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Marilaure Grégoire: a blue planet

Towards true "ocean citizenship"

In Research Research

Like the weather, the oceans are changeable, and science is trying to predict their evolution as accurately as possible. In the fight against climate change, Marilaure Grégoire, professor of marine systems modeling, believes that these forecasts are a powerful way of getting people to respect the ocean and commit to protecting it.

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In 2021, UNESCO inaugurated the Decade of the Ocean, ten crucial years for studying the world's seas and raising public awareness of the importance of fighting to preserve them. An opportunity for Marilaure Grégoire, who is conducting research to better understand the influence of global warming and human activities on the functioning of the ocean. A specialist in the Black Sea, on which she has carried out a number of research projects, she is multiplying projects and opportunities to draw attention to a little-known phenomenon: ocean deoxygenation.

this phenomenon, which has been going on since the mid-1950s, actually covers two different realities," she explains. On the one hand, there are huge areas of oxygen-poor water, mainly in the Pacific Ocean. This is a natural process, but one that is tending to worsen with global warming. And on the other, we are witnessing eutrophication in coastal oceans. As a result of nitrogen fertilizers discharged by rivers, phytoplankton is developing on a massive scale, only to be degraded by bacteria, which then consume all the oxygen in the water as they develop "

To counter this, Marilaure Grégoire is trying to mobilize as large a scientific community as possible. The Ocean Dynamics symposium has been held every year for 54 years. Last year, for the first time, it was held in a hybrid format, with exceptional results. " In all, over 260 researchers met in Liège and online, as part of the international GO2NE network devoted to ocean deoxygenation and supported by UNESCO," she sums up with pride. It's a huge added value for the University, and shows the impact we researchers can have on the world

The oceanologist is convinced that scientists cannot simply produce knowledge, but must also propose solutions. but we have to act in collaboration with civil society, industry and political decision-makers," she nuances. Only in this way can these solutions be accepted and implemented by all . In the case of deoxygenation, reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is of course a major objective. " Everything changes if our GHG emissions stop. The phenomenon is reversible, and this must be emphasized. "


But one of Marilaure Grégoire's greatest hopes lies in the Copernicus program, in which she is actively involved. This observation program launched by the European Union constantly collects information on the oceans as a whole, using satellites and Argos autonomous buoys distributed throughout the world's oceans. we've collected a pharaonic amount of information to feed our forecasting models, and we're now in a position to predict the ocean as never before," she says. This program is an immense hope, because all the forecasts we deploy are freely accessible, enabling a true citizenship of the oceans. "

In the years to come, Marilaure Grégoire hopes that this data collection will go even further, and help create the digital ocean. it's an extremely ambitious and inspiring project of the European Union to create a digital copy of all the oceans," she explains. The aim is to make available to everyone the most accurate information possible on currents and salinity, on sea ice and on all living organisms, from phytoplankton to fish. " If we want to convince the public to get involved in protecting the oceans, it's imperative to present it in a way that non-specialists can understand

People first

Marilaure Grégoire knows that all the data in the world is no substitute for the humanity required to protect the oceans. of course, we must continue to accumulate knowledge," she says. But it's just as important to transfer it to society, in order to best nurture the entire marine economy and the ecosystem services it provides to humans. " In her research, the scientist is therefore increasingly keen to build bridges with other disciplines. studying the oceans is not just a matter for the natural sciences," she points out. The humanities and social sciences also have their place in it, and this is a richness of our university that we must not deprive ourselves of. "

Of all her missions, teaching holds a special place in the heart of the researcher, who initially embarked on an academic career " solely with the aim of teaching ". Today, aware of her role for " these future generations of hopefuls ", she has transformed her " sometimes dry " mathematical modeling courses, leading her students towards a more cross-disciplinary, solution-oriented approach. "Forexample, I try to orient them towards the ecosystem services provided by the ocean. I'm convinced that by making them aware of these issues, I'll be able to get them thinking in human terms too. For it's really when people discuss and look at what can be done together that a formidable collective intelligence emerges. And it's this intelligence that oceanography needs in the years to come

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