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Science 15 February 2019

End of the scientific mission.

Having set sail from Nouméa on Wednesday 6 February, bound for Prony Bay, Race for Water made it back to the capital of New Caledonia and Port Moselle on Friday, thus rounding off the AMICi mission on microplastics and the impact of plastic pollution on corals.

Some of the work sequences carried out by the 4 scientists aboard the boat over the past 10 days: 
– Dr Ricardo RODOLFO METALPA, 
– Dr Leila MEISTERTZHEIM (President of Plastic@Sea), 
– Dr Fanny HOULBREQUE
– Valentine MEUNIER  

Installation of benthic chambers.
Eight days of diving experiments with in situ incubation of 4 benthic chambers on each of the two sites selected (Prony Bay and Bonne Anse). Three benthic chambers were set up and two different species of corals were incubated in these chambers, into which microplastics in suspension were injected. These three chambers were compared to a control chamber not containing a coral colony.

After exposure to microplastics for several hours, the corals were taken out of the benthic chambers to be analysed, the whole thing in a cloud of jellyfish…

Over recent days, Race for Water and her crew have been based not far from the inflow of a river, which comes down off the mountain and on which a nickel extraction factory is located. This is why the site was chosen for the second study, which focuses on the impact of the metal-enriched environment on the corals.

Photos captioned by our photographer Peter Charaf:

A large quantity of the sediment is present and, with the slightest movement, the area of research is obscured. It’s a real underwater sandstorm, which sometimes forces our scientists to wait until it passes by!

The large syringes held by Fanny and Ricardo are used to take water samples in the chamber after the period of incubation of the corals. The content of the syringes is then analysed (measurement of calcification).

The photos in the marina show Fanny Houlbreque about to work on the filtration of the plankton retained in the small filters prior to being analysed.

First impressions and testimonials from our 4 on-board scientists:

Dr Fanny Houlbreque: “Performing experiments on a such a unique boat, in such a beautiful setting and in such a pleasant atmosphere is a dream come true for me!! For the first time, we’re here studying the influence of microplastics on the corals of New Caledonia and I’m really keen to discover the initial results!”

Dr Ricardo Rodolfo Metalpa: “Plastic pollution, combined with other anthropic pollution, is threatening the survival of coral reefs. Thank you to Race for Water for its commitment to this fight!”

Dr Leila Meistertzheim (President of Plastic@Sea): “I’m delighted because, in the first few days, we’d already taken samples of the microplastics present at the water surface, as well as the corals, in order to estimate the quantity of microplastics in their tissue. These are the two points the company Plastic@Sea is targeting: an improved inventory and an idea about the transfer to organisms.”

Valentine Meunier: “I realise just how lucky I am to do part of my PhD on this incredible boat, at just 26 years of age. Race for Water’s passage here is a fine way to continue studying the reefs of New Caledonia and make us all the keener and ambitious to do our job.”

Another article to understand all about the AMICi mission

10 days of mission in 6 minutes …. Good viewing!

 


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