TREC, the first European expedition to study the impact of man on the Ocean and coastal regions, is making a stopover in the French Mediterranean


After eight months of sampling the European coastline along the Atlantic, Baltic, and North Sea throughout 2023, the ‘Traversing European Coastlines’ (TREC) expedition will explore the Mediterranean coastline in 2024. 

TREC is the first continent-wide project to study coastal ecosystems and their response to the environment. Our seas and coasts host an extremely rich diversity of life and play critical roles in the stability and sustainability of wider ecosystems. However, anthropogenic interferences are leading to accelerated loss of species’ genetic diversity and destruction of functional ecosystems. By sampling along the entire European coast, the TREC expedition will provide a richer and deeper understanding of how ecosystems respond to natural and human-made challenges. 

The TREC expedition is led by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), together with the Tara Ocean Foundation, the Tara OceanS consortium, and the European Marine Biology Resource Centre (EMBRC). It brings together more than 150 research teams from over 70 institutions in 21 European countries. Also, it involves local partners along the sampling route, such as the Observatoire Océanologique de Banyuls (OOB, Sorbonne Université/CNRS) and the Institut de la Mer de Villefranche (IMEV, Sorbonne Université/CNRS). These two marine stations are part of EMBRC France.

The expedition combines scientific activities on land and at sea on an unprecedented scale. Along the French Mediterranean coast, scientists traveling with EMBL's mobile laboratories, and aboard the Tara schooner, will be collecting water, soil, sediment, and aerosol samples in the vicinity of Argelès-sur-Mer, Sète, Marseille, and Fréjus; among the 120 sampling sites that make up the entire expedition.

The OOB and the IMEV, as partner biological stations of the expedition, will host the EMBL mobile laboratories dedicated to sampling and will provide their regional expertise. In particular, the IMEV has been involved in the marine component of TREC, led by the Tara Océan Foundation, with the coordination of the missions at sea, the structuring of the stations, and the initial monitoring of its implementation. IMEV has also already hosted several EMBL researchers and collaborators for one of the pilot projects aimed at setting up the TREC expedition in 2021.

Press visits and interviews

EMBL's mobile laboratories will be at the Observatoire Océanologique de Banyuls from 30 March to 6 April, then at the Institut de la Mer de Villefranche from 7 to 13 April.

In partnership with the biological stations, the TREC teams will be taking samples of land, sediment, and shallow water at various sampling sites.

If you would like to find out more about how mobile laboratories are used for ecosystem research, or to see sampling activities, please contact

Research projects associated with TREC

In addition to the land-sea sampling activities at the 120 sites on the expedition, TREC also includes more than thirty associated research projects, carried out at specific locations on the expedition, some involving French research institutes such as Ifremer or the CNRS

Project with field activities during TREC's passage through the south of France in March/April:

Model species: an EMBL research group is studying the model species Platynereis, a marine annelid worm found in temperate to tropical coastal marine areas, and presenting several interests from a scientific point of view, in particular its adaptation to the environment. This model organism, already studied during the 2021 pilot in Villefranche-sur-Mer, will be sampled again during the stops in Banyuls and Villefranche-sur-Mer.

For more information, please contact


The scientific expedition

The aim of the expedition is to study the biodiversity and ecosystems on land and at sea, as well as the interactions of organisms with each other and with the environment. The scientific teams collect information on factors such as the presence of pollutants, antibiotics, pesticides, or hormones, as well as temperature, salinity, and oxygen levels. At each point where the EMBL team and collaborators sample soil, sediments, and shallow water, the schooner Tara samples the associated marine ecosystems – on the same day and in the immediate vicinity. 

Biological samples are fragile: as soon as a drop of water or crumb of soil is removed from its natural environment, the organisms within them begin to change. To maximise the integrity of organisms and to study them in the context of their natural environment, TREC is bringing the lab to the samples, instead of samples to the lab. In total, TREC will examine the biodiversity and molecular adaptability of life at the molecular scale at 120 coastal sampling sites across 21 European countries.

The pan-European nature of this project means that samples will be taken in a standardised fashion. This will make it possible to compare and probe data across Europe instead of a regional or national system in a way that was not previously possible.  

EMBL acknowledges the generous support of many institutions, donors and sponsors, in particular the Manfred Lautenschläger-Foundation, Eppendorf SE, Carl Zeiss Microscopy, and Friends of EMBL in helping make TREC possible.

Further information:







EMBL logoAbout EMBL

The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) is Europe’s life sciences laboratory. We provide leadership and coordination for the life sciences across Europe, and our world-class fundamental research seeks collaborative and interdisciplinary solutions for some of society’s biggest challenges. We provide training for students and scientists, drive the development of new technology and methods in the life sciences, and offer state-of-the-art research infrastructure for a wide range of experimental and data services.

EMBL is an intergovernmental organisation with 28 member states, one associate member, and one prospective member. At our six sites in Barcelona,​​ Grenoble, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Hinxton near Cambridge, and Rome, we seek to better understand life in its natural context, from molecules to ecosystems. 

Tara Océab Fondation logoAbout Tara Ocean Foundation

The Tara Ocean Foundation is the first public interest foundation in France dedicated to the Ocean. Its 2 main missions are to explore the Ocean to better understand it and share the relating scientific knowledge to raise citizen and collective awareness. For 20 years, the Foundation has developed a high- level Ocean science in collaboration with international research laboratories of excellence, to explore, understand and anticipate the upheavals related to climate and environmental risks, as well as the impacts of pollution. In order to make the Ocean a common responsibility and to preserve it, the Tara Ocean Foundation also works towards raising public awareness about ocean science and educating the younger generations. By studying and protecting the Ocean, we take care of our planet’s global system.  


EMBRC LogoAbout EMBRC (European Marine Biological Resource Centre)

EMBRC (European Marine Biological Resource Centre) is a European research infrastructure which aims at advancing marine biodiversity knowledge to support sustainable initiatives. Through its network of marine stations in Europe, EMBRC gathers resources to give access to cutting-edge expertise, services and technologies in marine biology and ecology. In 2021, EMBRC created EMO BON (European Marine Omics Biodiversity Observation Network), a long-term genomics biodiversity observatory that contributes to the global ocean observation network and the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development through the OBON program. Supporting education since its creation, EMBRC promotes training in marine sciences for future generations through its Marine Training platform. In the face of climate change, EMBRC contributes to understanding environmental evolutions and supports global science-based decision-making process. In 2018, the organisation was granted ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium) status by the European Commission. Follow us on, Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube.

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