“Researchers who seek, we find, but researchers who find, we seek…” This formula, which gently mocks the scientific world, is demolished by women and men working in the shadows of their laboratories without that the result of their work is necessarily known to the general public. Emma Lavaut, originally from Urzy, is part, at 26, of this elite, thanks to her recent discovery on pollination in the marine environment.
A researcher in training at the CNRS in Roscoff, Finistère, she is preparing a three-year doctorate and conducting a thesis on reproduction in red algae, in partnership with Chile.
With the team in which she works, she discovered that a small marine crustacean, called idotée, acts like a bee: by moving among the algae to feed, it disseminates the male reproductive cells from one plant to the other. These results suggest that pollination interactions between animals and plants are much older than scientists thought.
First time that the fertilization of an algae by means of an animal is highlighted
This phenomenon was, until now, studied only on terrestrial flowers and it was not until 2012 before discovering that it could also occur in the marine environment, on turtle grass. From there, the research was extended to other species, including algae, but this is the first time that the fertilization of an algae by means of an animal has been highlighted.
For the experiment, male and female red algae were placed in aquariums, some containing endowed and some not. The results were unequivocal: very significant fertilization was observed in the presence of the small crustacean, confirmed by observation under a microscope.
Important consequences in terms of biodiversity
This discovery, which could have significant consequences in terms of biodiversity, earned Emma Lavaut the honors of many media, including the prestigious journal Science, in its edition of July 29. She also took part, during the week of August 16 to 20, in an international congress in Prague, where she received many testimonials of satisfaction, after the presentation of her work.
In order to recover from these strong and legitimate emotions, Emma Lavaut, who would like to become a teacher-researcher, tasted a few days of vacation with Amine, her husband, also a researcher, but in fresh water?; it studies the impact of organic matter on waterways. In the meantime, the young woman made a stopover with her parents in Urzy, where her father owns the Adhécalko company. Her mother is a science teacher.
Curriculum vitae. Emma Lavaut was born on January 8, 1996, in Nevers. She was educated at the Pierre-Malardier school, in Urzy?; at the Jean-Jaurès college, in Guérigny?; and at the Lycée Jules-Renard, in Nevers. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology in Clermont-Ferrand and two master’s degrees in the field of marine and environmental sciences, in Toulon and Perpignan.