Visit to the Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

From January 15 to 17, 2024, a CNRS delegation traveled to Woods Hole (a coastal village in the eastern U.S. state of Massachusetts) to meet with players in the American marine biology ecosystem.

Woods Hole lies at the convergence of two major biogeographic ecosystems, conducive to the formation of a diversity of marine life. This is where the warm waters of the Gulf Stream meet the cooler waters of Cape Cod Bay, supporting a wide variety of marine organisms. This uniqueness makes Woods Hole one of the most important marine biology research ecosystems in the United States, home to the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL, affiliated with the University of Chicago) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI, member of the International Panel for Ocean Sustainability carried by CNRS).

The CNRS delegation included Alain Schuhl, Deputy CEO for Science, Christelle Roy, Director of the European and International Department, André Le Bivic, Director of CNRS Biology, Patrick Blader, Deputy Scientific Director of CNRS Biology, Joachim Claudet, Ocean Advisor to Alain Schuhl, and Sylvette Tourmente, Director of the CNRS Washington D.C. office. They were joined at the MBL by Kate Moore, Senior Director of Global Initiatives and Strategy for the University of Chicago, and Nipam Patel, Laboratory Director.

January 15 – Visit to the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL)

The delegation attends a presentation of the Marine Biological Laboratory’s activities
© Sylvette Tourmente/CNRS

MBL is one of the oldest and most prominent private non-profit research laboratories in the United States. It is dedicated to exploring fundamental biology, understanding biodiversity and the environment, and informing the human condition through research and education. It is the first private scientific institution in Woods Hole. MBL uses marine and aquatic species to better understand the evolution and development of similar processes in humans. Furthermore, the laboratory’s location offers optimal conditions for studying coastal ecosystems and understanding the impact of the ocean microbiome. MBL and the University of Chicago formed an affiliation in July 2013 that strengthens both institutions’ missions in scientific research innovation and education.

The CNRS delegation’s visit to MBL is the third bilateral meeting between UChicago and CNRS within the framework of the Joint International Research Center Discovery (CNRS-UChicago International Research Center Discovery – IRC), one year after the signing of this major partnership in Washington D.C. and 7 months after the workshop to define its research priorities (in human and social sciences, biology and quantum sciences) in Chicago. During the workshop, the biology working group stressed the importance of capitalizing on the existence of strong marine biology communities, both at CNRS and at the University of Chicago.

Automatic racks for cultivating marine organisms, Marine Biological Laboratory
© Sylvette Tourmente/CNRS

The aim of the visit to MBL was to strengthen the biological component of the IRC, further exploring the U.S. marine biology ecosystem and taking advantage of the University of Chicago’s infrastructure in the field. To this end, the members of the delegation had the opportunity to visit various MBL laboratories and meet the research teams on site. Discussions with Nipam Patel (Director of the MBL), CNRS management and CNRS Biology focused on how the IRC could benefit from this marine biology infrastructure, which is essential for advancing collaboration in biology between the two institutions.

January 16 – Visit to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)

Founded in 1930, WHOI is recognized as the United States’ leading private institution for oceanographic research. It has made a significant contribution to the exploration and discovery of the oceans, and plays a key role in climate change research through studies of sea-level rise, ocean acidification and extreme weather events. WHOI collaborates with international organizations and institutions, as well as government agencies such as NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and NASA, contributing to scientific missions and data collection on a global scale. Finally, WHOI was one of the first signatories of the International Panel for Ocean Sustainability (IPOS), a transdisciplinary platform supported by CNRS, bringing together experts, scientists, members of civil society and other stakeholders. The aim of this panel is to encourage the exchange of knowledge between these players, each with their own diverse and complementary visions. The aim is to instigate lasting and significant change in global ocean governance, while enriching the perspectives of policy-makers.

On Tuesday January 16, the CNRS delegation visited WHOI to discuss possible future collaborations between French and American research teams. Discussions with Peter de Menocal, President and Director of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and his teams addressed a number of strategic issues for both institutions: the United Nations Conference on the Oceans to be held in Nice in 2025, organized by France and Costa Rica, possible new collaborations between CNRS and WHOI (in particular with the Marine Policy Center), the North Atlantic and polar research, and Ocean Exploration. During the visit, the CNRS was able to appreciate the Institute’s impressive array of scientific equipment (buoys, torpedoes, autonomous vehicles for observation, measurements and sample collection).

CNRS is keen to pursue discussions with WHOI, an important partner in oceanographic research, and a strategic partner in the context of the upcoming United Nations Conference on the Oceans.

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