Projects of Scientific Excellence at Ifremer

STUOD: The Ocean as a mathematical object

Ifremer, INRIA and the Imperial College of London have been awarded an ERC Synergy Grant project, STUOD.

The STUOD project proposes to develop a new mathematical framework, informed by very high-resolution measurements, from satellite and in situ observations, to better understand the rapid variations in ocean dynamics in its short and long term evolution.

"A cyclone, for example, does not only have a local and ephemeral impact," explains Bertrand Chapron, one of the Principal Investigators. "It has fine and sometimes significant consequences in the very long term. This is also the case for microalgae blooms or biogeochemical disturbances of surface waters. The question is to approach their true influence on trends in the ocean-atmosphere system. »

This rigorous mathematical framework will make it possible to analyze the evolution of the upper layers of the ocean and, ultimately, to better predict them through appropriate observations and numerical simulations.

WAAXT: What is the effect of waves on the melting of the ice pack?

Peter Sutherland (LOPS, Ifremer) has been awarded a €2 million ERC Starting Grant.

As the ice pack melts, it gives way to the open sea and therefore to an ever-increasing field of waves. The presence of waves in new areas of the Arctic Ocean affects the processes of sea ice creation and fragmentation, near-surface turbulence and flows between the atmosphere and the ocean. This leads to uncertainties in understanding the dynamics of the Arctic Ocean.

WAAXT aims to study the interactions between ocean boundary layer turbulence and surface waves in the presence of sea ice using field measurements, modelling and theory to better understand the evolution of the Arctic Ocean.

DEEPADAPT : the molecular drivers of deep-sea adaptation in brittle stars

The abyss is often referred to as a biodiversity desert due to its harsh environmental conditions, such as lack of light, extreme pressure, low temperature and scarcity of food. However brittle stars, a very diverse group of marine invertebrates abundant in the deep-sea, colonized this environment several times independently, highlighting their strong adaptive abilities.

In this project, Alexandra Weber investigates the molecular mechanisms underlying deep-sea adaptation in brittle stars using genomic methods to obtain a comprehensive overview of the different adaptation mechanisms involved.


The Ifremer Marine Resources unit in French Polynesia (Tahiti) is a partner in the H2020 ERC 3D-BioMat project led by Virginie Chamard of the Fresnel Institute (CNRS, University of Aix-Marseille, Ecole Centrale de Marseille).

The objective is to produce a physico-chemical and biological biomineralization model in order to gain a better understanding of biomineralization mechanisms. Within this project, Ifremer will produce biomaterials (larval shells, juveniles and pearls). The case of the pearl oyster, Pinctada Margaritifera, at the juvenile stage, is indeed particularly interesting because of its extreme structural complexity.

FOCUS: An active fault, a technological challenge

Ifremer is a partner in the 5-year FOCUS project, led by M.A. Gutscher from the Ocean Geosciences Laboratory (CNRS, UBS, UBO). FOCUS, Fiber Optic Cable Use for Seafloor studies, has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant of €2.5 million.

Laser reflectometry (BOTDR), commonly used for structural health monitoring (bridges, dams, etc.), will for the first time be applied to study movements of an active fault on the seafloor 25 km offshore Catania Sicily. The goal of the FOCUS project is to connect a 6-km long strain cable to the EMSO seafloor observatory in 2100 m water depth. Laser observations will be calibrated by seafloor geodetic instruments and seismological stations. A long-term goal is the development of dual-use telecom cables with industry partners.

WAPITI: Water-mass transformation and Pathways in the Weddell Sea: uncovering the dynamics of a global climate chokepoint from In-situ measurements.

Ifremer is a partner in the WAPITI project led by Jean-Baptiste Sallée (CNRS, LOCEAN-IPSL, Paris).

Deep water formed around the Antarctic continent drives the world ocean circulation. More than half of this deep water is formed within only about 10% of the Antarctic circumpolar band: the Weddell Sea. Subtle changes in the circulation of the Weddell Sea can lead to major changes in floating ice-shelves, with critical implications for global sea-level, the production of deep water, and the global ocean overturning circulation. Despite these critical climate implications, the Antarctic shelf circulation remains poorly understood.

Wapiti is a 5-year project funded by the European Research Council. It will investigate a range of different aspects of the Weddell Sea circulation, using a combination of targeted observation, existing observation database, and high-resolution models, as well as the use of new, specifically developed autonomous instruments. The ultimate goal of the project is to refine our understanding of the water-mass transformation and pathways in this key region of the world’s ocean.