The Tara Oceans expedition (oceans.taraexpeditions.org) just arrived last Saturday in Lorient, France, after sailing across the seas of the planet for more than 2 years, collecting samples of planktonic life and recording physical, geographical and climatic parameters in a systematical manner over a total of 153 stations.
A couple of weeks ago, on March 13, we were fortunate to be able to join Eric Karsenti who had just boarded Tara in the Azores. In this interview (listen) and an accompanying invited Editorial “Towards an Oceans Systems Biology” (Karsenti, 2012), Eric explains how the data collected by the expedition will help “understanding how populations of organisms are structured by their interaction with the environment and how such complex systems have evolved” in the marine ecosystem.
The integration of the collected biological and geochemical data into predictive models will represent a formidable challenge and will necessitate the development of appropriate analyses methods (Raes et al, 2011). But preliminary results already indicate that the data will provide exciting insights into the biodiversity of the marine environment: “it looks like there are many more eukaryotic species than bacteria and 90% of these species are unknown”.
Beyond its scientific outcome, the philosophy of the expedition was also to “promote broader thinking” by revealing the interdependence between marine life and environment and thus reminding us “we all depend on each other on this planet”.
A nice lesson in systems biology!
Karsenti E (2012) Towards an ‘Oceans Systems Biology’. Mol Syst Biol 8:575
Raes J, Letunic I, Yamada T, Jensen LJ & Bork P (2011) Toward molecular trait-based ecology through integration of biogeochemical, geographical and metagenomic data. Mol Syst Biol 7:473