Biodiversa+ has just announced the winning projects of the BiodivProtec call on “Supporting the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems across land and sea”. We are happy to tell you that the funding goes to Dominik Kaim, the HES-GEO team leader, and his project.

The project “Grasslands for biodiversity: supporting the protection of the biodiversity-rich grasslands and related management practices in the Alps and Carpathians” (G4B) focuses on European grasslands. In particular, its biodiversity loss due to agricultural land abandonment leads to forest cover increase and, in some areas, too intensive use.

Along with partners from Germany, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland and Italy, the team will investigate which agricultural use practices have fostered biodiversity over the years, identify such valuable natural areas in the Alps and Carpathians, and propose the most optimal form of protection for them for the future.

1. Biodiversa+ aims to support excellent research on biodiversity with an impact on policy and society. Was it the first grant call you were aiming to apply for with the G4B project?

We tried our luck with Biodiversa some years ago with another topic and consortium, but that is why I already knew the scheme, general rules and level of competition. However, it was the first time we tried with G4B.

The creation of the consortium started earlier, and our HES GEO partner from Berlin, prof. Tobias Kuemmerle proposed the project coordinator include us in the team. Since we had already worked with the project coordinator team, they agreed, and then hard work on the proposal started.

Biodiversa is a very popular funding scheme for teams working on topics related to human-environmental interactions, so this is the first choice if you are doing similar research. At this level, we were not considering other options but rather thinking about topics that could fit next year’s edition since the overall call topics are known for the following year’s editions. This time the keyword was ‘protection’.

2. The competition was tough. Among 209 proposals, only 36 received the funding. What strengths of the G4B proposal made it stand out?

There were many strengths of G4B, which together made it possible to receive the project, but I would mention a few: a perfect idea turned into a cohesive, ambitious, yet feasible plan for 3 years, experienced project coordinator with an excellent scientific CV, a strong consortium of research and practice representatives, innovative ideas in each of the project tasks. And people who are willing to do it all with passion.

3. How did your application benefit from the HES-GEO project?

There is a clear link between HES-GEO and G4B since we were recommended to join the consortium by our project partner and mentor – prof. Tobias Kuemmerle. And since the deadline for the first step was in late 2021 (Biodiversa Plus is a 2-step call), we were at that time before the trainings, consultations or workshops in HES-GEO.

However, we were in personal contact with Tobias, so he already knew the plans for the research teams and what we were mainly interested in. From the beginning of HES-GEO, we knew in which directions we should develop, and G4B was very much in line with that vision.

4. Lastly, the topic is well fitted into your main interests. How will your academic path benefit from the G4B?

This example clearly shows that what matters in science on an international level is exciting and high-quality research and the network of people you work with. We already had some previous cooperation not only with the Berlin team and the team of the project coordinator (WSL from Switzerland) but also with other project teams and particular people working there. This project is an opportunity for excellent research and a great occasion for new contacts for future ideas.

Our Biodiversa team in JU is broader, as we also have Natalia Tokarczyk and Michał Jakiel in the team. We must remember that our project partners are working at a really high level. I am sure we will also develop our skills through joint activities, as the research plans are ambitious and innovative. I am sure that we all will benefit from that excellent cooperation opportunities.