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03/30/17

A Natural Laboratory in Japan

After a halt devoted to educational outreach, Tara’s scientific research in Japan is starting up again. The schooner will travel …

After a halt devoted to educational outreach, Tara’s scientific research in Japan is starting up again. The schooner will travel south along the Japanese coast, looking for clues about the health of the coral. In the southern region of the Bay of Tokyo, each site studied displays the characteristics of the ocean of the future. Scientists will study simultaneously the effects of temperature changes and increasing acidity (pH) of water on marine ecosystems..

Beneath the surface, the concept of “climate change”; becomes very clear, affecting the corals in an extremely visible way. The 2 factors particularly impacting the corals today are ocean warming and acidification.

 

Tara_a_Shikine_credit_Francois_Aurat-0009Tara in Shikine studying effects of acidification on coral. © François Aurat / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

Warming and bleaching
To understand what’s happening here, we must explain exactly what coral is. Let’s draw closer and observe with a magnifying glass this animal that, from a distance, resembles a pebble. Coral is a distinct animal, a sort of small, upside down jellyfish called a « polyp » which builds a skeleton outside of its body. Another particularity is the fact that it can’t feed itself. Coral needs micro-algae to supply its energy: the zooxanthella. Using photosynthesis*, this algae provides the nutrients necessary for its survival. This collaboration between algae and coral is called «symbiosis».

But their marriage is fragile. An increase of only 1°C in the ocean’s temperature can lead to the death of a reef in just a few days. Stressed by the heat, corals and algae sign their divorce. Corals lose their micro-algae, or maybe the corals throw them out. Researchers are still questioning this process. Deprived of algae and thus of nutrients, the corals become white and die. This is called “bleaching”.

 

 

_15A3862Shikine, 7 meters depth. © Nicolas Floch / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

CO2 and acidification
Acidification is the other major threat. This concept is fairly recent: the earliest research on the subject dates only from the 1990s. CO2 released by human activities acidifies the oceans and impacts the growth of corals. Reef health is threatened.

Sylvain Agostini, Tara’s scientific coordinator in Japan, explains: «There are only a few other sites known to exist in the world like Shikine in Japan—one in Italy and the other in Papua New Guinea. The site of Shikine is located in a volcanic zone. The magma burning under the Earth’s crust releases CO2 and forms bubbles that escape from the seabed. The surrounding area is therefore naturally acidified! Usually scientists work on the issue of acidification in aquariums, examining only a few species. In Shikine, the whole ecosystem has been bathing in this acidic water for several generations.»

Diving into the waters of Shikine, Taranauts will take a leap into the future. Acidification of the chosen site corresponds to the estimates predicted globally for the year 2100. So, for the researchers embarking aboard Tara, this area has strong scientific potential and constitutes a natural underwater laboratory.

 

 

_15A3278Maggie Nugges completing a coral-algae transect. © Nicolas Floch / Fondation Tara Expéditions 

Noëlie Pansiot

*Photosynthesis: a bioenergetic process that allows plants and algae to synthesize organic matter using sunlight.

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© Pete West / BioQuest Studios / Fondation Tara Expéditions
03/28/17

Takeshi Kitano, Ambassador of Tara

A new chapter of Tara’s story is beginning in Japan. The Tara project radiates far beyond French borders and is …

A new chapter of Tara’s story is beginning in Japan. The Tara project radiates far beyond French borders and is now officially recognized as a public interest group. None of this would have been possible without the support of Tara’s friends and partners: agnès b., Véolia Foundation, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, and many others.

In the Japanese archipelago, the schooner is sponsored by a well-known personality — actor/film director Takeshi Kitano. As a young boy, he discovered Cousteau and developed a passionate interest in the ocean. For more than 2 years, Takeshi Kitano has been Tara’s Ambassador in Japan. Now he is finally able to discover the schooner on the occasion of Tara’s first visit to the archipelago.

 

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
03/27/17

Message from a grandfather to all Taranauts

You’ve had the opportunity to follow the stories of Flora Vincent, a marine biologist, during her leg aboard Tara between …

You’ve had the opportunity to follow the stories of Flora Vincent, a marine biologist, during her leg aboard Tara between Wallis and Fukuoka. Through her easy writing style, the scientist shared her experience in the form of a log book. Flora loves passing on her knowledge and has proven herself to be a good teacher. At 27, she is currently completing her PhD on plankton and overseeing the transfer of responsibility of WAX Science, an organization dedicated to the promotion of science she co-founded. On board, everyone agrees Flora has energy to spare! When Tara arrived in Fukuoka, Flora said she was feeling quite “at home”: “I am part French, part Japanese. Thirty-five years ago, my mother left Japan to settle in France. Part of my family still lives here in Japan. My grandfather may visit us”

A few days later, Minoru Fujii traveled 3 hours from Osaka to join Tara in Onomichi. On this occasion, Flora requested the assistance of Maki, a Japanese artist-in-residence, to talk with her grandfather.

 

Salut_Minoru_credit_NPansiot-2150178Visit aboard Tara of Minoru Fujii, grandfather of marine biologist Flora Vincent. ©  Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

Then began a trialogue between Flora, who speaks little Japanese, Maki, an improvised interpreter and Minoru San, 91. After visiting the schooner, putting on a sailing jacket and lying down on his granddaughter’s bunk to assess its degree of comfort, Minoru San sat down in the mess room.

After lunch, Minoru San addressed the crew:

“I am truly very happy and very honored to be so warmly welcomed aboard, thanks to the Captain’s permission. I am really lucky to be here. I received Tara’s journal through my granddaughter Flora and I read every article! Now, I know your project: it’s a great mission for the planet. I understand we must really try to preserve our oceans for future generations: this is very important because without plankton we won’t be able to breathe. Corals are also endangered. It’s all wrong! I’ve learned all these things thanks to Tara’s project, Flora and your newspaper. You really do a fantastic job. But I’m only an old man speaking.»

 

Taranautes_Minoru_credit_NPansiot-215017Exchange with Taranauts. © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation 

 

“Here, in Japan, when we reach a certain age and we get a chance like mine today to be at your side, we say: “I was given a gift for the next life.” Thanks to you, I leave with beautiful memories. I thank you with all my heart for this warm welcome.”

Before Tara cast off towards Kobe, Minoru San disembarked with a second gift drawn by Maki in the palm of his hand …

 

Tara_henne_Minoru_credit_NPansiot-2150138Henna tattoo designed by Maki at Minoru Fujii’s request. © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
03/16/17

On land and looking back

We’ve finally arrived on the main archipelago of Japan, where Tara is making an extended stopover for historical and scientific reasons: Japan has been a fan of agnès b for 30 years and is home to a wide variety of coral reefs.

[After finishing her thesis on data from the Tara Oceans expedition in Chris Bowler’s lab at ENS d’Ulm, Flora Vincent embarked on Tara for the first time at Wallis to sample plankton during the Tara Pacific expedition. She debarked at Fukuoka, JAPAN. ]

We’ve finally arrived on the main archipelago of Japan, where Tara is making an extended stopover for historical and scientific reasons: Japan has been a fan of agnès b for 30 years and is home to a wide variety of coral reefs. For the occasion they don’t do things half-way: we raised the sails under a brilliant sun and our entrance into the bay of Fukuoka was accompanied by a NHK television helicopter that circled around us! Perched on Tara’s mast, I was ecstatic to see the modern world again, lost from view for 2 months.

 

Visite_Flora_credit_NPansiot_P2140206Marin biologist, Flora Vincent, getting interviewed by NHK,  Japanese television channel at her arrival in Fukuoka © Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

For 3 days we’ve been reconnected. The day after our arrival in Fukuoka, Japanese television came on board and a report was broadcast on the main channel that same evening. Some of the scientists and sailors disembarked, relayed by part of the Paris team that came as reinforcement for the numerous stopovers, and they brought along something very bizarre: a WiFi box. After waiting for the 2,300 WhatsApp messages to synchronize, I became aware of the time spent on board because it caught up with us. An announcement of pregnancy, a split-up, a birth, many parties — in short a parallel life that continued without us.

For the school visits, I was grouped with Till, another scientist, Maki the artist-in-residence and Nico the first mate. 120 students in one morning, 4 hours to explain the history of the schooner, the research, Tara’s missions, personal anecdotes, accompanied by Maki’s first paintings that recall the real creative links between art and science.

Sharing my new experience with high school students, raising public awareness – these have replaced the imperatives of science and navigation. I slowly realize that I am participating in something that surpasses me completely: a unique synthesis of 3 poles which converge around a shared passion for the marine world.

 

 

P2140490Biologist Flora Vincent introduces school children to Tara using drawings by Maki, artist-in-residence aboard © Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

I spent 2 months talking to the same 14 people, and in 4 hours I reconnected thanks to visitors and journalists on board as well as the out-of-phase WhatsApp notifications. For 2 months, my life has been patterned by science, navigation and community life away from all terrestrial pre-occupations. It’s perhaps the most bizarre feeling I’ve had in recent days: creating the bridge between my life of the last 2 months and “before”. It’s like a vine that weaves itself between life on land and this universe that I’ve discovered. I admire the sailors who find their balance between these 2 worlds, for whom embarkations can last 6 months, because for now my brain still hasn’t understood what’s taking place.

Today, what brings me back to earth is precisely what Tara has been doing for years. The desire to share an adventure, to witness, understand and preserve a wonderful treasure. Above all, we must take on our responsibility as scientists, sailors and citizens to raise awareness of the changes taking place on this Blue Planet. I’ve become a Taranaut.

Flora Vincent

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© Noelie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
03/14/17

Historical visit to Hiroshima

On the occasion of the schooner’s stopover in Onomichi, the Taranauts were able to leave the boat for a few …

On the occasion of the schooner’s stopover in Onomichi, the Taranauts were able to leave the boat for a few hours to visit the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima. This historic site made a very strong impression on everyone.

During WW II, on August 6th and 9th 1945, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the targets of atomic bombs dropped by the United States Air Force. The explosion of the first atomic bomb razed the city of Hiroshima: 75,000 people died on the spot.

 

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
03/06/17

« Bye Bye Sarah ! »

Over the months, the crew changes. During certain stopovers, new team members come aboard Tara and others disembark. New faces …

Over the months, the crew changes. During certain stopovers, new team members come aboard Tara and others disembark. New faces appear, and sometimes former Taranauts return. Scientists and crew members take turns continuously. In all, there will be 70 scientists participating in the Tara Pacific expedition. I just relayed Sarah Fretwell as journalist/correspondent aboard.

Sarah is American, more specifically from California, and during our interview she wished to clarify a point: “I didn’t vote for Donald Trump”, she says with a laugh. Multimedia journalist by profession, Sarah is the first English-speaking on board correspondent to embark on Tara. Here is what she will remember from her 2-month stay aboard the schooner:

 

Sunset in Kiribati_photo credit Sarah FretwellSunset in Kiribati © Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

How did your arrival aboard Tara go?

I had just finished another project in Africa and I was working until the day I left. So I didn’t really have a mental transition. I had done a virtual tour online, and I had some information as far as the protocol and about the Tara philosophy. I just knew I was in for a big adventure. I just said ok, it’s going to be a life experience no matter what happens. I was really surprised when they showed me the islands that I’d been assigned to: Tuvalu and Kiribati. Because at the beginning of every year, I make a kind of “vision board”, and 2 years ago I found pictures of those same islands in a travel magazine and I had put them on my board!

Was it difficult to adapt to this job?

I was learning about the organization and the job position; I was also learning the culture of the boat, figuring out how it works. It was a steep learning curve. But I feel like the way I dealt with it was OK. “There are going to be challenges every day and I’ll just figure them out.” And so every day, it was just problem-solving all day. But I learned that’s how it is on a boat for everyone, no matter what. Daniel Cron was the chief engineer when I was aboard, and I saw that he was continually problem-solving and fixing things. And Martin was too, with customs and immigration.

 

sarah-credit noelie3© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expéditions Foundation

 

When one evokes the job of correspondent aboard Tara, people often romanticize and imagine a situation resembling much more a holiday than work. What do you think of this legend?

It’s definitely not a vacation! I’ve come off other projects feeling tired before, but really I don’t know if I’ve ever been this tired. Everyone is always working: 24h a day, 7 days a week. That was the most challenging part. It’s a difficult position because everything that I was doing, I usually have a team of people that I work with to do it. So it was interesting to suddenly be doing it by myself. Luckily I had the skills for it. My favorite aspect of the job was going to the different islands and having the chance to go ashore and get different stories.

What was your most amazing experience as a reporter?

One of my favorites was Tuvalu because I showed up on New Year’s day and no banks were open. I had no money and I really wanted to interview the Prime Minister, but his secretary hadn’t responded. Martin dropped me off with the dingy. I was carrying the equipment and the tripod with me to the shore and I just walked out of the ocean with my clothes. And I finally had the most beautiful experience there and I managed to get the interview!

 


 © Sarah Fretwell / Tara Expéditions Foundation

 

I feel incredibly honored and lucky to have worked with the people I met during my time aboard Tara, and to have shared the experiences we had together. Something that’s funny for me: In my job I go to so many places, and my friends at home are interested, but can never fully understand. It’s so cool to have 15 “strangers” and now friends to have shared these lifetime adventures with.

 

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot,
On board correspondent embarked in Fukuoka (Japan) on February 19, 2017

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© Noelie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
02/28/17

First stopover for Tara in Japan

Since departing last October from Papeete, French Polynesia, the schooner has already traveled nearly 8,500 miles. In her wake, Tara …

Since departing last October from Papeete, French Polynesia, the schooner has already traveled nearly 8,500 miles. In her wake, Tara has left Tuamotu, Wallis and Guam and sails towards Japan.

For more than 3 months, the Taranauts will participate in a major awareness campaign in the land of the rising sun. The public will be welcomed on board during 8 stopovers; hundreds of children will discover the secrets of coral reefs and the scientists will meet at a symposium in Tokyo.

This great Japanese stopover is a first for Tara. On reaching Fukuoka, the Taranauts were eager and excited to begin this new chapter of the expedition.

 

 

© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
02/24/17

Ogasawara, a unique environment to preserve

The Ogasawara islands have unique land and sea environments in the world, making them a true laboratory for studying biodiversity, …

The Ogasawara islands have unique land and sea environments in the world, making them a true laboratory for studying biodiversity, but also an indicator of changes on a more global scale.
An ideal place for the first meeting of Tara with Japan, and the continuation of the study of the biodiversity of the coral reefs along the Tara Pacific expedition.

 

© Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expéditions

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© Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expédition
02/22/17

“85,000 liters for Science”

A month and a half ago I embarked aboard Tara at Wallis, the most distant place from Paris I’ve ever …

A month and a half ago I embarked aboard Tara at Wallis, the most distant place from Paris I’ve ever traveled.

[After finishing her thesis on data from the Tara Oceans expedition in Chris Bowler’s lab at ENS d’Ulm, Flora Vincent embarked on Tara for the first time at Wallis to sample plankton during the Tara Pacific expedition. She will debark at Fukuoka, JAPAN. ]

 

8-Scientist Flora Vincent shaking her 1,801 sample bottle of this leg of the expedition_Photo Credit Sarah Fretwell_0Q8A5357Scientist Flora Vincent shaking her 1,801 sample bottle of this leg of the expedition © Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expéditions 

 

I had just finished my PhD at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris) in Chris Bowler’s laboratory, where I was working for 3 years on data collected during the Tara Oceans expedition. As incredible as it may seem, one can do an entire thesis based on the data from Tara Oceans and never have embarked on the schooner. So quite naturally when Colomban de Vargas and Sarah Romac – responsible for plankton research on Tara Pacific – proposed that I come aboard to collect plankton between Wallis and Fukuoka, I jumped at the opportunity.

The majority of scientists aboard Tara are busy analyzing coral, but Guillaume (the bridge engineer) and I are interested in everything that happens around the coral. What are the physico-chemical parameters of the surrounding water? Which micro-organisms invisible to the naked eye populate the reef? What do they do and how are they different from the ones we find directly on the corals or further out to sea? What is the influence of an island and its population in the middle of the Pacific on the planktonic ecosystem?

Concretely our scientific work is divided into 2 stages. There’s the so-called ‘island phase’: twice a day I go on a zodiac to collect seawater near the coral reefs with the help of the crew – often Julie, Nico, Martin and Jon. Once we’re back on Tara, we do a battery of genetic, morphological and physico-chemical analyses. I had a chance to take samples from the Tuvalus, the Kiribati, Chuuk, Guam and Ogasawara – exceptional places that before I could hardly have pinpointed on a map – unfortunately now threatened by climate change.

 

Guillame Bourdin Flora Vinent Sarah Fretwell 0Q8A1917Tara scientists Guillaume Bourdin and Flora Vinent confer over sample results during their nigh time sample © Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

Between 2 islands is the so-called ‘Ocean phase’. During daily voyages in the open sea, Guillaume and I collect water directly as the boat advances, thanks to a series of nets, pumps, and pipes which we put into the water at precise places of interest, with the help of the sailors, by day or by night, in the sun or rain. Afterwards we perform all the manipulations necessary to harvest the micro-organisms present in the water.

This experience in the field is exhilarating: from the 85,000 liters of seawater we collected in just 2 months (of a 2-year expedition!), several years of research and new discoveries will result. Thanks to Tara we can develop approaches and answer questions that only such a large scale of sampling and interdisciplinarity allow. My adventure on board will soon be over, but for Tara Pacific, it’s just the beginning.

 

Flora Vincent

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© Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expéditions
02/20/17

TARA ARRIVES IN FUKUOKA: A FIRST FOR THE RESEARCH SCHOONER AND FOR THE JAPANESE PUBLIC

After several days of harsh weather conditions, the French research schooner Tara docked in the port of Fukuoka on Sunday, February 19, at 5 pm local time.

Press release

After several days of  harsh weather conditions, the French research schooner Tara docked in the port of Fukuoka on Sunday, February 19, at 5 pm local time. After departing on February 15 from Ogasawara, their last research site, scientists and sailors confronted strong winds and a particularly turbulent sea. The city of Fukuoka, on the southern island of Kyushu, is Tara’s first port of call where the public will be welcomed aboard. 

 

Arrivee a Fukuoka Sarah Fretwell Fondation Tara ExpeditionsArrival in Fukuoka © Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

This arrival, highly symbolic for Tara, marks the end of the first campaign of the TARA PACIFIC expedition. For the past 8 months, traversing the ocean from east to west and voyaging 30,000 kilometers, scientists have been examining coral reefs and their ecosystems to understand their biodiversity (including genetic) and behavior as they confront global environmental disturbances.

“Welcoming Tara in Japan is very moving for me,” says Professor Hiroyuki Ogata of Kyoto University, the first Japanese biologist to board the schooner (in 2010) during TARA OCEANS, the expedition which expanded knowledge of the planktonic world and gave rise to 50 publications, including 8 in the prestigious journals Science and Nature. “Today, the universities of Kyoto, Tokyo, Tsukuba, Kochi and Ruykyu have joined us in this new scientific adventure: the TARA PACIFIC expedition will contribute to the research we are conducting in Japanese waters and Ryukyu”.

 

 

This is the very first time the schooner Tara has come to Japan and will meet the Japanese public.
For Etienne Bourgois, founder in 2003 of the Tara Expeditions project, “Among the 30 countries studied during Tara Pacific, Japan is the place where the schooner will stay for the longest time, 2 months, with 9 stopovers scheduled. It is extremely important for us to share what we are doing with the Japanese public, and especially with young people and children…”

Stopovers in Fukuoka, Onomichi, Kobe, Nagoya, Yokohama and Tokyo will allow the Japanese public to come aboard and visit the boat, meet the sailors, and also discover the 13 years of Tara expeditions through a traveling exhibition, film screenings and conferences. An opportunity to learn more about this still largely unknown realm which covers 70% of our planet: the Ocean.

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© Yoshirou Hirano / binmei.jp

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