Outgoing: Olivier Maire sabbatical in Sweden

Olivier Maire is a researcher within the mixed research unit (UMR) EPOC (Oceanic and Continental Environments and Paleo-Environments). Currently researching in Sweden, he tells us about the work he is carrying out within the field of marine ecology.

Why did you choose to apply for a research/thematic conversion sabbatical?

Since I started at the University of Bordeaux in 2009, a lot of my time has been spent lecturing. This CRCT sabbatical year represents a great opportunity to revive my research activity, broaden my set of skills and to start new and long-lasting international collaborations – that will last I hope after my return to Bordeaux.

Tell us about your host institution

Since October 2015, and for a period of 6 months, I am at the Sven Loven Center (Marine station of Kristinebery, Sweden). This center is part of the University of Goteborg. During my PhD studies, I spent a month at the Sven Loven Center to study the benthic fauna of Gullmarsfjord. When I was there, I discovered a unique and special place – with cutting-edge experimental structures, numerous thermo-regulated rooms supplied by running sea-water (surface and deep) and a range of automatic devices that enable for instance the precise control of the physical-chemical properties of the sea-water (e.g. the concentration of dissolved oxygen) inside the mesocosms. All in all, the perfect place to carry out off-site
experiments within the domain of marine ecology.

What is your research project?

My research project aims to better understand the influence of benthic macrofauna through its bioturbation activity (i.e. the biogenic mixing of sediment particles and dissolved compounds), on the vertical distribution of benthic foraminifera. It was recently proven that some species of benthic foraminifera are capable, without oxygen, of using nitrates for respiration. Their influence on the biogeochemical dynamics of benthic ecosystems therefore depends strongly on their vertical distribution within the sediment matrix. While it is recognized that bioturbation is one of the main factors that controls the burying depth of the foraminifera, the exact mechanisms of this control still remain unclear.

The main differences between research in France and Sweden?

There are many differences with strong and weak points on both sides. For example, the teaching load is heavy in France which limits the time that may be dedicated to research. On the other hand, many researchers and lecturer-researchers in Sweden must supplement their salary with their own projects. This obviously favors short-term research as funding depends and is granted according to the number of publications produced each year.

In terms of organizing a CRCT, just a heads-up - it is sometimes necessary to obtain specific funding in order to go abroad. This cost may be covered by the hosting institution via the allocation of grants. However, the CRCT award calendar in France is published mid-June leaving very little time to coordinate with the grant applications calendar abroad and start research less than two months later in another country. Be prepared!

What have you learned from this international experience?

This type of international experience is always incredibly rewarding – discovering a different approach to scientific research, perfecting your English, etc. It also represents the opportunity to exchange with fellow researchers concerning new techniques and methods. The Swedish scientists that I have met excel particularly in the creation and animation of large research projects, managing to unite international, multi-disciplinary teams around important scientific questions.

Updated on 08/11/2017