20 years of sharing — together building a new story about the Ocean

For 20 years, the ambition of the Tara Ocean Foundation has been to transmit knowledge about the planet’s largest ecosystem to the widest audience possible. Over the years, the Foundation's Ocean Culture division has produced awareness-raising tools, collaborating directly with researchers to open a new dialogue between scientists and citizens. We are committed to developing new forms of access to knowledge, involving the greatest number of people in a common culture about the Ocean.

Art & Sciences - Yann Bagot - Adagp, Paris
Art & Sciences — ©Yann Bagot, Adagp, Paris

Towards a new story

Myriam Thomas, director of the Ocean Culture group, has been working on sharing knowledge for 15 years, with the aim of eliminating preconceived ideas and trying to bring together citizens all around the Ocean. From the first Tara expedition in 2006, we had a real desire to have everyone experience this extraordinary Arctic drift. Tara’s journey to the heart of the climate machine demonstrated the schooner’s role as a fantastic environmental observatory, but also as an incredible tool of transmission.

At the beginning, we had to rely on the schooner as the pillar of this adventure, to learn about us and make people dream.
Myriam Thomas

At the first departure from Lorient in July 2006, 50 people gathered on the quay to wish Tara a wonderful adventure:  “It was the beginning of a great story”. But my most beautiful memory was the return of the schooner to Lorient in 2008. More than 10,000 people were there to welcome the boat and the crew!  “We had the feeling of winning this crazy bet, but also of beginning a new story: Exploration for the 21st century”,  Myriam recalls with emotion.

This was a key moment in Myriam’s history with the Foundation. She was convinced of the role Tara could have in transmitting the richness and importance of scientific research. “I told myself that I was not mistaken. I had made a gamble by changing careers, but I was sure of my choice, and at that moment it became a real commitment for me”, confides Myriam.

Retour de Tara Arctic 2008 - Lorient
Lorient, return of the Tara Arctic mission 2008

Ocean Culture: share and transmit to all

The idea of creating a pole of Ocean Culture is recent, developed after long reflections and collective discussions over the years. The association Tara Expeditions became the Tara Ocean Foundation, our ambition grew and objectives evolved. In the first years, our story was based on the human adventure of the Tara Arctic mission. Later our objective was to acquire credibility for the scientific research carried out on board. The schooner Tara was a unique scientific platform compared to the oceanographic vessels in operation at the time. Tara gained legitimacy thanks to the incredible Tara Oceans expedition which positioned the Foundation as a major scientific player.

Our first method of transmission was to communicate about the scientific research carried out during the various missions. “Everyone can understand the why and how of science, it just depends on the supports we offer”, says Myriam Thomas.

Throughout all these years, the key element that made sharing possible was our story. Since the dawn of time, knowledge has been shared through the stories we tell. The Foundation decided to share knowledge through a personal narrative, composed of different chapters:

Sharing knowledge about a unique subject is intended to broaden everyone’s individual culture on a theme. By creating a common Ocean Culture, we can establish the Ocean’s essential role in the global ecosystem, and face future challenges.
Myriam Thomas

Writing alongside scientists

In creating our Ocean Culture narrative, scientific research is an essential element. “I am convinced that science can create a link: it allows us to understand the world we live in, and the future world we must prepare ourselves to live in,” says Myriam

The great difficulty in the art of scientific mediation is to determine the different levels of understanding, so that everyone can learn. We therefore had to take time to “popularize” (no, it’s not a bad word) the sometimes complex messages, to make them understandable. In the same way, it took time to reassure scientists that creating these different levels of understanding (which necessarily leads to simplification of complex statements resulting from the research) does not make the results less scientific. This exercise is absolutely essential today: simplifying written knowledge.

Our uniqueness at Tara is to create tools hand in hand with scientists, taking into account their certainties but also their doubts.
Myriam Thomas
Présentation de la malette plastique - Outils de culture scientifique Fondation Tara Océan
The Tara Foundation’s educational kit on plastic pollution

Sharing knowledge via new digital channels

Sharing of information needs to change in the face of the plurality of available sources. The current challenge is access to the right resource.

Digital channels have enabled a wider dissemination of knowledge and information.   

« I’m not sure the individual level of knowledge about the Ocean has changed, but I do see greater curiosity which leads people to seek information on the Ocean», says Myriam.

Social networks are making huge changes. They can be a «threat», transmitting distorted, modified and sometimes false information. But they also represent a real striking force,   offering an exceptional opportunity to raise awareness among a multitude of people in record time.

The Foundation’s main objective is to speak to all audiences, to all citizens, in order to provide them with keys to understanding.

Universal tools such as exhibitions, meetings, screenings, etc. are essential for sharing knowledge. Today, this sharing is also done increasingly through images and illustrations: « Texts describing research are complex; Images and illustrations make these complicated concepts accessible », says Myriam.

Creating networks of scientific culture

Finding the right relays for our tools has required a lot of work in recent years. On a national level, networks of participants in scientific culture are essential to multiply our impact. Museums, mediators, media centers, libraries, and festivals share our Ocean Culture tools, organizing meetings that create connections and spread a common message.

Sensibilisation sur le microbiome marin
Learning about the marine microbiome. Tara’s stopover in Wallis Bay © Maeva Bardy

The future of scientific mediation

How will sharing of knowledge take place in the future? This is a global question. The Tara Ocean Foundation is working increasingly with schools and universities — interacting with the young generations who will shape the mediation professions of the future.  

The Tara Ocean Foundation must work on encouraging commitment, to show everyone that individual action impacts the collective. We need to break down prejudices and rewrite a narrative around a philosophy of complementarity, of interconnection between every action.

Starting from this basic ideal, protecting the Ocean should become a universal «sport» accessible to everybody. All people can take action, provided they are convinced and committed to the cause.

Today, commitment is at the origin of a major debate across society: more and more people want to find meaningful work. But the real change will happen in a more profound way, that is to say, when every profession has meaning. We will then be able to change the lines.
Myriam Thomas

The challenge of Ocean Culture and knowledge sharing is to make as many people as possible understand the importance and urgency of future issues around the Ocean. Once knowledge is shared, commitment will be stronger!

“Acquiring Ocean Culture means adopting rules and giving each citizen the means to take action. 15 years ago, Tara was a boat on the water going on an expedition. Today Tara has obtained Special Observer status at the UN. 

The Ocean with a capital O

Writing Ocean with a capital O is a symbolic choice— to represent this vast expanse of salt water covering 70.8% of the Earth’s surface! The capital O reminds us of the absence of boundaries and the essential role the Ocean plays on our planet. The action of sharing knowledge is a social issue; we must unite all audiences around a common adventure, placing the Ocean at the center of our concerns.

Writing this new narrative would not be possible without the commitment of the people who, over all these years, have shared their expertise within the Ocean Culture pole. I would like to thank each and everyone for all these EXTRA-Ordinary moments which have moved Tara forward towards a new story.”

The Tara Ocean Foundation believes that the next 20 years will be decisive for the planet, the Ocean and the future of humanity.

It is now urgent to change our perception and look at this vast expanse of water as the key to life on Earth.
Myriam Thomas

The challenge of preserving the Ocean concerns us all.

Culture Océan
© Anne-Kristell Jouan – Fondation Tara Océan

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