Media Advisory

Research Schooner Tara in San Diego Calls for Innovative Citizen Science and Oceanography 2.0

For in-depth evaluation of ocean health, biodiversity, and evolution

Sampling of ocean life is hindered by the extreme cost, limited logistical flexibility, and high carbon footprint of classical oceanographic research vessels. The Global Ocean Sampling (GOS) expedition aboard the Sorcerer II yacht (2004-2010) paved the way for a new brand of oceanography based on the use of sailing boats to obtain samples suitable for DNA sequencing analyses of plankton. The Tara Oceans Expedition (2009-2013) extended this concept and sampled eco-morpho-genetic data from total plankton communities (from viruses to animals) across the worlds ocean on-board the schooner Tara. Both programs resulted in a sea change in our vision of the extraordinary biodiversity of the world plankton ecosystem.

However, developing a working understanding of the dynamics and evolution of global plankton will require a far greater sampling effort, increasing coverage across both space and time in the rapidly changing ocean. The new Plankton Planet (P2) program represents a revolutionary low-cost, eco-friendly, and society engaging Oceanography 2.0, through providing the tools to connect oceanographers to the thousands of “blue citizens” (seatizens!) who sail across the oceans at any given time. The aim is to undertake a holistic worldwide sampling of plankton life at an unprecedented level of sensitivity, ultimately allowing robust mathematical modeling toward a predictable ocean.

The Plankton Planet team includes researchers, engineers, and sailors from France (CNRS and Sorbonne University), the US (the University of Maine, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, and the J. Craig Venter Institute -JCVI), and New Zealand (Cawthron Institute and University of Auckland). The overall program is managed by the Tara Foundation (France, USA, Japan).

In the immediate future (2018-19) the team plans to finalize optimization and development of simple sampling gear and methodology and thus prepare for implementation of the full program on key navigation loops in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Polar Oceans from 2020 to 2025. Professor Andrew E. Allen from JCVI and Scripps Oceanography, who will help implementing a P2 Pacific Loop, remarked, “While we have developed laboratory capacity for ultra-high throughput DNA sequencing analyses of plankton samples we have not been able to scale up ocean sampling efforts. The concept behind Plankton Planet, to collaborate with the recreation sailing community to massively increase ocean sampling, is exciting”. Dr. Colomban de Vargas (CNRS, France), founder of the program, indicated that data obtained from the project will be useful for ocean forecasting, “The initial plan is designed to address topical questions in ocean ecology and to test current models and theories that predict patterns of ocean biodiversity and functionality”.


The Tara Foundation and the Plankton Planet Team will present, aboard Tara, their innovative plankton sampling kit. This program is dedicated to citizen sailors who want to discover ocean life while collecting and sharing critical ocean data for fundamental and applied science, policy-makers, and education.

Visit of the schooner with scientists and crew on Friday, July 20, 8:30am

RSVP: elodie@taraexpeditions.org


San Diego Maritime Museum
1492 North Harbor Drive
San Diego, Calif. 92101-3309