femmes scientifiques crédit photo © Sébastien Hervé (UBO-IUEM-LEMAR) et Caroline Muller, Université de Toulouse

Interview with two women scientists at the helm of the SWINGS campaign

This article is co-published on Exploreur, the online journal of the Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées Federal University and the CNRS blog, the journal dedicated to the expedition.

Catherine Jeandel, Hélène Planquette, you met at the beginning of January in La Réunion. What was your objective?

Catherine Jeandel: A major objective of Swings is to better understand the so-called oceanic carbon pump: in the natural carbon cycle, marine biology plays a key role by sequestering large quantities of CO2 in the deep ocean waters.

Hélène Planquette: On 13 January, we boarded the Marion Dufresne to lead the Swings (South West Indian Geotraces Section) oceanographic campaign. We are due to disembark on 8 March 2021, after eight weeks at sea in the South West Indian Ocean.

In order to do this, you study the transport of trace elements and isotopes within water bodies ?

C. J.: Absolutely. This mission is part of a very large international project, Geotraces, whose objective is to describe and quantify the sources of chemical elements in the ocean, their transformation in the ocean once they are there, and finally how they are then subtracted from it. To do this, we rely on the ‘talkative’ elements of the periodic table, which serve as tracers… and which are indeed very low in abundance in the ocean.

H. P.: Throughout our mission, we will take samples from the surface to the bottom of the ocean to determine the concentrations of these elements, which are present in very low concentrations. They are called ‘trace elements’, hence the name of this international and collaborative project, which reflects our discipline. Faced with the sheer volume of the oceans, scientists from all over the world have realised that it is essential to join forces.

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