PlanktoQuest is a new virtual reality animation to explore and manipulate the marine plankton with hands. To build PlanktoQuest, we used 3D models of different phytoplankton (microalgae) including their organelles (chloroplast, mitochondrion, nucleus) that we generated with 3D electron microscopy. You can stretch, dissect, feed different plankton as well as entering inside them with just your hands and a headset (no computer, no controllers). This project, which was possible thanks to the financial support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, aims at stimulating curiosity and providing knowledge on the microscopic life of plankton to a broad audience.
Virtual reality is a very efficient technology to communicate with the general public and has the power to engage and inspire students in education. Virtual reality is known to enhance attention, motivation and provides attractive and effective learning. Planktonic microorganisms encompass a tremendous diversity of life forms, and play key roles in marine food web and biogeochemistry of oceanic ecosystems. Despite the crucial importance of marine plankton in the marine ecosystems and the climate of our planet, the general public still has only a diffuse/abstract idea of how all these marine microorganisms floating in the oceans look like. Yet, because plankton is essentially microscopic, it remains largely inaccessible/elusive and unknown, hence insignificant, from the general public and decision-makers. 3D animation is therefore a very attractive and suitable approach to convey scientific knowledge and the beauty of this underwater planktonic world.
Based on virtual reality, we developed the PlanktoQuest project, which aims at unveiling the wonderful and complex microscopic world of plankton and raising awareness on plankton diversity and ecological significance. You can interactively explore inside marine microalgae (phytoplankton) by using just your hands (no controllers): you can choose and catch a swimming plankton, dissect the organelles and learn more from them, feed the plankton with nutrients, and do a 360° voyage inside a cell. We used 3D models from 3D electron microscopy data (FIB-SEM: Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscopy) of different organelles of microalgae (chloroplast, mitochondrion, nucleus) covering different microalgal groups, such as coccolithophores, dinoflagellates, haptophytes. The immersion in the ocean was further amplified by real sounds from marine organisms, thanks to the expert in eco-acoustics Lucia Di Iorio.
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for the financial support
Julien Brunet, Florent Hauss and all the team 3Dcreation
Team Photosymbiosis (Daniel Yee for english translation)
Planktomania, Fabrice Not, and Alexis Decelle
Microscopy Plateform MEM – Benoit Gallet and Guy Schoehn – Institut de Biologie Structurale de Grenoble
Yannick Schwab, Paolo Ronchi, Nicole Schieber (European Molecular Biology Lab – Heidelberg)
Pierre-Henri Jouneau (CEA Grenoble)
Lucia Di Iorio (Univ.Perpignan) for the sounds of marine organisms
April 2023: Lorient (France) Departure of the sailing boat Tara for the TREC expedition, Roscoff (France)
June 2023: Académie du Climat (Paris) – 2ème édition du Festival Culture Océan by the team TaraOceans.