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Franco-Chilean collaboration seeks to monitor exotic species on Antarctic and sub-Antarctic coasts

The project led by the BASE Millennium Institute of Chile and the University of Burgundy of Dijon, France, seeks to establish a coastal observation network to identify exotic species present in marine ecosystems and promote international collaboration and knowledge exchange.

Patagonia, Kerguelen islands and the Antarctic peninsula are the regions whose coasts will be monitored by the project led by PhD. Elie Poulin, from the BASE Millennium Institute, and PhD. Thomas Saucède from the University of Burgundy. An initiative financed by the National Research and Development Agency (ANID) and the Evaluation and Guidance Committee of Scientific Cooperation with Chile of the Government of France (ECOS).

The project, which lasts three years (2023-2025), aims to establish an observing network for detection of exotic subantarctic and Antarctic species and monitor marine biodiversity using Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS), through the metabarcoding technique. This molecular technique allows the identification and quantification of species in water and sediment samples based on the DNA present in them.

The director of the BASE Millennium Institute and academic at the University of Chile (UCh), PhD. Elie Poulin, points out that “these species, introduced by human activities in non-native ecosystems, can have negative consequences on biodiversity and pristine ecosystems. The initiative seeks to improve understanding of the presence and potential impacts of these species through extensive monitoring in key areas. The project hypothesis states that many of these exotic species do not survive underwater winter temperatures, which keeps them unknown in conventional biodiversity records”.

The ECOS-ANID project “Monitoring of subantarctic alien species in Antarctic Peninsula: setting-up a network of nearshore observing systems in Patagonia, Kerguelen and Antarctica”, has a team of professionals from different regions of Chile and France. From the BASE Millennium Institute: PhD. Karin Gerard (University of Magallanes CIGA UMAG, CHIC, LEMAS), PhD. Angie Díaz Lorca (University of Concepción), Carolina Pérez Troncoso (master’s student at the University of Magallanes), Sebastián Rosenfeld (doctoral student at the University of Chile, CHIC, Apecs Chile) and Erwan Courville (University of Burgundy), From the Sorbonne University, with PhD. Cyrill Gallut.

International collaboration and knowledge exchange

PhD. Thomas Saucède has been collaborating for more than ten years with researchers from the BASE Millennium Institute, in biogeography and phylogeography of marine invertebrates (mollusks, echinoids and fish). Regarding the current project, he points out that “it is a good opportunity to continue collaborating based on our good complementarity in terms of access to the field and to samples throughout the Southern Ocean”.

“It allows us to unite and collaborate in areas such as Patagonia and Antarctica, on the part of the Millennium BASE Institute, and in the subantarctic archipelagos of Crozet and Kerguelen, on my part. “We also complement each other in terms of methodology (genetics, genomics, morphology, taxonomy, biogeography, paleontology) to address important questions related to the origin, evolution and sensitivity of marine species to climate changes at the scale of the Southern Ocean in a comprehensive manner”, he adds.

From left to right: Ewan Courville, PhD. Thomas Saucède and PhD. Elie Poulin. Photo: BASE Millennium Institute / Carolina Gajardo

During March 2024, PhD. Thomas Saucède spent two weeks in PhD. Elie Poulin’s laboratory at the UCh, working alongside the doctoral student, Erwan Courville, who develops his thesis under co-tutorship with both researchers. Erwan is doing a phylogenetic and biogeographic study of the sea urchin genus Arbacia.

“This mobility program gives us the opportunity to co-tutor and train master’s and doctoral students between Chile and France in molecular ecology. Erwan Courville is currently completing a comprehensive phylogenetic and biogeographic study of the echinoid genus Arbacia, including the southern species. “We are working on publishing his results and completing his doctoral thesis”, says the Burgundy University academic.


By: Carolina Gajardo y Constanza Barrientos

Main image: Karin Gerard


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