A l'UM la science [S02-ep06]: From carbon sequestration by whales to the glass workshop

This week on A l'UM la science, Anaëlle Durfort, a PhD student at the Marbec laboratory, talks about CO2 sequestration in whale carcasses stranded on the seabed. In the second half of the program, Paolo Spano takes us on a tour of the scientific glassmaking workshop. Finally, we present issue 18 of Lum magazine, out this week and dedicated to the oceans.

Street lighting, cooking, lubricating machines, making candles, belts, umbrellas or corsets, but also the ingredient of choice in soaps, perfumes and other cosmetics, for centuries cetaceans have been hunted by man for their flesh, their fat and their bones.

From the 19th century onwards, technological advances would transform this so-called traditional fishery into a truly industrial practice. While an estimated 1,500 whales were killed in 1890, this figure rose to 15,000 or 20,000 on the eve of the First World War, and up to 50,000 in the early 1930s, according to a study by Antoine Delmas and Jacques Guillaume, researchers at the University of Poitiers and Nantes.

Faced with this phenomenon, Moby Dicks are sadly rare, and populations of rorquals, sperm whales and especially right whales are reaching critical levels, prompting some fifteen nations to sign the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling in 1946. Today, only a handful of countries, including Norway, Iceland and Japan, still hunt whales, but their populations remain fragile and threatened by climate change. A tragedy that does not only concern cetaceans, as recent studies point to the consequences of these massacres on the entire marine ecosystem.

Our guest of the day, Anaëlle Durfort, a researcher at the Marbec laboratory, went even further, showing the effect of overfishing on the ocean carbon cycle, and more specifically on the carbon sequestered by whale carcasses stranded on the ocean floor after their natural death. This work was published in the scientific journal Proceedings B on November 2.

Read more:

In the second half of the program, we head off to the Triolet campus, and more specifically to the Chemistry Department, to visit thescientific glass workshop. This is the realm of Paolo Spano, a scientific glassblower, who tells us how, from simple Pyrex tubes, he can make balloons, test tubes, coolants and micro-distillation apparatus, much to the delight of chemists.

Finally, we take a look at the contents of the new LUM magazine, out this week. And we're keeping with the theme, since issue 18 is entirely devoted to the oceans.

At UM la science you've got the program, here we go!

Coproduction: Divergence FM / Université de Montpellier
Lucie Lecherbonnier
Aline Périault / Lucie Lecherbonnier
Reporting and editing:
Aline Périault
Production : Bruno Bertrand

Listen to the program "A l'UM la science" on Divergence FM 93.9

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