The Roscoff Biological Station in France’s Finistère region has developed a kit to help people understand the consequences of ocean acidification on marine symbioses such as coral. Another good way of conveying the issues of COP21.
Roscoff, special report
The consequences of global warming on the oceans are one of the issues of COP21, the world conference on climate change that will be held in December. The situation is alarming. Just last week, a study by the University of Adelaide sounded the alarm for the threatened “collapse” of marine species due to increased greenhouse gas emissions. The combination of acidification and global warming has the consequence of dramatically reducing diversity, already widely apparent on coral reefs. It also threatens kelp forests (brown algae) and more generally, arctic and tropical waters. An article published in June in Nature also noted that if COP21 participants fail to limit the rise in temperature by 2°C, oceans could lose between 10% and 12% of marine species.
From research lab to SVT class: an educational kit
In Roscoff, France, Xavier Bailly, engineer and co-manager of the Roscoff Biological Station‘s Center for Marine Biological Resources, designed an educational kit to help people understand animal-algae symbiosis, diversification of life without modifying the genome, ocean acidification and its consequences, phototropism and the key phases of embryogenesis. The kit has the advantage of tackling complex and interconnected biological phenomena by illustrating animal photosymbioses, of which the most emblematic is that of coral:
“Coral expulses its algae partner and whitens from the stress caused by changes in temperature and acidity of the water. This hands-on approach helps people understand the impact of ocean acidification—acidification that is essentially due to the excess of CO2 in the atmosphere, produced by human activities.”
Xavier Bailly, chercheur au CNRS
Beta-tested over two years by pilot classes, this kit is distributed by Jeulin since the start of the school year, publisher and provider of educational materials for middle and high schools.
This practical kit allows you to observe and study photosynthesis, as well as experimentally follow the implementation of a photosymbiosis by confronting a “juvenile” sea worm with a microalgae. Several algae are provided to prove the specificity of the symbiotic relation and the diversity of microalgae in the ocean.
Biology and marine ecology at the Roscoff Biological Station
The Roscoff Biological Station was founded in 1871 by the famous biologist and zoologist Henri de Lacaze-Duthiers. This advanced post played a major role in the emergence of marine biology and oceanography in Europe. The port city has a wide diversity of animals and algae, with tides that stretch almost one kilometer long, due to its proximity to Batz Island, giving biologists time to study.
At the turn of the 20th century, the observatory extended the workspace of the laboratories with its research aquarium. Currently jointly run by the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Pierre and Marie Curie University, the Roscoff Biological Station has become one of the world’s leading institutions for biology and marine ecology, hosting researchers, students, training programs and international symposia.
Discovered in eponymous Roscoff, the flat sea worm Symsagittifera roscoffensis, once fully grown, measures 4 to 5 mm. Bottle-green in color, it can be found at low tide on the sandy shores of Brittany, the Channel Islands and the Atlantic Coast. Roscoffensis has become a laboratory model, presented last year in the journal Frontiers of Microbiology.
The metazoan forms a necessary symbiotic relationship with a microalgae, without which it dies. The juvenile worm must find an algae partner to establish the symbiosis. Once ingested, the algae divide and photosynthesize inside the animal’s tissues, feeding it with part of the organic molecules resulting from the photosynthesis. This photosymbiosis, which intimately associates an animal and microalgae, mimics the relationship between coral and numerous other “animalgae” in the coral reefs and, on a larger scale, the oceans.
Xavier Bailly will participate in “Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge No. 18: On becoming earthlings” at Le Musée de l’Homme on November 21