attaché and team leader of Connectivity, Energy, Environment, and Climate Change, Delegation of the European Union to Georgia. 

Darras spoke about the project, underscoring that “the cross-border cooperation format is an instrument the EU likes to have. It is aligned with the spirit of what the EU is.” In his words, the slogan “Common borders. Common solutions” is a civilization call or symbol implying that there exists a common duty to find solutions. He highlighted that “the Black Sea is a commonwealth, and the PONTOS project aims at improving environmental monitoring in the Black Sea basin to protect the natural environment.” 

Presentation of PONTOS project, PONTOS platform, and assessments 

A comprehensive overview of the project was presented by Aghavni Harutyunyan, project manager from the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment. She highlighted the three main objectives of the project: technology transfer among the Black Sea nations; development of the knowledge infrastructure of online services; encouragement of the use of the Copernicus program for environmental monitoring and engagement of local and regional actors at multiple levels. 

The session continued with the presentation of the PONTOS platform by Maria Banti, Research Assistant at the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH); Eleftherios Katsikis, Research Assistant at CERTH and Nikolaos Kokkos, PostDoc Researcher at Democritus University of Thrace. 

The PONTOS incorporates various tools and applications to build a shared platform for everyone interested in online analysis of environmental monitoring. The Project supports and enhances environmental monitoring using all the available tools and Copernicus data and building upon shared knowledge. The PONTOS platform comprises three service components: PONTOS Data Cube, PONTOS Web Application, and PONTOS Web GIS.

The PONTOS platform incorporates and is being built on practical experiments in several areas; five assessments are being carried out which will enable the platform to display the respective modules in the future. The five assessments include assessment of the dynamics of coastal line changes; assessment of forest cover changes and their consequences on the environment; assessment of changes in wetland and floating vegetation cover; assessment of chlorophyll concentration and eutrophication dynamics; and agricultural water balance, water productivity, and water stress indices. PONTOS project researchers made presentations on each of these assessments that aim to improve sharing data on the environment in the Black Sea and cross-border information exchanges.

Enhancing partnership and knowledge sharing

To highlight the importance of creating and maintaining collaborations with other local and international projects, other Georgian organizations who are implementing projects under the EU’s Black Sea Border (BSB) Cross Border Cooperation (CBC) were also invited to make presentations. They were: “Zero Waste Project” presented by Alexander Kaladdadze from the Civitas Georgica organization; “BSB ECO Monitoring Project” presented by Mariam Archuadze from Sabuko; and “AGREEN project” presented by Mariam Jorjadze from Elkana.

The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, a research center of the American University of Armenia (AUA), promotes the protection and restoration of the natural environment through research, education, and community outreach. The AUA Acopian Center’s focus areas include sustainable natural resource management, biodiversity protection and conservation, greening the built environment, sustainable energy, as well as information technology and the environment. Visit