Deep Climate’s crazy mission in extreme environments. The interview

There were Argonauts. And now there will be Climatonautes. About two dozen volunteers have chosen to follow adventurous researcher Christian Klot for three crazy expeditions in extreme environments to allow scientists to study how humans are adapting to climate change like never before. Stéphane Besnard, medical manager and scientific co-director of the expedition research, reveals to us today the underside of this project. Deep Climate.

Jason and the Argonauts went in search of the Golden Fleece. Christian ClotChristian Clot and Climatonautes have been searching for answers for several weeks. A quest that may seem less dangerous than the heroes of Greek mythology, but it certainly won’t be easy. “I am back from GuyanaStéphane Besnard, medical manager and scientific co-director of research, admitted a few days ago. Deep Climate. I can tell you that in the equatorial forest you have to be alert at all times. Danger is everywhere. If we want everything to be good, there are rules that we must strictly follow.

It is clear that Christian Clot’s Climatonautes have followed training and education courses. They are prepared. As much as possible. The teams following them left nothing to chance. Everything is designed to ensure the safety of volunteers on the one hand, and the success of their search on the other.

Remember that it is a project Deep Climateit’s an equal group of 10 women and 10 men — some of whom were already experienced Deep Time Led by Christian Clot and his team Institute of Human Adaptation (HAI) — normally found in mainland France, in a temperate climate. On this occasion, they will encounter environments “a little more extreme”. First the heat and humidity of Guyana’s equatorial forest. The cold and dry climate of Lapland for several weeks. And finally, the hot and dry conditions prevailing in the deserts of the Middle East. Purpose: to understand how people can adapt climate changesclimate changes arrivals.

The underside of Deep Climate

Each shipment will last 40 days. You can imagine well with this number that constantly comes up in religious writings. As a symbol of the test. “We went on 40-day expeditions because scientific research was conducted on the groups [lors d’hivernage dans les bases polaires ou de missions dans la Station spatiale internationale (ISS), ndlr] show the cycles of evolution and the arrangement of the 40 days. However, in addition to studying the individual, we began to study how the group can contribute to adaptation.”Stefan Besnard explains.

A previous experiment by Christian Klot and his team was also conducted in 40 days. Deep Time forced about fifteen people to live at the bottom of a cave. To check their relationship over time. It was 2021.

Deep Time: Return to the open air after 40 days of confinement

But isn’t 40 days a bit short for observing acclimatization? “Some processes or rules change very quickly. Physiologically, within 10-15 days, in a warm environment, you begin to evacuate better. heatheat, for example. A few days are enough to get used to forest sounds on a sensory level », Deep Climate’s medical manager assures us. So, of course, 40 days will not be enough for the climatenauts, as well as the populations living in the equatorial forest of Guyana, to acclimatize. However, researchers expect to observe functional changes and remodeling of both muscles and brains. “We observed this in the participants of the Deep Time experiment. There is no reason why they should not appear here.”comments Stefan Besnard.

Between three 40-day expeditions, the team planned breaks. This time for 30 days. “We would like to shorten it. But there is a delay that is not compressed. Already a few days of measurement time. And then it’s time to change the direction of the material. We don’t have enough budget to specially charter the plane and reduce this delay. Most importantly, it allows us to perform recovery actions on volunteers. When you return from a mission and before you leave. These reacclimatization measurements will be as important as environmental data. They will let us know if everyone is recovering speedspeed and on what parameters »the Deep Climate medical manager tells us.

Researchers expect functional changes and remodeling of both muscles and brains

If the climatonauts were exposed first to the heat, then to the cold, and then to the heat again, it was not only to test their response to a sudden change in temperature. “We also had purely climatic restrictions. Amazon, we were supposed to go there in December. Finding hot and humid conditions as you like. The survey of Lapland was to be conducted in February, which was the coldest there. For the desert, April or May seemed perfect for us. To find the hottest conditions »Stefan Besnard explains.

The problem: measuring people in the field

Especially since it’s on site, there’s no escaping the Climatonauts. Except for emergencies, of course. No need to rub your thumbs either. “We didn’t just want to put them in extreme environments, we wanted them to do something physicalphysical, the obligation to direct and act. To get closer to what we do every day. And measure how well their functions remain functional. » In the program, therefore, not an ultra-trail, but rafting and hiking in the forest of Guyana, skiing in Lapland and pulling carts in the desert. More than a few hundred kilometers the same. Without motorized vehicles or outside assistance. To allow scientists to evaluate bothenergyenergy how the volunteers will hesitate, make mistakes and finally achieve orientation in space to follow their route. Individually and in groups, always. “These functions are important. They can break down very quickly from outside temperature. »

These functions are important. They can break down very quickly from outside temperature.

The challenge for researchers will be to successfully measure these parameters in the field. “In the laboratory, we can use large climate chambers and heavy measuring systems. But we didn’t want to and couldn’t do it in the forestStefan Besnard explains. We have done a lot of work above to find portable systems capable of collecting data that will be useful to us. Recorders to sleepto sleep hour electrodeelectrode eg single. And we are always looking for new technologies. We continue to test it.” The doctor does not talk about these things here programsprograms which has been blooming for several months. “They are not scientifically reliable. They are not calibrated. They work for almost 10% of the population. »

The scientific leader of the expedition, Christian Clot, did not hesitate to develop certain systems himself. Like a sociometer that records important information about climatenauts. A box no bigger than a big boxmatchesmatches and slips into a jacket pocket. through BluetoothBluetoothdetects each interaction. “The sociometer doesn’t let you know what’s being said or record the glances exchanged, but it quantifies who is with whom and at what distance, who stays with whom, and who rearranges with whom. This is the only system available today.Stefan Besnard rejoices before trusting us. “To top it all off, we are also in the process of developing a measurement system that will allow for individual monitoring. It’s not a trick. A real scientific instrument is something developed by teams GoogleGoogle and his opponents do not yet have: medical and scientific experience in the difficult terrain. »

It is still necessary to be armed with a little patience to find the first results of the Deep Climate experiment. “By the end of 2023, we should be able to publish interesting things”, Stefan Besnard believes. It is far away. But for science, it remains relatively fast. “We did not want to interfere with the research time. We did not want to spend 5 years to publish the first results. We need them sooner so that we can apply them in the field. » Combining epigenetics with biology for comprehensive results cognitioncognitionpsychology and psychiatry, physiology, microbiotamicrobiota gut, ecology and geography, biodiversity, climate impact, ethnology and sociology, but still we will have to wait for a good year. It’s time for scientists to analyze the thousands, if not hundreds, of thousands of data brought back by Climatenauts. We are all looking forward to…

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