Minister Couve visits the research schooner Tara during its final stop in Chile
The Science Minister highlighted the value of this international partnership for understanding the impact of climate change and providing evidence for decision-making. Following stops in Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt, Talcahuano and Valparaíso, the schooner is currently in the Port of Iquique, where it will continue its marine microbiome research as it moves towards the Panama Canal.
After nearly three months of travel through Chilean seas, the Tara scientific expedition is currently in the Port of Iquique, its final stop on the Chilean coast. Science Minister Andrés Couve visited the ship’s crew and science officials who collaborated on the mission so that they could share information about the initiative, which brings together an interdisciplinary team of researchers.
The mission -a collaboration between the Tara Ocean Foundation and CEODOS Chile- has toured our coast, analyzing the marine microbiome in order to contribute to the understanding of the impact of climate change on oceans and to the development of capacities for adapting to and mitigating its effects.
“We are aboard the Tara, a scientific vessel that combines cutting-edge oceanographic exploration with the use of data about the ocean to understand several phenomena including climate change, variations in physiochemical parameters and oceans’ biological diversity. The expedition is in Iquique today and is carrying a Chilean experiment in which various Chilean researchers have come together to measure CO2 in our coastal waters,” explained Minister Couve, who met with the crew along with Science Seremi for the Northern Macrozone Daniela Barría and the ministry’s Science and Society Division Chief, Rodrigo Tapia.
For the expedition, which began on February 13 in Punta Arenas and has included stops in Puerto Montt, Talcahuano, Valparaíso and finally Iquique, COEDOS received support from the Science Ministry to structure a partnership between research centers of excellence in Chile and the institutes and laboratories of the innovative program, which already has 15 years of results from nearly 200 scientists from member countries including France, Spain, Italy, the United States, Belgium, Japan and Canada.
Camila Fernández, co-coordinator of the mission and researcher with the Incar, IDEAL and Copas Sur Austral Centers, noted that “the support of the Science Ministry has been fundamental for the Tara Foundation. Minister Couve has trusted in this national initiative from the outset, allowing it to tour the entire Chilean coastal ocean. The scientific community came together through the ministry to travel Chile from south to north with the ship and its excellent crew, and the Seremis have participated in the logistics involved with carrying out this sort of expedition during a pandemic and have provided vital and enthusiastic support.
The mission has focused on studying oceanic microorganisms like bacteria, fungi and viruses as well as crustaceans, emerging contaminants like micro plastics, pathogen agents, trace metals in the ocean and the behavior of greenhouse gases, among many other things. The scientific team has begun to analyze the samples collected, and they will soon begin their genomic sequencing with the help of big data, analysis with mathematical models and artificial intelligence. The results could give us new clues to understanding the impact of climate change on oceans.
“We are finishing a three-month expedition in Chile that has not been simple. It involved delicate coordination among groups and objectives, navigating a complex ocean that is full of surprises and forces us to always think ahead. We had to integrate the data obtained in the most virtuous way possible to contribute to our understanding of the relationship between the ocean microbiome and the conditions where it lives,” noted Alejandro Maass, Director of the Universidad de Chile’s Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM) and co-coordinator of the CEODOS Chile mission.
After its final stop in Chile, the ship will continue on to the Panama Canal. Over the course of the next two years, the Tara will tour the coasts of the South Atlantic, Antarctica and a large part of the west coast of Africa before finally returning to France, its starting point. This long-term initiative is meant to monitor the Chilean ocean every five years. “This is the start of a transdisciplinary process in which there are no disciplinary hierarchies. What matters here are ideas and cooperation so that we can obtain important data for scientific understanding and for supporting public policies based on increasingly solid and quantitative foundations. We are experiencing a 21st century expedition that has not ended. This is just the beginning,” Maass added.
Community engagement: Over 3,000 people have interacted with the crew
During its travels through Chile, the crew and scientific team of the Tara conducted various community engagement activities through virtual visits to the schooner and remote conversations with researchers from the nine participating Chilean centers.
“During the expedition, the team on board has held webinars and conversations that have reached nearly three thousand people, including over 1,700 elementary and high school students thanks to the co-coordination of the Explora program through its regional associative projects and the support of the Science Ministry’s Seremis. Students have asked questions ranging from how the pandemic has impacted life aboard the ship to how the data gathered by the Tara can be used for academic research. They also learned more about the marine animals that the crew has seen during their journey, the most dangerous places on their itinerary and how to join the Tara for future expeditions,” Rodrigo Tapia explained.