Tara Oceans schooner – image credit: F.Latreille, Tara Expéditions

In the coming years, the consortium will:

  1. organise information on these raw Tara Oceans samples into a data repository designed also to host the results of primary and secondary analyses
  2. use original very-high throughput sequencing and imaging protocols to generate high-quality morphogenetic data at several systemic levels (genomes, genes, organisms, ecosystem)
  3. acquire ecosystemic knowledge from this massive set of novel information using bioinformatics and modeling.

Comparisons, principles and predictions

Preliminary analyses show that the complexity and novelty hidden in these data is very high, increasing in the larger size-fractions. Thus, comparisons to known references are critical for optimised interpretation/exploitation, and a significant effort will be focused on generating reference data (genomes, transcriptomes, barcodes, images) from prokaryotic and eukaryotic culture strains and, for organisms not presently in culture, by combined genetic/morphological characterisation of taxonomically identified organisms isolated directly from the plankton. This principle is exemplified by work led by the EMBL (Sunagawa et al. 2015) resulting in the establishment of a catalogue of 40 million microbial genes, which are made publicly available on ocean-microbiome.embl.de.

However, this approach will not only allow the discovery of a dramatic number of novel genes, morphologies, and taxa from global plankton, but will also unveil the metabolomes, organism interaction networks, and phenotypic features linked to environmental conditions and ecosystem outputs, leading to the discovery of emergent ecological principles.

We aim to investigate the rules governing the self-organisation of organism networks and to develop predictions about how these rules (and therefore communities and their biogeochemical feedbacks) will be affected by a changing environment.