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Tara Oceans Polar Circle: a new scientific expedition in the Arctic

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Tara Oceans Polar Circle: a new scientific expedition in the Arctic

The polar schooner Tara will depart from Lorient on May 19, 2013 for a new expedition: Tara Oceans Polar Circle. A scientific adventure lasting seven months and traveling 25,000kms around the Arctic Ocean via the Northeast and Northwest passages. Supported by the CNRS, CEA, EMBL and other private and public partners, this mission unites biologists and oceanographers. They will focus on plankton biodiversity in the Arctic and other specific issues in this region susceptible to climate changes, at a time when we are witnessing an accelerated summer melting of Arctic sea ice.

By including the Arctic Ocean, the Tara Oceans Polar Circle will complete the Tara Oceans (2009-2012) mission to collect plankton in all the world's oceans. During Tara Oceans, only the Arctic Ocean was missing in the efforts to collect and analyze. It is therefore very important to compare the Arctic marine biodiversity with other oceanic regions to determine major changes in this area.

Discovering Arctic plankton
Main objective of Tara Oceans Polar Circle : better understanding of the Arctic ecosystem, through discovery of unknown plankton species and trying to decipher their interactions with the environment. Plankton store much of the C02 that we emit. Based on the experience of Tara Oceans, the scientists will conduct a comprehensive and multidisciplinary study of arctic marine ecosystems to better understand their present and future evolution. Science has an urgent need for this data. The planktonic ecosystem (from viruses to fish larvae) is for the moment less compromised by industry and remains a good indicator of changes.

The Tara Oceans Polar Circle expedition is a multidisciplinary programme with unique plankton sampling: it includes oceanographic, optical and genomic tools used to describe plankton (viruses, bacteria, archaea, protists and metazoans) in its physico-chemical environment with new and original methods. Various disciplines including oceanography, remote sensing, ecology, genomics, molecular biology of cells and systems, taxonomy, bioinformatics, data management and modeling, will be involved in processing data.

The Arctic, a region affected by dynamic changes
In addition to this overall biological approach, specific oceanographic and chemical issues will be addressed, for example, the assessment of mercury levels in the atmosphere and sea, or the concentration of plastic particles. The aim is thus to understand the vulnerability of polar biodiversity to human activities, how the melting of the ice pack affects the marine ecosystem, and what pollutants are present in these remote areas.

A team effort
The Tara Oceans Polar Circle 2013 research will be conducted at the sea-ice edge, where plankton activity is most important.

All scientists and institutes involved in Tara Oceans will accompany the project, along with other laboratories specialized in Arctic research including the Takuvik laboratory (Joint International Research Unit, CNRS/Laval University), the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology (Moscow) and LOCEAN laboratory (CNRS/UPMC/MNHN/IRD).
The team of scientists united since 2009, their collective expertise, the global ecosystem approach and the still available equipment, coupled with Tara Expeditions' logistical expertise in  extreme environments–are all key factors for success of the voyage.

A summary of the scientific mission:

- Global approach of the Tara Oceans expedition. The strategy is to compare the biological data about plankton in the physico-chemical environment of the Arctic with data collected from other oceans since 2009 during theTara Oceans expedition.

- Study of plastic pollution, mercury and air pollutants in the Arctic by KAUST and OMP/IFREMER for mercury.

- Study of ocean "color", its composition and surface pigment particles for NASA by the University of Maine, USA.

- Specific study of spring phytoplankton blooms at the ice pack's edge, by the University of Laval, Quebec and the ENS.

Awareness for our future
Tara Expeditions also benefits from Tara's presence in the Arctic to pressure politicians and the business community, increase public awareness of the most pressing environmental issues in the Arctic, as well as challenges faced by the people who inhabit the Arctic Circle. For some, the opening of sea routes, development of navigation, and fishing opportunities are economic assets, for others they carry an ecological risk.

Sustainable development in the Arctic is an issue in this early twenty-first century.

Etienne Bourgois, President of Tara Expeditions

Roman Troublé, Secretary General of Tara Expeditions

Loïc Vallette, Tara's captain
the Tara crew

Scientific direction:
Chris Bowler, spokesperson (ENS/CNRS)

Eric Karsenti (EMBL/CNRS)

Gaby Gorsky (CNRS)

Patrick Wincker (Genoscope, CEA)

Marcel Babin (Univ. Laval/CNRS)

Colomban de Vargas (CNRS/UPMC)

Emmanuel Boss (Univ. of Maine)

Jean-Claude Gascard (CNRS).

and the scientific coordinators of Tara Oceans

Stefanie Kandels-Lewis (EMBL), Scientific logistics

agnès b.,
Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco,
Lorient Agglomération,
TAKUVIK (Univ. Laval & CNRS),
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST),
Laboratories of the Tara Oceans expedition (the consortium OCEAN)
Région Bretagne,
et UNESCO - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

Under the High Patronage of Mister François HOLLANDE French President


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A traveling exhibition and films will be shared with the public. We will also welcome classes aboard at each stopover. Artists will be in residence on Tara for the duration of the expedition.
We are currently looking for local partners and volunteers to work with us on organizing this campaign. Do not hesitate to contact us:  aideztara@taraexpeditions.org

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Tara's application for iPad selected in TOP of AppStore in 118 countries


Tara's application is available for iPad !

Join us aboard Tara, a schooner for the planet, and experience her unique voyages on the world's oceans – in one application !

- Panoramic photos show you the boat as if you were on board.
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Ocean Sciences meeting


The biennial Ocean Sciences Meeting that took place recently in Honolulu, Hawaii (February 22 - 28, 2014) is the most important international symposium in oceanography. It brings together all the scientific disciplines (physics, chemistry, geology, biology) as well as the social sciences. Nearly 5,000 scientists attended.

Lars Stemmann, Chris Bowler, Hiroyuki Ogata, Colomban de Vargas and Emmanuel Boss – scientists involved Tara Oceans – organized a session on the integrated study of ocean ecosystems during which more than 20 researchers shared their work with a full audience. Exchanges took place concerning oceanic biodiversity (methods and estimations) and its sensitivity to changes at different scales of time and space (including transport by ocean currents). Scientists discussed their results and methods. Contacts were made to share and promote internationally the outstanding data resulting from the Tara Oceans expedition.




Discover and sign Paris Appeal for the High Seas !

Your voice matters: Only a democratically-organized, international governance of the High Seas can safeguard and sustainably manage the resources of this unique realm.

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The Tara Oceans expedition discovers a new coral reef species from the Gambier Islands, French Polynesia


A new shallow water coral species, Echinophyllia tarae sp. n., is described from the Gambier Islands, French Polynesia. The remote and poorly known Gambier islands were explored by the Tara Oceans international research expedition in 2011. Scleractinia, also called stony corals, are ancient and structurally simple marine animals which have the ability to form hard skeletons and are involved in the build up of coral reefs. This new coral is common in the lagoon reefs of the Gambier, and was observed in muddy environments where several colonies showed partial mortality and re-growth. The paper devoted to the new species was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

More information : here


Explore Google Ocean with Tara


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Tara Expeditions Blogs


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Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations speaks to Tara at Rio +20


Part of the speach :

"Earlier this year, I had the chance to board the Tara Expeditions when it docked in New York.
The crew was really inspiring. They shared so much information with me about oceans and climate change. I am really grateful that they are raising awareness around the world … and I am very proud that the United Nations is supporting them.
As I stood on the Tara that day in February, I stood on the deck and looked out at downtown Manhattan. We were surrounded by skyscrapers but we had a window on the deep blue sea. It was a reminder that our worlds are connected.
I promised the crew that I would continue working with dedication for the planet’s oceans.
Now, Rio has to put more wind in our sails, so we can navigate the waves to a better future.
Let us advance for our oceans and our world."

Rio de Janeiro, 21 June 2012