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Biodiversity: Total researchers at the leading edge

The CSTJF and PERL have undertaken several innovative initiatives to protect the environment and safeguard biodiversity. With the CEN Nouvelle-Aquitaine, a double partnership, both scientific and supportive, has been set up. In addition to R&D skills, employees are involved with the association on a voluntary basis as part of the Action! program for the preservation of local natural areas undergoing rehabilitation.

Total cooperates with the CEN Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Thomas Merzi

The association Conservatoire des Espaces Naturels Nouvelle-Aquitaine, based in Billère (64), is a tool at the service of biodiversity, landscapes and the economy of territories. “We have signed a scientific partnership for five years (2019-2024),” explains Thomas Merzi, head of R&D at the CSTJF. “This collaboration will allow us to test cutting-edge technologies in bio conservation and biodiversity monitoring on the Manas site, managed by the CEN.” For Anaïs Morère, coordinator of the partnership at CEN, the benefit is shared: “For us, it is an opportunity to be at the forefront of innovation.” On the site, Beecam cameras are installed to observe the activity of pollinators and analyze the species present and their numbers. As well as fixed cameras to monitor semi-aquatic mammals, with an automatic capture system.

Employees get involved

In 2020, some fifty Group employees took part in clearing brush in Béarn and joined forces with the CEN Nouvelle-Aquitaine to close wild paths in the Pau woods. “I've gotten into the habit of looking at the missions posted by associations on the digital platform Action! It's an opportunity to do things different from our daily work, which mobilizes other skills and especially allows us to be useful. I chose to work in the field. Thus, during my working time, with the CEN Nouvelle-Aquitaine, I pruned woody plants as part of the preservation of natural areas undergoing rehabilitation”, explains Amélie, Industrial Property Engineer.

At the CSTJF, researchers are working on environmental DNA (eDNA)

Since 2017, our R&D teams have been leading the way in eDNA research and helping to change practices. The goal is to photograph biodiversity and tell the story of an eco-system...Every living thing leaves behind traces of DNA. Imagine a method capable of inventorying all the animal species present in the abyssal depths as well as on land, based on DNA traces... Borrowed from medicine, genomics and environmental DNA analysis (eDNA) could quickly become the "regulatory standard" for inventorying the animal species present at any given moment on any site.
 This method allows us to better measure and monitor biodiversity in our day-to-day operations. This is a major challenge for Total's commitment to biodiversity. “Using a simple sample - a glass of water or a handful of sediments - the method allows us to photograph biodiversity and describe the life of an ecosystem, including the presence of rare or emblematic species, the food chain, species inventories, the spread of invasive species, and population dynamics,” explains Thomas Merzi, head of the R&D-eDNA Environmental Genomics component.

 

It also makes it possible to evaluate the footprint of human activities and to carry out preservation actions. For the sample to speak, the investigation begins... The water is filtered to recover the "evidence", i.e. the cells from the species present in the environment. The next step is the extraction of the DNA strands. Then, they are run through a high-speed sequencer, an extremely powerful machine that identifies each species in the form of a specific genetic code. All that remains is to interpret these millions of "bar codes" to reveal the identity of the site's "inhabitants"!