11 April 2018
The Tara Foundation has just established new relations with China, the largest country in the world, in the form of a partnership with the University of Xiamen. On April 6 at a press conference aboard the schooner Romain Troublé, director of the Tara Foundation, along with Min Han Dai, director of the Science and Technology Department at the University of Xiamen, and scientist Chris Bowler (PSL, CNRS), reaffirmed their vision of the Ocean as a global system and announced their desire to collaborate. The University of Xiamen recently acquired an oceanographic research vessel, the Tan Kah Kee, which could eventually navigate alongside Tara on the same scientific mission to expand the scope of scientific research.
Interview with 2 men who have the same goal: understanding the Ocean to better protect it.
What is this partnership about?
Romain: The Tara Foundation has wanted to collaborate with China for a long time. When I came to this country with the French President at the beginning of the year, I presented Tara’s proposal: a scientific and educational partnership around the issues of biodiversity and climate. In concrete terms, this would involve an exchange of French and Chinese PhD students and post-doctoral students. For basic research, the details remain to be determined by our research partners, but we will definitely share the protocols already established by the Tara Oceans scientific consortium so they can be implemented at the marine stations of Xiamen University and aboard the research vessel Tan Kah Kee. In China there is already an important microbiobome project to study the world of microbes, especially at sea. Tara could participate in this, and in the longer term, undertake a joint expedition with the Tan Kah Kee. We have many points in common, and points that are complementary. The researchers of Tara Oceans and I are delighted by these perspectives of collaboration which will increase knowledge of the Ocean.
Min Han Dai: Tara is a boat with many interesting and unique aspects — a sailboat conceived to study the oceans, funded by a French fashion house and other private partners. As for the collaboration, I believe we are on the right track. When Tara arrived with Romain and some of the scientists involved with China, we were able to sweep away the shadows looming over our future partnership. We share this common and global vision for the protection of the oceans, and we’re exploring the possibilities for France and China to work together in this direction.
Min Han Dai and Romain Troublé on Tara’s prow © Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation
How can the two boats, Tara and Tan Kah Kee, be complementary?
Romain: The Xiamen laboratories are expert at understanding the bio-geochemistry of the oceans, in the analysis of trace metals in particular, essential elements for the ecosystem. Tara alone is not sufficient and it would be great if other boats adopt the protocols, as our Brazilian partners have done.
Min Hai Dai: In order for our data to be comparable, we need to be using the same protocol. While adopting Tara’s method for microbiome sampling, we can rely upon the Tan Kah Kee for geo-trace metal expertise. The data collected by each boat can then be analyzed together.
Romain, why associate with China?
Without becoming naively optimistic, I think the future of the planet depends on China’s responses to environmental issues. For the Tara Foundation, it’s important to accompany this movement, to support research and education. China now has a leading role, and as in any market, if the leader changes, so does the market. The whole world wants to sell things to China. If China changes in the direction proclaimed everywhere, to become the champion of sustainable development, the world will change for the better!
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