Two South Africa-based microbial ecologists are preparing to pick up the scientific reins of the French research schooner Tara for the next few months as the vessel sets sail along Africa’s west coast.
The pair—Emma Rocke from the University of Cape Town and Thulani Makhalanyane from the University of Pretoria—will be the on-board scientific directors on the next two legs of Tara’s two-year mission to study the South Atlantic microbiome.
Rocke will lead the cruise’s 13th leg from Cape Town to Namibia, leaving at the start of May. This will focus on the Benguela current that sweeps up the coast, taking special care to sample areas where nutrients from cold upwellings aggregate and cause algal blooms.
“This is my first experience as chief scientist on a research trip, which is both exciting and horribly nerve-racking,” says Rocke. South African scientists have been involved in the project’s design, including setting priorities for the sampling off the African coast.
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