Université de Strasbourg

Yvon Le Maho & Victor Planas-Bielsa

Biography - Yvon Le Maho

Hubert Curien Pluridisciplinary Institute (IPHC), University of Strasbourg and CNRS, France

Yvon Le Maho, USIAS Fellow 2022

Yvon Le Maho obtained his master's degree from Pierre and Marie Curie University (Paris) and a PhD from Claude Bernard Lyon University (France). He is an Emeritus research director at CNRS, project manager at the Monaco Scientific Center, member of the French Academy of Sciences, associate member of the French National Academy of Pharmacy, and foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. He was president of the Scientific Council for Natural Heritage and Biodiversity (CSPNB), which advised the successive French ministers of environment, for eleven years. Formerly, he has also been president of the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Section of the Academia Europaea, president of the Scientific Council and Board of Directors of the French Polar Institute, and member of the Board of Directors of the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco.

In his research, which focuses on marine predators such as penguins and sea turtles, his main objective is to understand their behavioural and physiological adaptation to environmental change. This includes the study of these physiological adaptations as a source of biomedical innovation. To achieve these objectives, Yvon Le Maho was one of the pioneers of satellite tracking of animals and the development of bio-logging, i.e. the use of miniaturised measuring instruments fitted to animals moving freely in their natural environment in order to study their movements and acquire physiological information. While bio-logging has thus revolutionised our knowledge, the impact of the handling of animals and these instruments has become a major concern. In this context, Yvon Le Maho has pioneered the use of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and robotics to minimise human disturbance. He is the author/co-author of 324 papers, including 12 in Nature, Nature Climate Change, Nature.com and Nature Methods (two with cover). H 67 (Res. Gate).

Biography - Victor Planas-Bielsa

Monaco Scientific Center (CSM) & USIAS Fellow, Hubert Curien Pluridisciplinary Institute (IPHC), University of Strasbourg and CNRS, France

Victor Planas-Bielsa, USIAS Fellow 2022Victor Planas-Bielsa has a degree in theoretical physics from the University of Zaragoza (Spain) and a PhD in mathematics from the University of Nice (France). He has always been at the interface between different disciplines and is currently a research scientist (chargé de recherche) at the Monaco Scientific Center.

His research focuses on the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning for the acquisition and analysis of behavioural data of marine predators, like penguins and sea turtles. His main objective is to develop techniques for identifying and capturing movement with minimal, or even zero, perturbation for the animals, in order to avoid unnecessary stress to the animals and any possible researcher bias. 

During his stay in Strasbourg, Victor Planas-Bielsa will be hosted by Dr. Caroline Habold and Yvon Le Maho at the Hubert Curien Pluridisciplinary Institute (IPHC).

Project - Remote data acquisition in penguin colonies

01/09/2022 - 31/08/2024

This project is at the interface between ethics and science. Indeed, one of the major - and too often neglected - issues in the study of animals evolving freely in their natural environment is to acquire data that is not biased by the impact of the studies themselves and, in particular, by disturbance of human origin. We have already shown that the use of a ROV (remote-controlled vehicle) avoids the considerable disturbance that a human presence causes during the collection of scientific data in a breeding colony of penguins. The ROV approach does not cause any greater disturbance than that generated by the movement of a fellow penguin. However, as the latter may represent a potential rival, the question is whether the disturbance caused by the ROV can be further minimised. According to the behavioural and physiological reaction of penguins to the approach of the intruder represented by the ROV, our main objective is to understand the elements (aspect, approach modalities...) that have resulted in their perception of it presenting a greater or lesser danger, according to their history and personality, in order to be able to minimise this perception of danger...

One of the main difficulties in achieving this objective is the acquisition of data corresponding to the behavioural reaction of individuals whose history is known, who must therefore be identified, and whose movements and modalities of approach of the ROV, must also be recorded. This implies as a first step the development of a new method that can automate the acquisition of all these data. Before being implemented in the natural environment, this first step is conducted on Humboldt penguins in the Paris Zoological Park. The aim is to develop a new method of individual identification of these penguins by imaging, using a machine learning approach. Each individual has specific black spots on the white plumage of its abdomen. The method is validated by RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), due to its short reading distance on a connected gateway supporting smart cameras. Automated tracking of penguin movements is developed in parallel. Once the identification and tracking of movements has been automated, we will proceed to the second step consisting of the simultaneous study of behavioural and physiological reactions to the approach of the ROV, as the heart rate of the penguins is an indicator of their stress level.

By avoiding the biases resulting from the impact of a human presence in the data acquisition, and through the machine learning approach that will permit the collection of more robust data on the behavioural reactions of the animals, this project will open new research perspectives, and not only for penguins.

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