Pourquoi pas les abysses?


THE exhibition for the festival La Mer XXL

Vue d'ensemble de la petite faune abyssale (nématodes, polychètes, ostracodes, copépodes, kinorhynches). Microscope optique. © Gilles Martin / IfremerOverview of the small abyssal fauna. (Namatoda, poluchaeata, ostracoda, copépoda, kinorhyncha). Optical microscope. © Gilles Martin / Ifremer

A large exhibition entitled « Pourquoi Pas Les Abysses ? » will be presented in Nantes from June 29 to July 10, 2019 at the Festival de la Mer XXL. This event is carried out in partnership with l'Ifremer (French Research Institute for the exploitation of the sea).

Inspired by the universal exhibitions of the early 20th century, the XXL Sea is a living, spectacular and informative event combining industry, arts, technology, gigantism, immersion… Hundreds of marine professionals will be at the service of the public and will make walk small and large in the footsteps of a 21st century Nemo.

The XXL Sea is an extraordinary exhibition dedicated to the oceans and unprecedented in France. For 12 days, more than 100,000 visitors will come to marvel at the exceptional setting of the Beaujoire Exhibition Centre in front of the sea as they have never seen it.

Bactéries : Gammaprotéobactéries microscopie en fluorescence du laboratoire de l'ifremer de BrestBacteria: Gammaproteobacteria. Fluorescence microscope of the Ifremer laboratory in Brest.
© Gilles Martin/ Ifremer

The great project of the IFREMER

Dive in the deep blue sea with Daniela Zeppilli and Gilles Martin and follow the great project of the IFREMER « Pourquoi pas les abysses ? ». New photographs will be published throughout the adventure until the beginning of the travelling exhibition which will start from Brest around the end of 2019.

The ambitious project « Pourquoi pas les abysses ? » aims to increase knowledge of deep water biodiversity. It will help study on a large scale the marine biodiversity patterns in the deep ocean trenches and will enable progress toward the identification of these lesser-known species. This scientific project is carried by some thirty researchers, such as the Italian oceanographer Daniela Zeppilli. She is known worldwide and has an expert knowledge of communication and science popularization.

Méiofaune des abysses au microscope optiqueMeiofauna of the abyss © Gilles Martin / Ifremer


Back from an expedition between the Arctic and France on the oceanographic ship the « Pourquoi Pas ? », Gilles Martin invites you to discover his first images of this research campaign designed to inventory the biodiversity of the abyss.

The AMIGO2018 mission between Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and Brest is part of a cycle of missions to fuel marine biodiversity inventories. The purpose is to take samples that are then processed to extract the DNA. This allows the new molecular “Barcode” methods to take stock of local species.

Throughout this mission Gilles Martin has followed and shared the work of three biologists and researchers all recognized in their fields: Daniela Zeppilli, Julie Poulain and Sophie Arnaud-Haond.

Daniela Zeppilli

A biologist with a doctorate in marine biology and ecology, she is also a researcher in benthic ecology and responsible for the Deep Environment Laboratory at IFREMER. Daniela Zeppilli specializes in nematodes, a group of small worms that dominate meiofauna (all animals less than a millimetre living in all benthic habitats of the planet).

Portait de Daniela Zeppili Daniela Zeppili getting the Oktopus to take sample. © Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Julie Poulain

Research Engineer in Molecular Biology at the Genoscope (CEA National Sequencing Centre), Julie Poulain participated in the Tara Oceans, Tara Polar Circle and Tara Pacific expeditions where she implemented in situ sampling and sequencing. It is with the next generation sequencer, the Minion, already experienced on Tara, that she takes on the « Pourquoi Pas ? » as part of the collaboration IFREMER / Genoscope for the project « Pourquoi Pas Les Abysses ? ».

Portrait de Julie Poulainin situ sequencing by Julie Poulain. © Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Sophie Arnaud-Haond

A researcher at Ifremer for 12 years, she now works on both coastal and deep environments, using tools from molecular biology to study processes invisible to the naked eye. His research focuses on how populations of marine organisms are connected through migration.

Portrait de Sophie Arnaud-HaondFine-tuning of the Oktopus before its launching. © Gilles Martin / Ifremer

The metabarcoding

Metabarcoding and other molecular techniques will enable the detection of DNA sequences of rare species. They will also provide information on the frequency and the dating of potential events in the deep sea, the evolution of great kingdoms of life and ancestral wildlife motions during great geological ages.

Moreover, these molecular techniques might contribute to solve the societal issue on the impact of mining in the deep ocean biodiversity by developing methodologies to define initial conditions, impacts and to set follow-up actions. This work will be based upon studies carried out on fields during oceanographic campaigns dedicated to the deep sea.

«We can hope, from a sample of a seabed sediment, at a depth of 4,000, 5,000, 8,000 meters, to extract the DNA it contains and then make an inventory of the species in the environment.», explains Sophie Arnaud-Haond who leads the project with Florence Pradillon.

Source of the paragraph "The metabarcoding": Pourquoi pas les abysses ? - Ifremer. Please follow the link: <https://wwz.ifremer.fr/Recherche-Technologie/Projets-MERLIN-Pour-la-MER-Lancement-d-Initiatives-Nouvelles/Pourquoi-pas-les-abysses>

A challenge in photography

« IFREMER contacted me to take exclusive pictures of meiofauna and macrofauna of the deep ocean (polychaetes, nematodes, crustaceans, echinoderms, molluscs) extracted during different expeditions of the research ship called Pourquoi pas ?

IFREMER technical specifications define that the largest specimens to photograph are 3 cm long and the smallest measure only a few micometers. I take most of my photographs in my studio in Tours with my own equipment: a bellows, a stereoscopic microscope Zeiss and a fluorescent optical microscope Zeiss. To complete that, I go to the IFREMER institute in Brest to shot pictures with the scanning electron microscope with high magnification, up to a magnification of 2 million times.

In post-production my photographs will be edited by a team of 3D graphic designers who will animate these pictures to produce an exhibition. »

Méiofaune des abysses, Pourquoi pas les abysses ?, IFREMER, Microscope électronique à balayage (MEB)
Polychaeta © Gilles Martin / Ifremer


The Pourquoi Pas ? is an oceanographic research vessel named in homage to the Commandant Charcot. This famous French sailor and oceanographer made his polar expeditions aboard four exploration ships of the same name.
Nowadays the Pourquoi Pas ? is part of the deep-sea ships of the IFREMER fleet. The ship is in service since September 27th, 2005.
With a length of almost 110 m, this ship enables the IFREMER to lead several missions such as hydrography, cartography and the deployments of exploration submarines like the Nautile. The French Navy borrows the ship 150 days per year.


Designed by the IFREMER in 1984, the Nautile is a submarine which can dive to depths of 6,000 meters. This spherical-shaped submarine has a capacity of three people in 5 cubic meters. It can withstand a pressure range up to 900 bars. Thanks to its resistance, it makes 97% of the deep ocean accessible.
The Nautile is equipped with flashbulbs, cameras and projectors to shot pictures of meiofauna during the expeditions. It has performed over 1,500 expeditions around the world and has permitted to observe famous shipwrecks such as the Titanic.

POURQUOI PAS LES ABYSSES ? in the newspapers

PDF iconchasseur d'images.pdf

Photographie de Gilles Martin : Vers Nereididae (Polychaeta)

Nereididae worm (Polychaeta)
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photographie de Gilles Martin : Daniela Zeppilli, océanographe de l'IFREMER de Brest.

Daniela Zeppilli, oceanographer for the IFREMER in Brest
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photograph by Gilles Martin : the « Pourquoi pas ? » during the AMIGO mission.

The « Pourquoi pas ? » during the AMIGO mission
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photograph by Daniela Zeppili : Shooting on the « Pourquoi Pas ? ».

Shooting on the « Pourquoi Pas ? »
© Daniela Zippeli / Ifremer

Photographie de Gilles Martin : Vers Polynoidae (Polychaeta).

Polynoidae worm (Polychaeta)
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photograph by Gilles Martin : processing the samples.

Processing the samples
 Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photograph by Gilles Martin : Polychaete collected at a depth of 5,000 metres.

Polychaete collected at a depth of 5,000 metres
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photograph by Gilles Martin : Daniela and Julie searching for specimens.

Daniela and Julie searching for specimens
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photographe by Gilles Martin : Descent of the Octopus for a coring.

Descent of the Octopus for a coring
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photograph by Gilles Martin : Specimen collected during the AMMIGO mission.

Specimen collected during the AMIGO mission
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photographe by Houria Arhab : Gilles Martin at work with his Zeiss microscope.

Gilles Martin at work with his microscope Zeiss
© Houria Arhab

Photographie de Gilles Martin : Portrait d'un polychète.

Portrait of a polychaete
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photograph by Gilles Martin : The « Pourquoi pas ? » in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon.

The « Pourquoi pas ? » in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photographie de Gilles Martin : Méiofaune des abysses.

Under the microscope, meiofauna reveals all its beauty
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photograph by Gilles Martin : Overview of bacteria.

Overview of bacteria
© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photograph by Gilles Martin : polychaeta.

© Gilles Martin / Ifremer

Photograph by Gilles Martin : polychaeta.

© Gilles Martin / Ifremer