The Center for Ecological-Noosphere Studies NAS RA (the Ecocenter SNCO) is a state noncommercial organization founded in 1989 and since 1993 having an independent balance as a principal research and educational center. The Ecocenter implements applied and fundamental multidisciplinary investigations in ecology, environmental protection, food safety, agriculture applying innovative remote sensing and information technologies. The educational component of the Ecocenter's activities is aimed at Masters, PhD (postgraduate) and informal education.
In 2020 the Ecocenter implements 11 state budget-supported research programs namely “Geoecological researches of the environment”, “Developing geochemical expert maps for assuring sustainable agricultural development and food safety”, “Development of models methods and software complexes for supporting sustainable development of ecological-economics system of the city on example of Yerevan, Republic of Armenia”, “Developing remote sensing method for assessing ecological state of mountainous lakes using the data of very high resolution”, “Model of formation of high school students’ civic competency”, “Ecogeochemical investigations as a base of decision making (case study of the city of Alaverdi)”, “Risk assessment of heavy metals in food sold in Yerevan”, “Risk assessment of trans-fatty acids in foods sold in city of Yerevan”, “Radioecological Мonitoring in Armenia: Phase II”, “Developing a remote sensing method of studying heat islands in Yerevan area”, “Basic criteria of the "soil-plant" system of near-to-village pastures and the possibility of vegetation restoration prediction”.
Presently, the Ecocenter has a total of 64 workers, of which 37 are researchers including 4 doctors and 20 candidates of sciences. The average age of the research staff is 38.
Scientific papers are published in local and international journals and books including those with high IF (www.cens.am). The research outcomes are widely disseminated through mass media. The Ecocenter collaborates with both local and international organizations pursuing cooperative researches, agreement-based works, joint projects, student exchange, scientific consultations, assistance to authorities with making decisions, and so on.
Main Fields of Activity
Multidisciplinary investigations the Ecocenter’s staff is currently involved in are oriented to a complex assessment of the ecological status of territories, the development of scientific and methodological fundamentals of ecological expertise and optimization of processes of natural resource management, identification and assessment of the environment- and food-associated health risks.
The Ecocenter comprises 4 problem-oriented departments and a center namely
- Department of Environmental Geochemistry,
- Department of Bioenergy and Feed Quality,
- Department of GIS and Remote Sensing,
- Department of Radiology, and
- The Informational-Analytical Center for Food Chain Risk Assessment, who implement research objectives of different directions and their concordant functioning under a single roof opens wide opportunities for topical interdisciplinary studies to conduct.
The Ecocenter is equipped with up-to-date devices including an atomic-absorption spectrometer (AAnalyst-800 PerkinElmer), MS/GC Thermo Electron Corp. spectrophotometer (Hach, Dr-2004), a gamma-spectrometer (Canberra), a water multi-analyzer (Horriba U-10), a radonometer RAD-7 (Durridge Comp. Inc.), an extractor (Starte E), an XRF analyzer (Innov X-5000), aspirator (ABA-1-120-02A), a chlorophyllmeter APOGEE MC-100, a centrifuge, a microscope JEOL JCM-7000, GPS, UAVs: fixed-wing SensyFly eBee SQ and rotary wing DJI Mavic Pro, a geoserver as well as a strong computer infrastructure and employs the atomic-absorption, spectro-photometric, X-ray – fluorescent, colorimetric, radiometric, chemical, gas chromatography -mass spectrometry and other methods of analysis.
Scientific and educational activities
The Ecocenter’s educational component includes two Chairs: Chair on MS courses on specialty “Environmental protection and nature management” established in 2010 and functioning since then in partnership with the International Scientific-Educational Center NAS RA, and International UNESCO Chair “Education for Sustainable Development” since 2011. From the first academic day, the tutors involve the students in research activities assigning them to respective departments.
In addition to MS and PhD courses, the UNESCO Chair contributes to the process of «Education for Sustainable Development» giving special attention to informal education that helps the students acquaint with nature protection-related researches. The UNESCO Chair also improves the level of proficiency of secondary and postsecondary education teachers through workshops and retraining courses on separate issues of sustainable development.
As a results of investigations conducted by the Ecocenter's staff, mapping and a complex ecologo-geochemical assessment of condition of different cities and mining regions in Armenia was done, risk groups in the population were identified, and a quantitative assessment of pollution-caused health risk was implemented.
Developed have been remote sensing methods to underpin the assessment of the ecological status of different landscape compartments (soils, water, vegetation, crops). By those methods, the ecological status of highland pastures in Armenia's rural communities was assessed and mapped. As a result of space-and-time analysis of satellite imagery, the assessment of the productivity of Armenia's mountain ecosystems in conditions of climate change, was done. With the purpose of spatial information coordination, sharing and management, a spatial data infrastructure (www.geoserver.cens.am, www.geoexplorer.cens.am, www.geonetwork.cens.am) has been built where the available and updatable cartographic information is on open access in any GIS file format (shp, kml, etc.) to organizations and individuals interested.
An assessment to identify both the presence and exposure of chemical hazards of consumable plant- and animal-based foods, was done; carcinogenic and noncarcinogenic risks, too, were evaluated. Among the population, a food consumption survey was conducted and a relevant database was produced to underpin health risk assessment.
An ecotoxicological monitoring of vegetables grown on territories of different cities in Armenia was conducted; the functional urban greening principles were developed; condition and ecological tolerance of tree species included in urban green infrastructure and their potentials for absorption of pollutants were assessed; metabolic properties of urban plants were studied.
The current status of Armenia's natural grasslands (hayfields and pastures) was studied; monitoring was conducted, and recommendations for improving grassland productivity were developed. On different model plots fundamental studies are being performed to investigate the accumulation and distribution of above-ground and root biomass, assess the share of valuable fodder crops, define the leaf surface area, determine the contents of chlorophylls and mineral elements, and so on.
A set of agro-measures to reclaim the overgrazed grasslands was tested, and satisfactory results were obtained. As a result of a large-scale agricultural research, in the frames of monitoring of residual quantities of banned and currently used pesticides, an assessment was done of chemical safety in system «soil-water-vegetation» in comparatively large agricultural holdings in different marzes of Armenia․ This enabled the development of a manual on risk assessment including sampling-to-health risks assessment.
The Ecocenter leads and participates in a set of international projects.
"Preparation of the Atlas of Zoonotic Infections in the South Caucasus" (US Defense Threat Reduction Agency) (2020-2023).
“CONNECTING: Co-Production with Nature for City Transitioning, Innovation and Governance” (The Framework Program for Research and Innovation EU Horizon 2020, www.connectingnature.eu) (2017-2022).
“ADC4SD: Armenian Data Cube for Sustainable Development” (the University of Geneva, the Initiative of Advanced Technology, the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI, https://www.swissdatacube.org/index.php/2018/09/28/adc4sd/) (2018-2020).
Erasmus+ Credit Mobility Project. (Project N: 2019-1-IT02-KA107-061646) (Cooperation with University of Naples Federico II, Italy) (2019-2022).
Erasmus+ Credit Mobility Project. (Project N: 2019 -1-IT02-KA107-061962) (Cooperation with Tuscia University, Italy) (2019-2022).
Erasmus+ Credit Mobility Project. (Cooperation with University of Krakow, Poland) (2019-2021).
Erasmus+ Credit Mobility Project. Cooperation with University of Agriculture in Krakow, Poland) (2019-2020).
Erasmus+ Credit Mobility Project. (Cooperation with Pedagogical University of Krakow, Poland) (2018-2019).
Erasmus+ Credit Mobility Project. (Project N: 2017-1-IT02-KA107-036278) (Cooperation with Tuscia University, Italy) (2017-2019).
Erasmus+ Credit Mobility Project. (Project N: 2016-1-IT02-KA107-023902) (Cooperation with Tuscia University, Italy) (2016-2018).
Erasmus+ Capacity Building Program “Modernization of Environment Protection Studies Programme for Armenia and Georgia (MENVIPRO)” (www.menvipro.eu) (2018-2021).
“Sustainable regional development in Armenia: Potentials Analysis of the Implementation of UNESCO World Heritage Site” (Michael Sukhov Foundation) (2018).
Erasmus+ KA107 Credit Mobility Project (Cooperation with Tuscia University, Italy) (2017).
“Green Infrastructure Approach: Linking Environmental with Social Aspects in Studying and Managing Urban Forests” (COST Action FP1204) (2014-2017).
“Towards Sustainable Urban and Land-Use Planning for the South Caucasian Cities: Adopting a “Front-Runner” and “Follower” Cities Approach for Nature-Based Solutions”. (EU Horizon 2020, IncoNet EaP Twinning Grants – Clustering of Scientific Projects and Institutions) (2016).
“Training Course on Total Diet studies for Dietary Exposure Assessment to Chemicals” (EU 7th Framework Program) (2015).
“Standardization of GIS Methods for Assessing the Rationality of the Territorial Organization and Effective Managment of Urban Areas” (The Russian Foundation for Basic Research) (2015).
“QuickBird High Resolution Satellite Space Images” (DigitalGlobe Corp. Support Program (USA) (2015).
Implementation of Eastern Partnership STI Network “Climate Change and Environment) (2014).
“EU Cooperation Capacity Building of the Center for Ecological-Noosphere Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia: Towards Armenia’s Integration into the ERA” (EU 7th Framework Program) (EU FP7) (2011-2014).
The Ecocenter’s staff members as experts are involved in implementation of a set of CRDF, INTAS, NFSAT, IAEA, REC, and EU programs.
The Ecocenter is recognized worldwide. In particular, relevant information is included in Directory of Ecology and Conservation in Russia/CIS (Edinburgh, 1998), “The World of Learning” 1997, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 (London, UK), European Directory of Environment and Health Organization (UNED-UK 1999), the Environment Encyclopedia and Directory 2001, 2009 (London, UK), Directory “Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia” 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 (London, UK).
In 2013 the international organization “Business Initiative Direction B.I.D.” granted the Ecocenter a prize “Arch of Europe”: for Quality, Leadership, Technology and Innovation.
In 2017 the Ecocenter was awarded the Diploma of the Second-Class Laureate of the ECOWORLD International Ecological Prize in the nomination “Ecologically Safe Goods and Foods” by the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and State Duma RF.
Membership in international organizations
The Ecocenter is a member of several international organizations and initiatives including:
- Group on Earth Observations: GEO
- The Council of Fundamental Geographical Problems under International Association of the Academies of Sciences
- Balkan Environmental Association B.EN.A.
- Horizon 2020, Program Committee on Food security and Bioeconomy
- Horizon 2020, Program Committee on Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials
- NUCLEAR SAFETY: Ring of Five: the European network of experts
- FAO/WHO International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN)
- IUGS/IAGC Task Group on Global Geochemical Baselines
- European Geosciences Union (EGU)
- International Medical Geology Association IMGA
- FAO Mountain Partnership
The Ecocenter implements contract-based works with commercial organizations, private clients, different governing bodies and delivers them services: consultations, sampling, lab analyses, risk assessment.
Between 1989 and 2020 the Ecocenter’s researchers made over 900 scientific publications including 14 monographs, 5 teaching manuals and 23 books of transactions accesible in national and international catalogues, in the library of the Ecocenter and on its website www.cens.am.