Celebrating European collaboration at the TREC supersite in Bilbao

A celebratory event at the Maritime Museum Bilbao marked the partnerships that make possible the TREC expedition on land and at sea along the European coast.

A woman standing at a podium with a blue-green background behind here.
Secretary General for Research at the Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation Raquel Yotti addressed the audience in Bilao. Credit: Massimo del Prete/EMBL

It was an unusually hot and sunny Wednesday afternoon for the time of year at the docks outside the Maritime Museum in Bilbao. Outside the museum doors stood EMBL’s Advanced Mobile Laboratory (AML), as guests for the TREC supersite event on 11 October 2023 arrived. Everyone was there to mark the first stop of the TREC expedition in Spain, celebrating the partnership between the core expedition partners – EMBL, the Tara Ocean Foundation, and the EMBRC – plus numerous local partners, in this case, the University of the Basque Country’s Plentzia Marine Station, under the auspices of Spain’s Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Soon the guests were joined by the Tara schooner sailing up the Nervion river as well as the three additional vehicles that comprise EMBL’s mobile labs making their way towards the dock. All had been part of sampling on land and at sea in the coastal regions surrounding Bilbao and were now coming together with the AML in a single location for the first time.  

Among the special guests were Raquel Yotti, Secretary General for Research at the Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation, Marianne Carré, French Consul in Bilbao, and Eva Ferreira, Rector of the University of the Basque Country. They each addressed the audience following words of welcome by EMBL Director General Edith Heard, Tara Ocean Foundation Director-General Romain Troublé, and EMBRC Executive Director Nicolas Pade.

“This is an extraordinary, high-level research, training, and public engagement expedition. These kinds of endeavours demonstrate big ambition and an important vision for the future,” said Yotti about the TREC expedition. Commenting on the first TREC stop in Spain, which will be followed by others as part of the expedition in 2024, she said: “This is a special stop. A super stop. Thank you so much for choosing us, for choosing Spain, for choosing Bilbao.”

A collage of photos that include the sampling truck, people watching and attending a public outreach event, on a sunny day in Spain
Impressions from the event outside the Maritime Museum Bilbao. Credit: Massimo del Prete and Annika Grandison/EMBL

In her address, Yotti highlighted the important role that research infrastructures (RIs) play in creating the best science in Europe and the world. Noting that RIs are one of the priorities included on the agenda of the ongoing Spanish Presidency of the European Council she also pointed out the importance of providing the resources to allow RIs to build such exciting and innovative projects.

Marking the arrival of the Tara schooner in the city of Bilbao and the coming together of the land and sea sampling teams in person, guests were treated to a traditional Basque welcome dance and emotional greetings between the two teams. After this, they had the opportunity to explore EMBL’s mobile labs and the Tara schooner, and to meet some of the scientists and crew members.

“The stop in Bilbao is one of the locations for intensive sampling, research, and dissemination where EMBL, the Tara Ocean Foundation, the EMBRC and our local collaborators from the University of the Basque country’s Plentzia Marine Station join forces to strengthen cross-disciplinary research and study ecosystems at scale,” Heard said. “Today, we come together with a shared sense of pride in having enabled this incredible expedition, which brings together scientists, EMBL’s mobile laboratories, and the Tara research schooner in Bilbao, forming a one-of-a-kind scientific vehicle fleet. I want to thank you all for making this happen!”

A number of different activities in addition to sample collection take place at a TREC superstop. These include mobile service offerings, training events, and scientific lectures plus public engagement on board the Tara schooner and in the city as part of the TREC public engagement concept. The TREC expedition continued at sampling stops in Ferrol, Spain, and Porto and Faro in Portugal before going on a short winter break. To follow the expedition’s progress, follow us on social media or visit our interactive map.

Tags: collaboration, expedition, international collaboration, international relations, outreach, partnerships, planetary biology, spain, tara, tara ocean foundation, tara oceans, TREC


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