Université de Bordeaux
LabEx COTECluster of Excellence
Cluster of excellence

UMR EPOC: Oceanic and Continental Environments and Paleoenvironments

UMR EPOC: Oceanic and Continental Environments and Paleoenvironments

The Research Unit UMR EPOC (UMR 5805 “Oceanic and Continental Environments and Paleoenvironments”) is a joint Research Laboratory of CNRS and the University of Bordeaux. It was created (for the next contractual period 2011 to 2014) from the former EPOC (UMR “Oceanic Environments and Paleoenvironments”) by combining a new research group from the environmental chemistry and ecotoxicology field, the Laboratory of Physico- and Toxico-Chemistry of the environment (LPTC). EPOC is a pluridisciplinary unit involving chemists, physicists, biologists and modellers. EPOC is concerned with coastal and littoral ecosystems and geosystems, covering fields from nearshore dynamics to ecotoxicology, through environmental chemistry, ecology, ecophysiology, geochemistry, and biogeochemistry.

Most EPOC research activities aim at studying the function and dysfunction of aquatic (freshwater, coastal and marine) ecosystems. Mechanisms governing coastal ecosystem health and quality are studied at different hierarchical levels: molecular, cellular, individual, communities, populations. During the past ten years, the research unit has concentrated its activities on natural aquatic and coastal ecosystems as transition areas of great economic and biological relevance. Its research attempts to respond to some major scientific questions: evaluation of the quality/health of ecosystems in relation to contaminant inputs; analysis of biodiversity in relation to ecosystem functioning; modelling of nearshore circulation and sediment transport; linking ecology and ecotoxicology to better understand multiple stress impact on organisms; study of marine areas under the influence of high flow rivers and storms; response of ecosystems to global change; matter and energy flows at system boundaries; study of societies/climate interactions. Five teams of EPOC are involved in LabEx COTE:

 -The EA (Aquatic Ecotoxicology) team focuses on the study of bioaccumulation mechanisms and the toxic impact of trace metal contaminations on aquatic organisms at various levels of integration (from molecule to communities) using ecotoxicology, ecophysiology, biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics approaches. One of the assets of EA is to always have privileged use of low exposure levels, representative of those found in the environment, as well as the permanent confrontation between results obtained in laboratory-controlled conditions and those obtained in the field.

 -The LPTC (Laboratory of Physico- and Toxico-Chemistry of the environment) team focuses on the study of sources, fate, and toxicity of organic contaminants. It develops original methods to identify and describe organic pollutants in all environmental compartments (from the atmosphere to the water). Studies are also conducted on biotic and abiotic processes that affect their presence and transformation (homogeneous and heterogeneous phases) in the environment. In conjunction with environmental chemistry researches, it studies processes affecting toxicity and conducts ecotoxicology research involving biomarkers of exposure and effect. A specific LPTC aim is to develop ultra-trace methodologies and to conduct studies at environmentally relevant concentrations.

 -The ECOBIOC (ECOlogy and BIOgeochemistry of Coastal ecosystems) team aims at studying community structures and their roles in aquatic ecosystems function. This team has a broad range of expertise in invertebrate taxonomy and in the study of biological mechanisms affecting biogeochemical processes. ECOBIOC is organised into three axes that are strongly interconnected: i) Population health and ecosystem quality; ii) Biology/biogeochemistry coupling at the water-sediment boundary; iii) Matter flows at ecosystem scale.

 -Research activities conducted by the METHYS (Modelling and remote sensing in Hydrodynamic for Sediment) team are devoted to understanding and modelling hydrodynamic and sedimentary processes in the coastal zone, especially those related to nearshore and estuarine environments. Its approach covers a wide range of time scales (from turbulence to sea-level rise) and relies on field measurements, innovative remote sensing and laboratory studies, and state of the art coastal modelling.

 -The PALEO (Paleoclimate) team studies past climate dynamics from monthly to millennium timescales, at all latitudes, based on marine and terrestrial archives. Its high standing in the national community comes from its strong multi-disciplinary approach which enables it to study: i) the elementary processes of all factors relating to Earth climate (Ocean, Atmosphere, Cryosphere, Biosphere) and their interactions; ii) the Continent-Ocean continuum; iii) the connections between the various climatic belts. Its research is based on biological (microfossils), geochemical (isotopes, major and minor elements) and sedimentological (terrigenous grains) tools.

Contribution to LabEx

EPOC will be in charge of managing aquatic research. One of its main contributions lies in the development of methods for assessing, monitoring, predicting the evolution of quality (chemical and biological) and biological diversity of the ecosystems that are being investigated. EPOC will develop ecotoxicological studies and characterise chemical dangers in relation with toxic impact. It will study multi-stress situations linking ecology and ecotoxicology in order to better understand the functioning of ecosystems in relation with anthropogenic and global changes. Another main objective will be to characterise the current physical state and dynamics of sandy beaches, estuaries and lagoons in the Aquitaine region in order to further evaluate physical vulnerability of such environments in the context of climate changes. Reconstruction of paleo-environments over the anthropocene, for which instrumental monitoring exists, will allow assessment of the response and vulnerability of the above mentioned environments to the emergence of human activities.

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