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The Albert Lucas

The ALBERT LUCAS Oceanographic vessel

The inauguration ceremony for the Albert Lucas (the research vessel shared by IUEM and Iroise Marine Natural Park) was held in the port of Brest on 3 June 2010. The ship was christened by the navigator Anne Quéméré. (Click here to go to Anne Quéméré’s website).

The Albert Lucas is a multipurpose oceanographic vessel that enables multiple research tasks to be carried out in a wide range of fields, such as biology, ecology, chemistry, oceanography (physical and chemical) and geology.  It also contributes to monitoring activities, and training of Marine Science students. The ship is used on scientific diving missions and is involved in mapping, assessing and monitoring in the Iroise Marine Natural Park. In addition, it plays a key role in the testing of new methods and tools for the development of more environmentally-friendly human activities in the marine domain.

The ship is mainly used in the bay of Brest and in the Iroise Marine Natural Park (covering 3500 km2 from Île de Sein in the south to Ile d’Ouessant in the north, and extending offshore to the limit of French territorial waters in the west).

Albert Lucas

The station vessel is named after an enthusiastic scientist and naturalist who played a pioneering role in the first university college for the sciences [collège scientifique universitaire - C.S.U.] in Brest. Who was Albert Lucas?


The Albert Lucas in detail

Funding partners

The Albert Lucas was made possible by funding from CNRS/INSU and the French Marine Protected Areas Agency [Agence des Aires Marines Protégées], a public establishment governed by the French Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and the Sea [Ministère de l’Ecologie, de l’Energie, du Développement Durable et de la Mer]. Funding was also provided through the Project Contract between the French Government and the Brittany Region [Contrat de Projet Etat-Région 2007-2013] through the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research [Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche], Région Bretagne with the support of Conseil générale du Finistère, and Brest City Council [Brest Métropole Océane].

Scientific projects

The acquisition of this oceanographic vessel will contribute to the development of research activities by IUEM and the Iroise Marine Natural Park for a better understanding of coastal environment evolution. This environment is impacted by global and local pressures, which are predominately anthropogenic. IUEM’s marine and coastal environmental monitoring programme was conceived due to just such issues, in order to satisfy both societal demands and researchers’ needs by providing observation series to form a foundation for research on underlying mechanisms.

As the latest addition to the French research fleet, the Albert Lucas is a vital tool for advancing knowledge on the marine environment and its evolution.  IUEM, with its seven specialised ocean science laboratories, and the Iroise Marine Natural Park are working together towards a better understanding of the marine domain.  It was this common objective that led to the construction of a shared vessel.Until now, IUEM has conducted research with French inshore vessels or other small craft. For the teams involved, having a research vessel at their disposal that is specifically adapted for studying the coastal environment will enable them to fulfil their scientific goals in safe working conditions. The flexibility and convenience offered by a small ship attached to the institute opens new possibilities for the study of rapidly changing processes, e.g. exceptional phytoplankton blooms (toxic or non toxic) and benthic responses, because the frequency of cruises can be adjusted in real time, to correspond with hydroclimatic events.

Working with this type of equipment will be beneficial both for university research and its applications at regional, national and international levels.


The vessel was designed to support the research, teaching and monitoring activities of the European Institute for Marine Studies. It also fulfils the needs of the Iroise Marine Natural Park for knowledge and protection of the marine environment, and the sustainable development of human activities that depend on the sea. The vessel is co-owned by INSU and the French Marine Protected Areas Agency to which the Park is attached.


Due to their geographical location, the bay of Brest and the Iroise Sea are ideal environments for research on the evolution of coastal systems. Here, nutrient enrichment (resulting from recent agricultural intensification), a marked presence of contaminants and the proliferation of invasive species are occurring against a backdrop of climatic change and the decline of some key species. Many research programmes directly use the station vessel as a matter of course: these programmes are often multidisciplinary at both regional and international institution scales. IUEM’s overall approach towards coastal oceanography research reinforces its commitment to the development of integrated coastal zone management systems.


IUEM is a hub for Ocean Sciences training. It offers courses ranging from Master’s degrees to PhDs in all fields of the Marine Sciences.

The Institute’s “Ocean and Coastal Sciences” teaching is unique in France, comprising a Master’s degree with six specialities. Study cruises are an indispensable part of this training as they enable the sampling of water, plankton, flora and fauna, which is essential both as a teaching tool and as a means to study modern coastal oceanography techniques. It gives Master’s students onboard experience of conducting experiments and handling research equipment in the sea.


IUEM obtained the status of Observatory of Sciences of the Universe (OSU) in 2005.  A research vessel is essential to the Institute’s role in this context. The OSU is active in the three main fields of Marine and Coastal Sciences: climate, ocean and geophysical circulation (offshore), and the coastal environment.

IUEM strives to remain at the forefront of research, and will launch and run the first national Coastal Domain Observatory Network. Strategies for monitoring the water column, biological compartment and human uses have already been developed by the Institute’s laboratories.

Beyond the long-term monitoring of variability in the studied parameters, IUEM is currently building a database that will be accessible to the entire scientific community. Meanwhile, it continues to work towards understanding and predicting the behaviour of the systems under study. It is clear that a station vessel is vital for this monitoring work. IUEM is also looking into the vessel’s immediate deployment to hotspots in response to alarms received from continuous monitoring systems.


The Albert Lucas also serves the needs of the Iroise Marine Natural Park in its programmes on marine environment awareness and protection, and on sustainable development of human activities depending on the sea.

The Iroise Marine Natural Park authority is responsible for protecting an area of exceptional natural heritage and reconciling the conservation of its natural riches with the development of maritime activities (fisheries, water sports, tourism, etc.) that are dependent on the quality of the marine environment.  With this objective in mind, the vessel is being used in close cooperation with scientists to map, assess and monitor the Iroise Marine Natural Park area. This collaboration enables the Park to benefit from the use of modern investigation equipment and environment monitoring activities, and also offers an opportunity to build close relationships with leading research teams whose work is of direct interest to the Park and Iroise Sea stakeholders.

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