Weizmann in Focus, Episode 10: Setting Sail for Science

Weizmann in Focus, Episode 10: Setting Sail for Science


Hi, I’m Dave Doneson. Welcome to Weizmann
in Focus. In previous episodes, we’ve taken you inside
the labs of the Weizmann Institute. Today, let’s take a journey outside the lab … to
the open sea. The ocean is the largest ecosystem on Earth
… and yet, we know very little about it. Environmental scientists at Weizmann are changing
that reality … and gaining new insights into climate change, the effects of pollution,
and much more. In 2016, Professors Ilan Koren and Assaf Vardi
were among a select group of scientists worldwide to get a spot on the renowned Tara schooner.
Based in France, the Tara ship is devoted to advancing scientific research and increasing environmental awareness. Since it first set sail in 2003, the schooner has crossed thousands of kilometers across all the world’s oceans … and hundreds of publications have emerged
from research done on board. Dr. Michel Flores, a postdoc in the Koren
and Vardi labs, spent 30 days aboard the Tara collecting samples of ocean water and tiny
particles in the air. Back at the Weizmann Institute, these samples have been used to
learn about the effect of the ocean’s ecosystem on the atmosphere, which is key to understanding
climate change. Professors Koren and Vardi earned a coveted
spot on the Tara because of their earlier research on microscopic marine algae that
are responsible for nearly 50% of the world’s total organic carbon! These single-celled
plants can produce “blooms” so massive that they can be seen from space … yet they
can quickly collapse and disappear. The scientists have been studying viruses
and other killers of these blooms, which affect everything from the marine food chain to the
oxygen we breathe. They continue to look for clues in samples they’ve taken from the
sea. This process vastly increases research outcomes … and leads to novel, far-reaching
science. Whether setting sail or settling in at the
bench, Weizmann scientists are exploring new frontiers … for our health and the health
of our planet.

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