From ObseRving to Modelling oceAn Life

FORMAL aims to study the dynamics of life in the ocean at various spatial and temporal scales. It will build on the huge quantity of various marine data (omics, imaging, acoustics, satellite) that has been acquired by the members of the team on marine life (viruses, bacteria, plankton, fish), either at global scale (e.g. Tara Oceans) or at long-term observatories (e.g. the time-series data from the 3 marine stations of Sorbonne Université). The scientific objectives are:
  1. to develop new methods to analyse and combine high throughput data in oceanography, especially imaging and omics data, but not only;
  2. to improve existing marine ecosystem models through data assimilation, and develop new statistical and mechanistic models to represent the dynamics of biological systems in the ocean; and
  3. to structure the scientific community at SU working on the analysis of marine data and on the modelling of ocean life, both in Paris and in the 3 marine stations of SU. For instance, we regularly organize online seminars.


  • Next FORMAL webinar (March 8th 2021) by Anne-Laure Dalibard, Prof. in applied mathematics at the LJLL of SU and recently nominated as Junior Member of the Institut Universitaire de France (IUF). The video of the webinar is available here. Title of the presentation (given in French): Structures multi-échelles en mécanique des fluides.
  • Save the date! Emile Faure will defend his PhD on the 2nd of December 2020. His PhD thesis is entitled: “Apport des données méta-omiques dans la détection et la quantification des traits fonctionnels au sein des écosystèmes planctoniques”. Due to the Covid situation, the defense will append remotely.
  • Next FORMAL webinar by Eric Orenstein on plankton imaging and machine learning (Nov. 23rd 2020). Eric will soon join the LOV and FORMAL for his post-doc!
  • Interested in deep learning and plankton imaging?Join the workshop on Deep Learning pour le traitement et l’analyse d’images et de sons en écologie that will take place online on November 16th and 17th. Sakina-Dorothée Ayata is part of the organizing committee and Jean-Olivier Irisson and Frédéric Maps will present some of our work related to FORMAL!
  • If you have missed the 7th EMB Forum on Big Data in Marine Science that occured online on October 23th, the recordings of the sessions are available here on the EMB YouTube Channel, including the invited presentation of Sakina-Dorothée Ayata on the role of big data, digitalization and artificial intelligence in marine science to support of the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. Sakina’s recorded presentation is also available here.
  • Benoit Sarels is currently a guest at the Wolfgang Pauli Institute in the University of Vienna.
  • Congratulations to Jean-Olivier Irisson for his HDR defense! His HDR is entitled “Towards a computational ecology of plankton”.
  • Congratulations to Lucie Bittner and Anne-Laure Dalibard who have been appointed for 4 years as Junior Member of the Institut Universitaire de France (IUF) !
  • New! The videos of the presentations of the first FORMAL Webinar on “Marine Big Data” and organised on June 18th 2020 are available on the webinar webpage.
  • The deadline for applying to our post-doc offer in applied mathematics and ecosystem modelling in Paris has been extended to May 31th.
  • Given the current pandemic situation, our activities such as our monthly seminars and our annual workshop have been postponed until further notice. Stay safe, stay home!
  • The first FORMAL workshop on “Marine data” IS POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE will be held on Friday 15th May 2020 at ISCD in Paris: More information will come soon.
  • Two post-doc positions at FORMAL/ISCD are open! One in applied mathematics and ecosystem modelling in Paris, the other on machine learning and plankton imaging in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Please apply if you are interested!
  • To be informed of our future activities, please register here.

Scientific Coordinators

Dr. Sakina-Dorothée Ayata, Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche-sur-Mer, Sorbonne Université

Benoit Sarels
Dr. Benoît Sarels, Laboratoire J.L. Lions, Sorbonne Université


Major research units connected with the team:

  • Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche-sur-mer (LOV), Sorbonne Université, Villefranche-sur-mer.
  • Institut de Systématique, Evolution, Biodiversité (ISYEB), Sorbonne Université, Paris.
  • Laboratoire J.L. Lions (LJLL), UMR 7598, Sorbonne Université, Paris.
  • Laboratoire de Biologie Intégrative des Modèles Marins (LBIM2), Sorbonne Université, Roscoff.
  • LOCEAN, Sorbonne Université, Paris.
  • Genoscope, CEA, Evry-sur-Seine.