Plankton Mission: from invisible to visible
The Plankton Mission aims to explore the potential of frugal science aboard a sailboat to participate in the study of plankton, from the invisible to the visible, and its link to pollution and environmental parameters through scientific and educational expeditions aboard a sailboat in different conditions.
The first adventure will be during the Atlantea Expedition
By our side since the beginning
At the genesis of this mission is an international consortium of researchers (Sorbonne, CNRS, Stanford, University of Maine), sailors (Tara Ocean Foundation), and “makers” (TernogLab, PontonZ) created in 2015: Plankton Planet. Indeed, its director Colomban de Vargas has been an indispensable support in our project since our first steps and continues to advise us relentlessly to ensure the relevance of our different research and innovation axes.
Plankton Planet aims to awaken the curiosity and knowledge of “seatizens”, and the creativity of a new generation of researchers in global ecology, towards a cooperative, frugal and sustainable measurement of the invisible life of the ocean. This extraordinary initiative is yet another participatory science to catalyze global ocean data collection while lowering the barriers of field science to not only understand the biodiversity and evolution of the ocean microbiome, but also to integrate its complexity into the mathematical models of the Earth, in order to restore a stable and symbiotic cohabitation of living beings (including us!) in the biosphere
What’s plankton ?
A group of organisms ranging from viruses to jellyfish, krill and bacteria, their main characteristic is that they migrate with surface currents. Representing 98% of the marine biomass, it is at the base of the marine food chain, produces more than half of the oxygen we breathe and participates greatly in the absorption of a third of the CO2 produced. More than a scientific issue, it is a life issue! It is one of the fundamental bases of life!
Marine biomass represented by plankton
Planetary oxygen provided by plankton
© CHRISTIAN ET NOÉ SARDET/CHRONIQUES DU PLANCTON/TIRÉ DE PLANCTON. AUX ORIGINES DU VIVANT, ULMER, 2013
Why study it ?
This essential aquatic microbiome forms a fragile ensemble that is hyper-reactive and proactive to climate disturbances and all kinds of pollution.
A bad ocean health will be reflected in a bad plankton health, and it is therefore a key element for the understanding of the state of the Ocean and the impact of environmental pressure factors, associated with particular with human activities
The technical challenge of a frugal science towards a more sustainable scientific world
With the objective of making science accessible to as many people as possible and to prove that science has its place in any type of vessel, we decided to design a small-scale expedition model on a sailing boat without losing relevance and scientific rigor.
Such a boat represents a considerable technical challenge. Whether it is for the validation of instruments or the design of experimental protocols, an adaptation is necessary to juggle between time constraints, storage space and sample transport etc. We find solutions to dock the tools, to think of their durability while ensuring exploitable and rich data with the supervision of different laboratories. In short, we propose a rigorous and robust participatory science model. In other words, we propose a way to put sailing at the service of science by working hand in hand with recognized scientists.
In this sense, we encourage a frugal science, which aims at simple and efficient innovation using a minimum of means.
The first expedition: Atlantea
Atlantea will be the first expedition of the Plankton Mission, an extraordinary human adventure to help measure the health of the ocean and in particular its invisible heart: the marine microbiome. It will travel around the North Atlantic Ocean along the currents to follow the plankton’s journey through different conditions and will support on its way initiatives that share our values and our objectives of exchange and education.
True to our missions, this expedition will bring young engineers closer to the field and will allow them to test devices and methods developed or adapted by students during their interdisciplinary projects within their academic curriculum at EPFL (Federal Instute of Technology of Lausanne).