ORIGINAL RESEARCH article

Front. Mar. Sci.
Sec. Marine Ecosystem Ecology
doi: 10.3389/fmars.2022.936972

Plankton Planet: a frugal, cooperative measure of aquatic life at the planetary scale

 Colomban de Vargas1, 2, 3*, Noan Le Bescot1, 2,  Thibaut Pollina2, 4,  Nicolas Henry1, 2, 3,  Sarah Romac1,  Sébastien Colin2, 5,  Nils Haëntjens2, 6, Margaux Carmichael2, Calixte Berger2, David Le Guen2,  Johan Decelle7,  Frédéric Mahé8,  Julie Poulain9, Emmanuel Malpot10,  Carole Beaumont11, Michel Hardy12, Damien Guiffant2,  Ian Probert1,  David F. Gruber13,  Andrew Allen14,  Gabriel Gorsky2, 15, Mick Follows16,  Xavier Pochon17, 18, Romain Troublé19,  B. B. Cael20,  Fabien Lombard2, 15, 21,  Emmanuel Boss2, 6* and  Manu Prakash2, 4*
  • 1Sorbonne Université, CNRS, Station Biologique de Roscoff, UMR7144, ECOMAP, 29680, France
  • 2Plankton Planet NGO, Station Biologique de Roscoff, 29680, France
  • 3Research Federation for the study of Global Ocean Systems Ecology and Evolution, FR2022/Tara GOSEE, France
  • 4Stanford University, Department of Bioengineering,, United States
  • 5Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen, BioOptics Facility, Max-Planck-Ring 5, 72067, Germany
  • 6University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences, 5706 Aubert Hall,, United States
  • 7Laboratoire de Physiologie Cellulaire et Végétale, Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, CEA, INRA; 38054, France
  • 8CIRAD, UMR GBPI, 34398, France
  • 9Génomique Métabolique, Genoscope, Institut Francois-Jacob, CEA, CNRS, Université d’Evry, Université Paris-Saclay, 91057, France
  • 10Moana New Zealand, Cawthron Aquaculture Park, New Zealand
  • 11On board ‘Folligou’, France
  • 12On board ‘Taravana’, France
  • 13Baruch College and the Graduate Center, Department of Natural Sciences, City University of New York, United States
  • 14J.Craig Venter Institute, Microbial and Environmental Genomics Group, La Jolla, CA, USA & Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, United States
  • 15Sorbonne Université, CNRS, Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche, 06230, France
  • 16Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Planetary Sciences, MIT, United States
  • 17Coastal and Freshwater Group, Cawthron Institute, New Zealand
  • 18Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • 19Tara Ocean Foundation, 75004, France
  • 20Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems, National Oceanography Centre, United Kingdom
  • 21Institut Universitaire de France (IUF), France
Provisionally accepted:
The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon.

In every liter of seawater there are between 10 and 100 billion life forms, mostly invisible, called marine plankton or microbiome, which form the largest and most dynamic ecosystem on our planet, at the heart of global ecological and economic processes. While physical and chemical parameters of planktonic ecosystems are fairly well measured and modelled at the planetary scale, biological data are still scarce due to the extreme cost and relative inflexibility of the classical vessels and instruments used to explore marine biodiversity. Here we introduce ‘Plankton Planet’, an initiative whose goal is to engage the curiosity and creativity of researchers, makers, and mariners to (i) co-develop a new generation of cost-effective (frugal) universal scientific instrumentation to measure the genetic and morphological diversity of marine microbiomes in context, (ii) organize their systematic deployment through coastal or open ocean communities of sea-users/farers, to generate uniform plankton data across global and long-term spatio-temporal scales, and (iii) setup tools to flow the data without embargo into public and explorable databases. As proof-of-concept, we show how 20 crews of sailors were able to sample plankton biomass from the world surface ocean in a single year, generating the first seatizen-based, planetary dataset of marine plankton biodiversity based on DNA barcodes. The quality of this dataset is comparable to that generated by Tara Oceans and is not biased by the multiplication of samplers. The data unveil significant genetic novelty and can be used to explore the taxonomic and ecological diversity of plankton at both regional and global scales. This pilot project paves the way for construction of a miniaturized, modular, evolvable, affordable and open-source citizen field-platform that will allow systematic assessment of the eco/morpho/genetic variation of aquatic ecosystems across the dimensions of the Earth system.

Keywords: Planetary biology, citizen oceanography, DNA metabarcoding, Plankton, seatizens, Sailors, Frugal science

Received: 05 May 2022; Accepted: 11 Jul 2022.

Copyright: © 2022 de Vargas, Le Bescot, Pollina, Henry, Romac, Colin, Haëntjens, Carmichael, Berger, Le Guen, Decelle, Mahé, Poulain, Malpot, Beaumont, Hardy, Guiffant, Probert, Gruber, Allen, Gorsky, Follows, Pochon, Troublé, Cael, Lombard, Boss and Prakash. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence:
Dr. Colomban de Vargas, Sorbonne Université, CNRS, Station Biologique de Roscoff, UMR7144, ECOMAP, 29680, Roscoff, France
Dr. Emmanuel Boss, University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences, 5706 Aubert Hall,, Orono, ME 04473,, United States
Dr. Manu Prakash, Stanford University, Department of Bioengineering,, Stanford, CA 94305,, United States