University of Delaware
Ocean scientists from UD traveled to southern France last month to meet counterparts at Pierre and Marie Curie University's Banyuls-Sur-Mer Oceanological Observatory.

Good rapport

UD marine scientists collaborate with colleagues in France


8:18 a.m., June 25, 2012--When marine microbiologist David Kirchman met a French colleague who was on sabbatical at the University of Delaware, their conversations led to nearly a decade of collaborative research. Now the two are fostering similar partnerships among others through an ongoing exchange between their respective institutions. 

Ocean scientists from UD traveled to southern France last month to meet counterparts at Pierre and Marie Curie University’s Banyuls-Sur-Mer Oceanological Observatory, of which Kirchman’s collaborator, Philippe Lebaron, is the director. 

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The three-day meeting titled “Biodiversity and Functioning of Marine Ecosystems” was supported by a French Embassy Partner University Fund (PUF) award, which furthers research and graduate education partnerships between French and American universities.

“What’s most important is talking, getting to know each other and exchanging ideas,” said Kirchman, Maxwell P. and Mildred H. Harrington Professor of Marine Studies. “I think that’s the most important thing that happened in this exchange.” 

Seven faculty members and three graduate students from UD joined about 40 French scientists for a series of presentations. Topics of the talks ranged from deep-ocean microbes to marine sponges to satellite data about sea ice, exposing researchers to topics outside of theirs areas of expertise. 

Information new to Kirchman, for example, were details about coastal locations that French scientists have been monitoring for a long time for metrics like temperature, salinity and chlorophyll levels. 

“There’s this network of sites not only in France, but along the whole Mediterranean coast,” he said.

The Mediterranean Sea differs from the waters off Delaware’s coast, he explained, in that the ocean there deepens relatively quickly and lacks large amounts of nutrients and river inputs. Yet similarities between the French and American study locales have also sparked discussion. 

“There is an interest in looking at these coastal systems over time as they both are affected by coastal development and climate change,” he said.

Several researchers have already started working together on various intercontinental projects, and Kirchman hopes there will be more face-to-face time generated with future grants. 

“We’ll have to wait and see what happens,” he said. 

Article by Teresa Messmore

Photo by Sophie Sanchez, Banyuls-Sur-Mer Oceanological Observatory

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