News & Events



​A short history of picoplankton

Published on: 01-Mar-2019

Event Type: Seminar

Event Date: 1 March 2019 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Venue: ASE 3D Viz Laboratory Room (N2-B1c-16c)

Speaker: Prof. Daniel Vaulot

About the speaker:

After attending the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, the Ecole Nationale du Genie Rural and working for a few years as an engineer, Daniel Vaulot did a PhD on the cell cycle regulation of phytoplankton with Penny Chisholm at MIT. Since 1985, he is a researcher at CNRS (now a Senior Scientist), working at the Station Biologique of Roscoff (France). He initially developed applications of flow cytometry to measure picoplankton and bacteria abundance in the ocean. These methods have become de facto standards in oceanography. About 25 year ago, he focused on the diversity and ecology of eukaryotic pico-phytoplankton which had received very little attention, pioneering molecular approaches such as gene cloning, metabarcoding and metagenomics.

Currently his interests revolve around green algae, a group that had been long neglected. He had always a keen interest in data processing and software development, focusing recently on the open source R language. The group he initiated in Roscoff is now a global leader in plankton research with 35 researchers, post-docs and students. He also created in 1998 the Roscoff Culture Collection, by now the biggest collection in the world for marine phytoplankton. Daniel Vaulot co-authored more than 150 papers, including some in top journals such as Nature, Science or PNAS. He received the CNRS silver medal and is a member of the EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organization). He is currently spending one year at the Asian School of the Environment at NTU (Singapore) as a visiting Professor. More information:

About the event:

Forty years ago, J. Waterbury discovered that marine Synechococcus, small unicellular cyanobacteria of about 1 ?m, were very abundant in the oceans. This was the start of an incredible string of discoveries that changed the way we view oceanic ecosystems and food webs, placing picoplankton (cells smaller than 2 ?m) at the base of marine life. I will briefy retrace some of the major advances of these four decades focusing on the eukaryotic photosynthetic plankton. Techniques such as flow cytometry, epiuorescence microscopy and cloning were instrumental to increase our understanding of these tiny organisms. During these decades, a number of new organisms such as Prochlorococcus or Ostreococcus were discovered and found to be very important for the functioning of marine ecosystems, providing new biological models for genetics. Our view of eukaryotic phytoplankton taxonomy has also been deeply modi?ed with the establishment of many novel classes such as Mamiellophyceae or Bolidophyceae. I will wrap up by discussing the latest research developments linked in particular to advances in molecular phylogeny, metabarcoding and genomics with thoughts about what will be the next frontier.

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