Traversing European Coastlines

An expedition to study coastal ecosystems and their response to the environment, from molecules to communities

The Expedition

The TREC expedition will start in April 2023 and is expected to last until end of June 2024. During that time, the researchers will gather biological samples and environmental data along the European coastline at more than 120 land-sea transects. In selected sites, time-series measurements will be performed to account for annual changes.

The expedition will combine ocean exploration, conducted by the Tara Ocean Foundation and Tara Oceans Consortium, with parallel sampling of soil, sediment, shallow water, and selected model organisms in various habitats, supported by EMBL’s land-based mobile services and local marine research institutions. Organismal diversity will be studied across scales, from viruses, bacteria, and protists to multicellular groups such as algae and animals. Analysis will involve various meta- and single-cell omics as well as barcoding techniques that will be combined with innovative microscopy pipelines including automated imaging and electron microscopy. This will allow unprecedented detail in associating molecular and morphological data at the single-organism and single-cell level. Besides standard oceanographic metadata, special emphasis will be on detecting metabolites as well as physical and chemical (i.e. inorganic and organic pollutants such as metals, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics) characterisation of the sampled habitats, providing the environmental framework to the biodiversity and adaptation analyses.

Sampling coordinators

  • Soil – Leho Tedersoo (professor at Tartu University), and Samuel Abiven (science director at CEREEP and research professor at ENS, CNRS)
  • Sediment – Raffaele Siano (researcher at Ifremer)
  • Sea – Colomban de Vargas (research director at CNRS)
  • Shallow water – Flora Vincent (group leader at EMBL), and Hugo Berthelot (researcher at Ifremer)
  • Model organisms – Detlev Arendt (group leader at EMBL)
  • Chemical profiling – Michael Zimmermann (group leader at EMBL)

Overall, the expedition will conduct systematic, standardised, and integrated sampling with multimodal environmental metadata acquisition. This integrated profiling across environmental and man-made gradients of micro- and macroscopic life will enable us to obtain a first of the kind, pan-European census of European coastal ecosystems.

Planned map of the TREC expedition, marking the sea-land sampling transects



image of Paola Bertucci

Paola Bertucci

Scientific Expedition Manager


image of Valerie Maier

Valerie Maier

Field Operations Coordinator


image of Cristian Tambley

Cristian Tambley

Expedition Logistics Manager


image of Stefanie Kandels

Stefanie Kandels

Head of EMBL HD Director´s Office