2016 For Excellence in Exploration
For more than 12-years Tara Expeditions, a French, ship-based non-profit marine conservation organization has traveled the world’s seas aboard its namesake, a 36-meter aluminum-hulled research schooner. Tara’s explorations have ranged from Arctic and Antarctic ice to tropical and temperate seas to the Mediterranean and most recently up the Seine for the December 2015 Paris Climate Summit. Along with carrying out educational and art projects for the ocean its scientific researchers have uncovered groundbreaking new information that was published in the prestigious journal Science in 2015 about plankton—organisms that are as important for Earth’s ecosystem as the rainforests in terms of generating oxygen and as the base of marine food webs.
Tara supported a multinational, multidisciplinary team in sampling plankton ecosystems and microscopic DNA from around the world at 210 sites and depths up to 2000 m in all the major oceanic regions during expeditions from 2009 through 2013. Thousands of samples were collected, revealing plankton life and marine viruses far more diverse and abundant than previously suspected and helping scientists learn more about how plankton potentially influences ocean food webs and climate change. Science ran five reports on Tara’s findings (including a cover story) based on the expeditions’ initial results. Tara Expeditions continues its unique mission of combining ocean science, conservation, education, and exploration around the globe.