Tara: transforming the way of studying the oceans


The first results of the “Tara Oceans” expedition (2009-2013) were the subject of a special issue of the periodical Science.

In order to study and understand the impact of climate change and the ecological crisis on our oceans, the schooner has been sailing the seas since 2003, taking measurements in situ and collecting samples.

The French National Research Agency funded several projects linked to this expediition in order to collect data and study the impact of climate change on the oceans.

  • Genome analysis for a better understanding of the plankton system: the Prometheus Project aimed to explore the genomes of all of the organisms present in the plankton samples collected, from the smallest (viruses) to the “largest” (organisms made up of several cells).
  • Study of giant viruses that infect various marine microorganisms: the Tara-Girus Project aimed to provide a better characterisation of the genetic diversity of these marine pathogens and a better understanding of their ecological roles in plankton communities.
  • Getting around the limits of today’s information technology tools: the Mappi Project developed new algorithms and software capable of handling huge quantities of data. These tools, produced through the efforts of information technology research groups, were applied to data in the fields of metagenomics (DNA of the cells of a complete sample) and metatranscriptomics (RNA) originating in Tara Oceans – a total of more than 100 TB of data.

Similarly, the Hydrogen Project aims to develop algorithmic and statistical tools that will enable the measurement and analysis of biodiversity by means of comparative metagenomics.

  • Oceanomics: exploiting the immense mass of data collected: As an extension of the Tara explorations and the Tara-Girus Project, the Oceanomics Project is based on the thousands of samples and data collected during the Tara Oceans expedition. It will first explore this unique collection through the use of DNA sequencing and very high throughput imaging methods, in order to understand the nature of the plankton organisms, their genes and their genome, and how they organise themselves according to environmental parameters.

To get further information, please visit the ANR website.

Published on 27/05/2015

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