Tara Oceans

Mission Tara Oceans - Diary of a scientist

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Tara Oceans Mission - Mission of a scientist by Sophie NICAUD - Illustrations by Chimène Henriquez - Edition Le Pommier - 2012 -  128 Pages
 
Phy are you talking to you today about a book released in 2012? Because it is a book to be put in everyone's hands, especially children's hands!
On 5 September 2009 the boat Tara left Lorient for a 2 and a half year expedition on all the oceans of the world. Sophie Nicaud, researcher and biology communicator had the chance to come on board and bring us her logbook.
 
The Tara Oceans expedition is the very first attempt at a planetary study of marine plankton, a tiny branch of life that includes marine viruses and bacteria, as well as larger organisms such as jellyfish. 
In the company of oceanographers, biologists, geneticists and physicists, Sophie tells us about life on board and the importance of plankton for the climate. Not only can plankton be affected very quickly by climatic variations, but it can in turn influence the climate by modifying the absorption of carbon. The work of the scientists, the process of collecting plankton, the difficulties encountered, but also the extraordinary stopovers, are beautifully illustrated and plunge the children into the heart of this curious schooner, to help them understand what is at stake in this mission, and why not encourage them to become researchers.
 
 
Excerpt: Rendezvous with Tara in the middle of the Pacific Ocean
 
"The Meeting - Tuesday, July 12
It's the story of an encounter. A story like no other, one that comes true only once in your life. This is how Tara crossed paths with me and many other scientists.
As an engineer at the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), I work in the life sciences division at Genoscope. My speciality? To make DNA speak, this molecule that carries in each cell the genetic information and the manufacturing plan of a living organism. To make it talk, okay, but to make it say what? To find out, for example, what transformations the organism makes to adapt to an environment, to feed itself, to defend itself...
Instead, I used to travel from project to project within the Genoscope, without physically leaving the Evry genopole. But in 2009, Tara Oceans started. A completely crazy scientific project! Its goal? Exploring marine ecosystems, nothing but that! And on all the oceans of the planet...
Genoscope's mission in all this? To carry out the genetic analyses of the microorganisms that will be collected on the schooner Tara. We had worked on the ecosystem of waste water from the sewage treatment plants or on that of the human intestine, but never before had our playing field been so vast and the stakes so colossal. With Tara Oceans, a new discipline was opening up to us, that of oceanography. For a molecular biologist who directly receives totally odourless and colourless DNA samples, the fishing of microorganisms on the high seas remains a great mystery. The protocols and photos left me hungry. Curiosity was itching. I absolutely had to go on site, investigate these scientists and this huge and still largely unknown ecosystem.
For many months I hoped, sucked, sweated for the project to come to fruition. It's done; I got an appointment with Tara in the heart of the Pacific, for a five-week trip to French Polynesia, between the Gambier Archipelago, the Marquesas Archipelago, the Tuamotu Archipelago and the Society Archipelago. »
 
 
The author, Sophie Nicaud, is a research engineer, a biology communicator and director of life sciences at the CEA (French Atomic Energy Commission). In an interview published on the CEA website, Sophie recounts the aim and progress of the "Tara Océans" expedition, as well as her own experience on the boat. For two and a half years, researchers travelled the oceans to study plankton, the first link in the maritime food chain that could be involved in climate regulation.
"We were about 15 scientists and sailors on board a 16-metre boat. Among the researchers, each one belonged to a different scientific field, with his or her own working methods - which required a certain amount of adaptation. As a result, this scientific expedition was also a human adventure.. "

 

Eric Karsenti of the Tara Oceans expedition, CNRS gold medal

 
 

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