Interview. Ocean generation in Cherbourg. The Arctic is a major witness to global warming.

Natalie Morata, 43, from Pau, currently works at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. (© Nicholas Libegon)

“What is the difference between a penguin and a penguin?” “…” What is carbon 14? » Thursday, May 19, 10:30 a.m., In the Room of Lost Steps at La Cité de la Mer in Cherbourg. After attaching the questions to the seal Conference “Polar Views: Arctic and Antarctica”, 184 Cotentin middle school students and 12 professional high school students warmly applaud scientists Lydie Lescarmontier, glaciologist; Peter van Beek, oceanographer who specializes in ocean currents; and Natalie Morata, a biologist, who specializes in plankton in the Arctic. Captivated after the conference.

News: Were the students clearly intrigued?

Natalie Morata: It was really cool…we even had to sign autographs at the end, and we usually get a couple of selfies (laughs)! This meeting was really very interesting, we had so many questions, unfortunately we didn’t have time to answer all of them. Some of the questions were very specific, and there was real dialogue because they had the ingredients to bounce back. We feel the students had to work on these topics in class.

3500 participants from May 18 to 20

Among primary, middle, high school and university students: 3,500 young people participate, from Wednesday 18 May to Friday 20 May, in the Génération Océan on the theme of the polar worlds.

What particularly interested them?

NM: It is surprising because the children usually start with questions about everyday life on an expedition, what we do there, about our personal life … this time, they were first interested in questions of scientists, the environment, global warming … of which the Arctic is one of the regions of the primary witness Because it is three times stronger than the rest of the planet!

Thursday 19 May The first conference was held in front of nearly 200 university students from Cotintin.
Thursday 19 May The first conference was held in front of nearly 200 university students from Cotintin. (© Nicholas Libegon)

What have you been able to observe about this phenomenon during your career?

NM: Since my first missions in 2004, I have sought to compare the situation over time, by returning to the same place over several years, and into space, by studying different regions. It started with the Canadian Arctic, then the American and then the Norwegian… and the effects are not the same everywhere. For example, there is always seasonality in Canada, with ice algae returning and animals awakening. But in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, as the snow melts, I can notice that the performance of nature has changed over the years, and there are different behaviours, with animals staying awake all year…

What is causing global warming?

NM: We’ve all seen pictures of hungry polar bears on a piece of drifting ice, but climate change isn’t just that! During our missions, which can last from two to three months, we sample, collect important data, and also compare according to seasons. We note that all microorganisms and the entire system is changing. As temperatures rise, sea level rises, and there is also acidification of the oceans. It seems far away but there are consequences for us.

Videos: Currently in Actu

Is it important to educate young people?

NM: Since the beginning of my career, I have loved raising awareness among students. In primary school we wrote La Carotte de classe. From Amundsen, the Canadian scientific icebreaker, I shared our daily lives and experiences with them. It is difficult to make scientific findings audible, such as those presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it does not require. Science must be participatory, especially with young people. This is how I work today. Science isn’t just for bespectacled people with curly white hair (laughs)! Now there are affordable microscopes for observing phytoplankton for example. You have to make people want it, which is why events like the Génération Océan are so important. Educating children is also educating their parents. Everyone has a role to play.

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