Selecting Biodiversity Officers

interview with the president of the jury, Gilles Mirambeau,

lecturer at Sorbonne University

microbiologist at the Oceanological Observatory of Banyuls,

management team member of the association Seatizens of Plankton Planet

The first four Biodiversity Officers were selected. Were there many candidates?

 Gilles Mirambeau: Yes, nearly 50 applications, including a dozen students who are not studying at Sorbonne University and were therefore not eligible. This underlines the very strong attractiveness of the Bougainville mission, which goes beyond the limits of the campus.  More girls than boys, a majority of students in their second year of a master's degree. Students in marine sciences, biology and ecology, but also in mathematics, physics and computer science.

We were struck by the very high quality of the candidates, their thirst for concrete action within the framework of a scientific expedition with an environmental and participative vocation.


How did you choose the four winners?

G.M. :  We assembled a jury of twelve people including men and women, teachers and researchers from the three marine stations of Sorbonne University and Plankton Planet associations; we even sought out the sharp eye of a teacher from CELSA to assess the mediation qualities.

Since January 30th and the closing of the registration, we have been going through the candidates' files, organizing in February a 30 minutes oral interview for the 14 eligible candidates. These interviews gave us 4 winners with remarkable backgrounds and potential, two women and two men.

The additional examinations carried out by the French Navy, in particular for medical aptitude, confirmed this list of successful candidates. They will therefore be able to join the Navy's crews to embark on their ships as Biodiversity Officers.


Most of the successful candidates have a background in marine science; is this a prerequisite for Bougainville?

 G.M.: Three of the four laureates are in a Master's degree in Marine Sciences, and the fourth is in a Master's degree in Biology, Environment and Evolution, with a focus on marine biology.

To clarify this choice, which is perfectly justified by the qualities of the people involved, we should also remember that we have just launched the Bougainville mission. We imagined how things would go, but they will surely not go according to our plans. Biodiversity Officers in the middle of the Pacific or the Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometers away from the laboratories in Roscoff, Villefranche-sur-Mer or Banyuls-sur-Mer, will have to detect inconsistencies, work around them, adapt protocols, repair sensors. So in this inaugural year, we have sought experience and scientific competence.

But as soon as the tools, protocols, data flows, and exchanges have been made reliable, we will need to vary the profiles of the Biodiversity Officers, both in the first and second year of the Master's program, and to attract students in physical oceanography, AI, data, or electronics to our project.


Will you continue the Bougainville mission in 2024?

G.M.: Yes, the second mission, which will straddle 2024 and 2025, should involve 6 VOAs, 2 in Reunion, 2 in New Caledonia and 2 in French Polynesia, a new destination.

Similar to what we did for the year 2022-2023, applications will be collected between the fall of this year and January 2024.

Thanks to the achievements of the first year, our methodology will have taken a leap forward, but there will certainly still be work to do to make our tools more robust, more convenient, and more capable of providing standardized data, especially in terms of sampling. A major component of the Bougainville 2024 vintage will most likely concern the optimization of data management between sea and land, the role of local support sites and Plankton Planet partner teams. 

So, let's project ourselves to the beginning of the year 2025: a dynamic will have been launched, formative, innovative, participative, reliable, robust, perennial. Unprecedented scientific results will have been produced. We will then need to extend and amplify the Bougainville mission to other ships, other regions, on rivers, in ports, with a larger number of students.

I have no doubt that we are at the very beginning of an exceptional adventure.