Project Leader

Noémie Coulon

Noémie Coulon

Who I am

Since I was a child, I have been attracted to all kinds of animals and I always knew I wanted to work with them. However, I was afraid of the ocean and the creatures in it. It wasn’t until my first dive, at the age of 19, that fear turned into passion. After that, I dedicated my studies to oceanography and marine ecology. I first studied larval fish recruitment during El Niño events as an undergraduate, determined the abundance of small pelagic fish using acoustics in the Bay of Biscay (in France) and, as a Master’s student, studied the functional rarity of endangered fish communities in the north-eastern Atlantic, but I never imagined that I would have the chance to work on skates and sharks. Today I am a doctoral student at the mixed research unit Biologie des organismes et des écosystèmes aquatiques (BOREA) and I study the effects of climate change on sharks and rays in the north-eastern Atlantic.

Where I work

My project is conducted at the marine biology station of Dinard (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle) in Brittany, France. It is a station equipped with a platform comprising photo-regulated rooms with outdoor controlled experimental systems supplied with water that is pumped from the sea and independently filtered. For the purposes of this project, a system that provides precise control of the pH has also been installed. This platform is also equipped with respirometers, swimming tunnels and miniature homemade aquariums so that the embryos can be filmed and photographed without removing them from their capsule. The controlled conditions that we reproduce in the station correspond to those encountered in western and central Europe (surface temperatures between 19 °C (66 °F) in August and 10 °C (50 °F) in March, a salinity of 35 and an average pH of 8.1). In addition, the study of mineral structures is carried out at the X-ray micro-tomography platform of the Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution de Montpellier, which is equipped with an EasyTom 150 micro-tomograph.

What I do

I am interested in the responses of sharks and skates to climate change. To find out more about these responses, I do modelling of suitable habitats for different species that occur in the north-eastern Atlantic in relation to their ecological traits and I conduct experiments on the young life stages of a model species – the small-spotted catshark Scyliorhinus canicula – for the study of oviparous elasmobranchs in this region. In particular, I would like to understand the effects of acidification and increasing sea temperature on embryos and juveniles. This involves conducting experiments in controlled environments and taking different types of measurements. This project is the first to examine the effects of water acidification and warming, with monthly variations, on the development, physiology and behaviour of embryos and then juveniles in an integrated study. The embryonic development will be characterised from photographs taken every week. The metabolism of the embryos will be assessed by respirometry and their activity (caudal beats) will be measured from videos. Abnormalities in skeletal development and denticles will be studied using X-ray micro-tomography, a technique that allows for the reconstruction of 3D objects. Lateralisation, which plays an important role in fish behaviour and information processing, will be evaluated by analysing the movements (distance travelled, orientation, swimming activity) of juveniles placed individually in an aquarium. Their group behaviour will be tested by measuring classic schooling variables.

My project

Project See project and more news