Mission Microbiomes or the discovery of the invisible peoples of the oceans: marine microorganisms

Engaged in a new two-year expedition, the schooner Tara will study the microbiome and continue its work to raise awareness among the general public and schoolchildren in particular.
Tara Mission Microbiome © Marin Le Roux/polaRYSE/Fondation Tara Océan

Environment and biodiversity


Célia Devinoy
Mathilde Nithart

€150,000 granted by the 14/09/2020 Board Committee

Project owner

Tara Ocean Foundation

As an ever-present witness to the state of our seas and oceans, the Tara Foundation is now a key player in the science and in raising awareness of ocean issues. After a dozen expeditions, four of which were supported by the Veolia Foundation, it is now embarking on a new project: to gain a better understanding of the functioning of the microbiome and study its vulnerability to climate change.

© Christian and Noé Sardet / Plankton Chronicles / Tara Ocean Foundation
© Christian and Noé Sardet / Plankton Chronicles / Tara Ocean Foundation

What is the microbiome? All the marine micro-organisms (viruses, bacteria, microalgae, protists etc.) and their interactions with their environment. The researchers on board the Tara laboratory ship, under the leadership of Chris Bowler, director of research at the CNR, Daniele Ludicone, researcher at the Anton Dohrn Zoological Station (Naples, Italy), and Colomban de Vargas, director of research at the CNRS, will not only collect evidence from the microbiome but also organize extensive DNA sequencing and imaging work. The aim is to include a large number of environmental parameters -  for example, temperature, oxygen levels, presence of nutrients, and plastic pollution.

The schooner will travel 70,000 kilometres over a period of two years. As the crew does on each expedition around twenty stopovers are planned to reach out to the general public and to younger people in particular in order to raise awareness of the importance of the oceans. Because a better understanding of the major mechanisms that link microbiome and climate means a better understanding of the ocean, which is the source of 50% of the oxygen on Earth.