39- Following plastics from land to sea on the Casamance river
In episode 39 of the AtlantECO Podcast, Leïla Meistertzheim, a researcher from Banyuls-sur-Mer with expertise in toxicology and microbiology, who was chief scientist of the last topic study of the Mission Microbiomes Expedition in Senegal, discusses the importance of studying the Casamance River.
The goal of that study was to trace the origin of plastic pollution in the ocean, and to understand the flow of plastic from the land to the sea. The Casamance River was an ideal environment for this study as it is a mangrove environment, a hotspot of biodiversity, and has different types of human activities that can impact the environment. The team used a manta net and different types of filters to increase the quantity of DNA, enabling them to identify the microorganisms living in the surrounding environment and the plastisphere, the life that develops on plastics. The study will help increase knowledge of the exact number and different types of plastic pollution found in the river, and how they can be affected by UV radiation and hydrometry. The ultimate goal is to understand the mutual impact of plastic on biodiversity and marine ecosystems, and to share this knowledge with local people so they understand the impact of plastic not only in the river but also in the sea.
During the study, the team encountered unexpected challenges with sampling methods. Due to the river's size, at first, they were able to enter directly on Tara but had to resort to renting a car and transporting equipment themselves to sample further up the river. They were able to obtain help from locals, and their interactions were mutually beneficial as the researchers and the community exchanged about microplastics in the environment. The researchers found a significant amount of plastic waste near a small population on the riverbank, which highlights the impact of single-use plastic on the environment. The locals understood the problem and were keen to find solutions, but it was not easy in their part of the world. Overall, the experience was rewarding and educational for both the researchers and the locals.
The leg was dedicated to Tracy Edwards, a woman who has played a significant role in supporting women in the sailing world. Edwards created the first all-women crew 30 years ago, and her story was turned into a movie.
Leïla shares her positive experience on board Tara and she emphasises on the importance of working together as a team to achieve the common goal, in what can be challenging conditions. As we had heard in previous stories of the Mission Microbiomes, this message of teamwork and shared passion is common among those who have been on board Tara.
More on AtlantECO: www.atlanteco.eu
Logo by Louise Merquiol
Music by No Pilot
The AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
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21. 44. Exploring plankton biodiversity22:53In this podcast episode, we are starting a new series looking at the Early Stage Researchers in AtlantECO. Our guest in the first episode of this series is Fabio Benedetti, marine scientist specialising in plankton biodiversity and its role in ecosystem functioning and climate regulation. Fabio, who is based at ETH Zurich, explains that his fascination lies in studying the small creatures in the ocean, particularly plankton. He has been researching plankton diversity for a decade, focusing on understanding their distribution, patterns, and their future trajectory. Fabio's research falls within the field of macroecology and biogeography, where he maps the biodiversity of plankton. By analysing observational data collected over the years using data mining and machine learning tools, he extracts hidden information and maps indicators of plankton diversity in space and time. He emphasises the importance of combining disparate datasets to gain new insights that might have been missed when working with individual datasets.Fabio's work contributes to a better understanding of the biodiversity and ecological dynamics of plankton in the ocean. His research helps uncover valuable information about the distribution and characteristics of these vital organisms, ultimately aiding in the conservation and protection of marine ecosystems.Within AtlantECO, Fabio’s main role is to aggregate and curate plankton observation data from various sources. This data includes information on different plankton species, their diversity, and productivity. By bringing together diverse datasets, the aim is to create a comprehensive understanding of plankton biodiversity in the Atlantic Ocean. The aggregated data is then made available to the scientific community for further research and analysis. In collaboration with colleagues in the project, Fabio also develops statistical pipelines and mapping packages to extract valuable information from the aggregated data. By generating maps of plankton biodiversity and productivity, scientists can identify global patterns and study interactions between different plankton species. These maps serve as a foundation for developing indicators to monitor and predict the response of plankton to future changes in climate variables. With ongoing climate change and rising anthropogenic CO2 emissions, understanding how plankton biodiversity and production will respond to these changes is crucial.In addition to his data aggregation and mapping activities, Fabio also supervises early-stage researchers, explaining his passion for mentoring future ocean scientists and his desire to find a permanent position in academia or a related field where he can continue to support and inspire young researchers. Fabio also offers advice to those starting their careers in marine sciences, so make sure to listen to the full episode to benefit from his wisdom!Get in touch with Fabio: email@example.com More on AtlantECO: www.atlanteco.eu Logo by Louise MerquiolMusic by No Pilot The AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
20. 43. Unleashing the Potential of Citizen Science in AtlantECO: Sail for Science and the Plankton Planet Initiative17:02In the 43rd episode of the AtlantECO podcast, we chat about citizen science and how we use it in AtlantECO with Anna Oddone, from Plankton Planet. Anna tells us about the Sail for Science initiative, delivered through the Plankton Planet project, which aims to engage citizens in collecting data on the ocean microbiome.In the context of AtlantECO, Sail for Science activities are being carried out to contribute to the overall scientific goals. One such activity involves developing and testing instruments to be deployed on sailing boats, for “planktonauts” the citizens participating in the initiative. Three instruments have been developed: the high-speed net, the Lamprey DNA kit, and the PlanktoScope. The high-speed net allows plankton collection during normal cruising speeds of up to eight knots, unlike traditional nets that require the boat to be stationary or moving very slowly. The Lamprey DNA kit filters seawater through a membrane, capturing plankton, which is then dried on the membrane and sent to laboratories for genomic analysis. The PlanktoScope, a semi-automated microscope with a 3D system, enables quantitative imaging of plankton, capturing their morphology. This instrument provides not only information about species presence but also visual insights into their size, colour, and other characteristics. The instruments have undergone testing on board Tara, demonstrating their effectiveness comparable to standard instruments used by scientists. Feedback from experts within the AtlantECO network has further refined the prototypes. The next phase involves deploying these instruments on sailing boats, for which a set of protocols and manuals are prepared. Dozens of "planktonauts" will be trained to use the instruments, collecting data and providing feedback on usability. The main sampling route will be the North Atlantic route, commonly used by sailing boats. Additionally, there will be routes in the southeast of the Atlantic, specifically from Cape Town to Europe and vice versa. While oceanographic vessels associated with AtlantECO conduct their research, the Sail4Science initiative will implement simplified versions of the AtlantECO protocols. Comparing the results from these lighter deployments with those obtained from standard oceanographic vessels will yield valuable insights. The enthusiasm from sailors and citizens to understand and appreciate the ocean they sail on is evident. People who sail generally have a deep connection with nature and actively seek initiatives that help them explore and comprehend the ocean better. The instruments used in the project enable sailors to observe the hidden aspects of marine life that would otherwise remain unseen, revealing the richness of life beneath the ocean's surface, a world that only becomes visible through the lens of microscopes and reveals the astonishing beauty and diversity of marine ecosystems.More on AtlantECO: www.atlanteco.eu Logo by Louise MerquiolMusic by No PilotThe AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
19. 42. Measuring the health of the Atlantic Ocean16:59In the 42nd podcast episode, our guest, Serena Zunino, discusses how we measure the health of the ocean. She explains that measuring the health of the ocean means assessing its status and how it deviates from the condition of a healthy ecosystem. A healthy ocean is one where its structure is maintained, ecosystem functions work properly, and the system is stable, resilient, and sustainable. The health of the ocean is crucial to human health and wellbeing as it provides many important ecosystem services. Serena also emphasises the importance of adopting an ecosystem-based approach that recognizes humans as integral components of the ecosystem. She emphasises that the ocean has been subject to increased pressures over the last few decades, such as loss of biodiversity, overexploitation of fish stocks, pollution, and climate change, which have threatened its health. Therefore, it is essential to develop effective tools to monitor the status and health of the ocean to prevent further damage and ensure its sustainability for future generations. The Ocean Health Index is an effective tool to evaluate the marine environment, the OHI is an assessment framework that evaluates the ocean's health based on sustainable provisioning of benefits and services such as food provision, carbon storage, water cleanliness, and biodiversity. The progress toward each goal is assessed against the optimal and sustainable level that can be achieved, with different reference points considered for each goal. The index has been calculated every year since 2012, using nearly 80 different global data sets spanning ecological, social, economic, and governance measures. AtlantECO is working on the implementation of the Ocean Health Index, aiming to add new details of data at higher resolution, both spatially and temporally, and new kinds of data, such as those linked to plastic pollution or genetic information that has the potential to enlighten ecosystem functions yet to be discovered. New indicators are being developed to produce improved estimates of ecosystem status and trends of some services that the Atlantic Ocean provides. The focus is on assessing the status of ecosystem structure, function, health, and services at the whole Atlantic scale as well as some regional case studies, incorporating high data resolution. The assessment aims to predict the capacity of ecosystems to provide services sustainably in the future, considering future projections of climate change and socioeconomic pathways. The results of the analysis using the Ocean Health Index are needed to provide scientific advice on the status and trends of different policy scenarios, guide management decisions, and raise awareness of the threats facing the ocean. The communicative power of the Ocean Health Index must be used to increase awareness among stakeholders and promote the sustainable use of marine ecosystems.More on AtlantECO: www.atlanteco.eu Logo by Louise MerquiolMusic by No PilotThe AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
18. 41. The NAUTILOS project38:02In the 41st episode of the AtlantECO podcast, we discover Nautilos, a Horizon 2020 funded project that aims to fill the gap in marine observations and improve monitoring capacities and resources. The coordinator, Gabriele Pieri explains that the project's main objective is to monitor the oceans' environmental status, spanning from chemical and biological information from deep ocean physics to surface models for forecasting. Nautilos uses a new generation of cost-effective sensors and samplers that are integrated into existing and new observing platforms such as moored buoys, animal tags and underwater vehicles. The project performs long-term deployments in large scale demonstrations across various European seas, including the Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Atlantic, Baltic, and Mediterranean. One of the project’s demonstrators is animal borne instruments, and two of the guests explain what this entails. First, Jorge Fontes presents the tools, designed to be non-invasive, which combines multiple sensors. The most complex tag includes high-resolution accelerometery, which allows for the measurement of fine details of animal movement and behaviour. It also includes a satellite positioning system and video camera with lights for deep-diving animals. Another sensor measures dissolved oxygen in the water, which is a critical variable for animals that extract their oxygen from the water. This additional sensor will allow researchers to understand how the availability or unavailability of oxygen will potentially determine how animals use their three-dimensional habitats. Understanding these changes can help predict how they will affect top predators, such as sharks, that control the food chain and have a reverberating impact on the whole ecosystem. Christophe Guinet then presents their latest development with a mini echo sounder, which is attached to elephant seals and can detect particles in the water as they dive. The team hopes to use the information gathered to assess the biological component of the oceans and to understand the ecological consequences of global warming. The team also plans to develop a micro camera triggered by the acoustic detection of the mini echo sounder to provide a visual identification of the particles detected. The system has the potential to provide valuable in-situ measurements of the biological component of the oceans that are currently lacking. We further discuss tagging of animals for research purposes. Our guests explain how they aim to move away from invasive tagging techniques towards non-invasive methods such as deploying a harness or necklace on sharks and manta rays by free diving. The NAUTILOS project:Nautilos website: Nautilos Nautilos social media handles:LinkedIn: Nautilos | LinkedIn Twitter: NAUTILOS (@NAUTILOS_H2020) / Twitter YouTube: NAUTILOS H2020 Project - YouTube More about AtlantECO www.atlanteco.eu The AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
17. 40. It's a wrap on Mission Microbiomes19:35In episode 40 of the podcast, we spoke with Romain Troublé, CEO of the Tara Ocean Foundation, about the foundation's mission and Mission Microbiomes, one of our flagship expeditions in AtlantECO, as well as the most recent activities of the Foundation. Mission Microbiomes lasted 22 months, visited 14 countries, and journeyed over 70,000 kilometres. The expedition was challenging, with logistics being a major issue, especially with Covid restrictions. However, the team managed to make it as smooth as possible for the crew and scientists involved. The expedition yielded a lot of data and samples that are now being analysed in AtlantECO. A total of 168 scientists participated in the expedition, and the team used sails instead of the engine for a significant part of the journey, reducing carbon impact. The team had the opportunity to visit some unique oceanic artefacts and locations and study the biodiversity there. A highlight of the expedition was when scientists talked to French president Macron in real-time from Antarctica about climate change and the need to protect the area. Romain also discussed the foundation's mission, which is unique in its approach, as it encompasses scientific research, education, political advocacy, and sailing. He highlighted the foundation's work and the importance of ocean exploration and biodiversity research. The foundation has enabled the collection of over 100,000 ocean samples across 12 expeditions. With the help of scientists, politicians, and the public, the foundation continues to raise awareness of the ocean's importance and the need to protect it. And now, Tara, the schooner, has just left on its new mission called Tara Europa, part of the TREC expedition. In this two-year-long expedition, which will begin in Estonia and sail along the European coastlines to Athens in Greece, the team will study various forms of pollution, which is largely invisible, and its link with the microbiome. The foundation is also working on the Tara Polar Station project, which aims to document the changes in the Arctic Ocean due to climate change and melting ice. The Arctic Ocean is a unique and extreme environment threatened by global warming and pollution. To improve our understanding of its biodiversity and the impact of climate change, the Tara Polar Station will embark scientists from various fields until 2045. This multidisciplinary scientific approach aims to reveal unique adaptations of organisms, analyse the consequences of melting sea ice and pollution, and discover new molecules, species, and processes. The aim is to better understand the Arctic, so that we can protect the health of the planet.The AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
15. 38. Microplastics and microbiome in the Gambia river19:48In episode 38 of the podcast, Jean-François Ghiglione, marine ecotoxicology researcher from Banyuls-sur-Mer in France, discusses the importance of studying the Gambia River and how it helps to understand the ocean microbiome and ecosystems. Jeff was on board Tara as chief scientist during one of the legs of the Mission Microbiomes expedition whilst studying the Gambia river.There, the focus of the topic study was on plastic pollution in the river and its effects on microorganisms. This will help us understand how different plastic pollution in African rivers is in comparison to European ones. The leg was made to find out the amount of plastic pollution in different environments along the Gambia River. The team also sampled the water to compare microbial life on plastic to the microbiome living in the surrounding water. They are interested in understanding the interaction between the microorganisms and the pathogens that could be transported through microplastics from the river to the sea. While the analysis and work downstream will take place over the coming months, the team already observed that the type of plastic pollution there was different from that found in Europe. This scientific study was dedicated to a woman involved with the sailing world and ocean protection, and Jeff talks about Isabelle Autissier, the first woman to have completed a solo circumnavigation of the globe. She is a French navigator, writer, and an environmental activist dedicated to environmental causes. She has also carried out research on Crustacean and fishes in fisheries on behalf of IFREMER in France. She is inspirational and is committed to bringing about change for the environment.Jeff shares that his best memory of his time onboard is the human experience. The Tara crew takes care of everyone, making the atmosphere onboard comfortable and welcoming. Artists are also present onboard, which opens up new ideas and ways of seeing their work. Jeff praised the professionalism of the crew and the organisers, who created what he described as almost magical conditions.Overall, the expedition was a great success and the team discovered new information on plastic pollution and its effects on microorganisms. It adds another piece to the puzzle of understanding how human activity impacts the oceans and the environment. More on AtlantECO: www.atlanteco.eu Logo by Louise MerquiolMusic by No PilotThe AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
14. 37. The high seas treaty22:53Our 37th episode of the podcast is dedicated to the High Seas Treaty, which was the focus of intense discussions during the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) a couple of weeks ago. The treaty deals with high seas, those regions of the ocean which lie outside of national boundaries and for which, up to now, there were essentially no regulations, and especially very little enforcement of what regulations there were; and this in terms of navigation, fishing, research or use of the marine resources from these regions for example. So this treaty establishes a framework for the legal mechanism to protect the ocean and marine biodiversity, including in support of the pledge to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030 which was made during the UN biodiversity conference in December 2022. To talk about this in more detail and gain a better understanding, we had two guests on the show: Andre Abreu from the Tara Ocean Foundation in France and Hugo Sarmento from the Federal University of San Carlos in Brazil. André provided a summary of the treaty’s history and background, telling us that when states approved the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982, there was no consideration of the issues that are today threatening biodiversity in the sea and high seas. From 2010, delegations started to think about a complementary treaty, a new instrument, to complete the UNDOS by addressing issues linked to sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. The Tara Ocean Foundation, as an observer for the United Nations Economic and Scientific Council, has been involved in the negotiations since 2012 and their role has been crucial in making a link between the UN delegates and the scientific community, bridging a gap between science and policy. So what does the treaty mean for people conducting research in the high seas? Hugo was there to tell us about this. He mentioned that at the moment, there are no laws for the high seas. Now, in the treaty, resources from the high seas are considered resources for humanity so the regulations on how to manage genetic resources will change. Because of its abundant biodiversity and history of biospiracy, Brazil was well placed to provide advice, guidance and recommendation when it came to managing the genetic resources. This is where Hugo played his part, talking with the ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brazil to provide his scientific expertise on marine genetic resources. When agreements were reached late into the night of the 4th of March 2023, it felt like a great victory after years of work! The high seas treaty was accepted, and with it, measures to protect the ocean and its resources. It has to be noted that the text will need ratification by 60 nations before it becomes binding so let’s hope this happens sooner rather than later.The AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.
13. 36. Sigi23:39This is the last episode in our short special series released on the occasion of International Women's Day where women involved in researching or protecting the ocean tell us about their experiences, share their messages for the future and answer questions we have received from the younger generation all around the Atlantic!In this show you will hear from Sieglinde Gruber, senior advisor to the European Commission as she provides an overview of the situation and policies surrounding the issue of women in marine sciences and the blue growth sector, as well as the initiatives and projects that exist to address these challenges.Find out more about AtlantECO on Our website: www.atlanteco.eu Twitter: @EU_AtlantECOInstagram: @eu.atlantecoFacebook: @Atlanteco-EU-107893811437643YouTube: UCg1fWuQLlpSnnV8aVocHphQLogo by Louise MerquiolMusic by No PilotThe AtlantECO project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 862923. This output reflects only the author’s view and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.