“Tara Oceans: Eco-Systems Biology at Planetary Scale”
by Chris Bowler and the Tara Oceans Consortium
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Section, Institut de Biologie de l’Ecole Normale Superieure (IBENS), Paris, France
The ocean is the largest ecosystem on Earth and yet we know very little about it. This is particularly true for the plankton that drift within. Although these organisms are at least as important for the Earth system as the forests on land, most of them are invisible to the naked eye and thus are largely uncharacterized, even though they form the base of marine food webs and are key players in Earth’s biogeochemical cycles. To increase our understanding of this underexplored world, a multidisciplinary consortium, Tara Oceans, was formed around the 110-ft research schooner Tara, which sampled plankton at more than 210 sites and multiple depth layers in all the major oceanic regions during expeditions from 2009-2013 (Karsenti et al. Plos Biol., 2011). The seminar will summarize the first foundational resources from the project (see Science special issue May 22, 2015 and Nature 28 April, 2016) and their initial analyses, illustrating several aspects of the Tara Oceans’ eco-systems biology approach to address microbial contributions to macro-ecological processes. The project provides unique resources for several scientific disciplines, capturing biodiversity of a wide range of organisms that are rarely studied together, exploring interactions between them and integrating them with environmental conditions to further our understanding of life in the ocean and beyond in the context of evolution, adaptation and ongoing climate changes.