Antarctica by sailboat:

Delineating responses of southern Ocean ecosystems to climate change

On February 15th, 9 Belgian researchers will set sail for Antarctica. Led by Bruno Danis, researcher at the Marine Biology Laboratory of the ULB Faculty of Sciences, they will leave Ushuaïa (Argentina) and arrive in the Antarctic Peninsula (Grandidier Channel), during the month of March. Originality of the mission: the researchers will be using a sailboat as a research platform! This mode of transport has a limited environmental impact and will allow, thanks to its agility, to reach understudied areas.

Australis: The commercial vessel Australis of Benjamin Wallis is parked in front of a gentle sloped glacier in the Skontorp Bay. Credits: Francesca Pasotti.

The aim of the “TANGO1” mission is to observe the responses of Antarctic marine ecosystems to climate change, particularly at shallow depths. As climatic changes are prominent and intensifying in polar regions, dramatic shifts in structure and function of ecosystems may take place and will be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse. The ongoing debate at the level of the IPCC and SCAR highlights the lack of knowledge on different thresholds and different ecosystem states, their habitability and stability, and whether they are true alternate states of the same system. It is also unclear to what extent transition points are thresholds, while this knowledge is crucial in ecosystem management to sustain habitability in the long term in a context of global change and for the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of the natural environment. By investigating ecological thresholds at different levels of organization, including species, species interactions, populations, processes and functions, and whole ecosystems with a focus on the benthos (organisms living in strict contact with the seafloor), TANGO aims at identifying not only the requirements of habitability, but also the factors that undermine habitability such as the imbalance of the carbon cycle.The researchers will therefore carry out detailed works on biodiversity in different realms, by combining a range of techniques (SCUBA diving, drones deployments, remote-controlled submersible, 3D imaging, isotopic and genetic studies).

This expedition is part of the BRAIN-BE “TANGO” project, funded by BELSPO.

The mission will last until March 19 (return to Belgium). 

More information:

2022 Polar Symposium


The Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO), the Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations, the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) and the Belgian National Committee of (Ant)Arctic Research (BNCAR)


22 September 2022


Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels, Rue Vautier 29, 1000 Brussels


Polar regions are some of the most vulnerable areas on Earth. While anthropogenic warming impacts the whole planet, the Arctic region has been warming almost four times as fast in recent decades. Changes at the poles have local and global implications and are intertwined with biodiversity, the cornerstone of healthy and resilient ecosystems. Science is crucial for building a foundation to understand how our lives are impacted by climate change and what we can do to slow or reverse changes.

Belgian polar research plays an active and leading role on the international scene. The Polar Symposium highlights Belgian polar research and the scientific and policy fora associated with it. Presentations will cover climate, ice, geology, space, terrestrial biology, anthropology and health, ocean, marine biology and Belgian research facilities, complemented by contributions from leading polar organisations and prominent political speakers.


8:30 – 9:10: Registration

9:10 – 9:20:  Welcome and opening

Minister Zakia Khattabi (Climate, Environment, Sustainable Development and the Green Deal)

9:20 – 9:30: Scientific opening

Renuka Badhe (Executive Secretary of the EU Polar Board)

9:30 – 9:55: Climate

Nicole Van Lipzig, Alexander Mangold

9:55 – 10:20: Ice

François Massonnet, Xavier Fettweis

10:20 – 10:40: SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research)

Frank Pattyn

10:40 – 11:00: Coffee break

11:05 – 11:30: Geology

Steven Goderis, Nicolas Bergeot

11:30 – 11:55: Space

Simona Toscano, Hervé Lamy

11:55 – 12:15: ATCM (Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting)

Stéphanie Langerock, Annick Wilmotte

12:15 – 13:15: Lunch

13:15 – 13:25 Association for Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS)

Marie Cavitte

13:25 – 13:50 Terrestrial Biology

Elie Verleyen, Anne Willems

13:50 – 14:15 Anthropology and Health

Nathalie Pattyn, Frédéric Laugrand

14:15-14:35 International Arctic Science Committee (IASC)

Philippe Huybrechts

14:35 – 15:00 Ocean

François Fripiat, Bruno Delille

15:00 – 15:20 Coffee break

15:20 – 15:45 Marine Biology

Ann Vanreusel, Anton Van de Putte

15:45 – 16:10 Belgian research facilities: Research Vessel Belgica & Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station.

Lieven Naudts,  Henri Robert

16:10 – 16:30 Keynote speech European Commission DG for Research and Innovation

Szilvia Nemeth 

16:30 – 16:40 Closing

State Secretary Thomas Dermine

(Economic Recovery and Strategic Investments, in charge of Science Policy)

16:40 – 16:55 Closing remarks

Jean-Louis De Brouwer

(Director of the European Affairs Programme at the Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations)

[Free entrance] Belgium and Antarctica… Researchers’ views

Archives Antarctiques Belges – Belgische Antarctische Archieven (AABBAA – asbl) and APECS Belgium are proud to present a conference evening where researchers share their findings and experiences in Antarctica!

Belgium and Antarctica… Researchers’ views
21 March 2018 (Wednesday)
Campus Solbosch, ULB Building D Local DC2.223
Open to public and FREE of charge!

AABBAA is a non-profit organization which gathers archives on Belgian Antarctic expeditions. Please join us for this great initiative!

original announcement

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