Despite the Maltese Islands having designated 35% of its marine waters to form part of so-called marine NATURA 2000 sites (more commonly known in layman’s terms as ‘Marine Protected Areas’), relatively few Maltese are actually cognisant of the mesmerising array of living and non-living assets that such sites hold.
Such an anomaly is concomitantly thwarting the responsible and sustainable promotion and enjoyment of the same areas, a shortcoming which the CORALLO project aims to address. The project, which was formally approved for funding in October 2020, aspires to achieve this through a diverse array of edutainment tools, which represent both an awareness-generation resource as well as a means of informal education for a varied spectrum of audiences. These tools and resources will be installed at three of Malta’s most iconic and popular visitors’ centres operated by Heritage Malta – i.e. the Malta Maritime Museum, the Għar Dalam Museum and the Ħaġar Qim/Mnajdra one – besides at a 4th site (the White Tower Bay visitors’ centre) jointly operated by Din l-Art Ħelwa and by the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA).
Gaming, virtual reality and interactive infrastructure, representatives of the Industry 4.0 paradigm, will govern the choice of tools and facilities to be placed within the identified venues. Besides fixed/immobile facilities installed within the aforementioned venues, CORALLO will also strive to deliver a number of ubiquitous tools (e.g. YouTube documentaries, smart phone apps) and mobile ones (e.g. mobile exhibitions for schools) pursuant to delivering an effective ocean literacy product in line with the UN’s Decade for Ocean Sciences (2021-2030).
CORALLO is the only funded project within the Interreg V-A Italia-Malta 2014-2020 2nd Call for proposals to be coordinated/led by the University of Malta, formally kickstarting in two days’ time, on the 15 November, running for 30 months till 14 May 2023. Besides the University of Malta, the seven-partner project Consortium also features the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and Heritage Malta from the Maltese side, and ARPA Sicilia, the University of Palermo, the Consorzio Plemmirio and Corissia from the Italian side. CORALLO’s kick-off meeting is scheduled to be held remotely in the coming weeks, in view of international travel restrictions imposed by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
CORALLO has been conceived and is coordinated by Prof. Alan Deidun, resident academic within the Department of Geosciences at the Faculty of Science, who is also Principal Investigator on the SENHAR project, also approved within the same Funding Programme. The pre-award team at the Project Support Office (PSO) as well as the Research Support Services Directorate, the Knowledge Transfer Office and the Legal Office all played an essential role prior to the CORALLO proposal submission in order to ensure its high quality.