Tara Pacific Expedition

The Tara Expeditions group is made up of scientists from across the globe with a common goal: to preserve the beauty, diversity, and health of the world’s oceans. Constructed in 1989 for the explorer Jean-Louis Etienne, the 118-ft schooner Tara (originally named “Antarctica,” and later, “Seamaster”) was designed to sail through the frigid Arctic and Antarctic. Since its acquisition by the French designer agnès b. and her son Etienne Bourgois in 2003, Tara has sailed more than 300,000 kilometers and completed 10 expeditions. The four largest expeditions, Tara Arctic (2006-2008), Tara Oceans (2009-2012), Tara Oceans Polar Circle (2013), and Tara Mediterranean (2014) produced some of the most influential marine science journal articles of the past decade. A special issue of Science was released in May 2015 dedicated to the prodigious data from Tara Oceans: this expedition led to the discovery of more than 500,000 microorganisms from 27,000 samples.

On May 28, 2016, Tara began a two-year voyage of nearly 100,000 km around the Pacific Ocean. This expedition, Tara Pacific, is specifically focused on how the diversity and evolution of coral reefs has been influenced by climate change and humankind and, conversely, the implications of changing reefs on our lives. Although every expedition is motivated by the desire to explore and characterize the effects of the changing planet in remote locations, this is the first mission dedicated to the problems facing tropical regions. This expedition will be one of the most comprehensive assessments of coral reef health and biodiversity ever conducted, with sites spanning the Pacific Ocean from 35°N to 34°S. Due to the wide-reaching nature of this expedition, the project will be able to explore both remote reefs that have avoided human disturbance and reefs that have managed to survive despite tourism and pollution.

Tara Pacific is comprised of marine biologists and oceanographers from around the world who study the response of coral reefs to human influences by surveying biodiversity, including measures of coral diversity, fish genetics, water quality, and marine plankton. Becky oversees the analysis of the coral microbiome and virome, and our lab’s role in this project has offered us an amazing opportunity to travel the world, meet international leaders in coral science, and conduct independent research projects.