Department of Physical Resources and Deep-Sea Ecosystems

The Department of Physical Resources and Deep-sea Ecosystems (REM) tackles scientific and technological challenges. Its research involves the study of the seafloor and the sub-seafloor, the geological evolution of continental shelves, past climate variation, geological risks, biodiversity and the dynamics of deep-sea ecosystems and the interaction between the biosphere and the geosphere on scales ranging from bacteria to the glacial cycles.

Its mission is to meet the needs for scientific observation and monitoring from the coastline to the depths of the ocean on various timescales. Its research is conducted on the interactions of materials and structures with the marine environment and leads to innovations with regard to marine renewable energies.

Scope and focus

The ocean covers a little more than 70% of the Earth’s surface but the ocean remains largely unexplored. Enhancing knowledge is the main focus of the Department. and involves exploring various compartments (seafloor, the sub-seafloor, ecosystems), mineral resources (aggregates, nodules, sulphide deposits, metal-rich crusts, etc.), energy resources (oil and gas, marine renewable energy), and biological resources (biodiversity, strains, molecules, etc.) whose wealth is still unknown.

To better study this environment, particularly given the context of global change, and the potential of all the reserves it harbours, it is necessary to better understand the phenomena that determine their creation and their locations. The basic knowledge of the deep sea is essential given the variety of geological, ecological and biological processes that take place there and the diversity of ecosystems it supports. In terms of resources, and in the context of energy transition, develop technologies to better harvest the marine sources of renewable energy that the ocean provides.


To address these scientific, economic, geopolitical and societal issues, the REM Department conducts research and innovation on three topics:

  • enhance knowledge on the geology, geophysics and geochemistry of the deep sea,
  • discover the mechanisms that support biodiversity in these environments and identify the associated ecosystem services,
  • develop specific tools for the measurement of physical, chemical and biological parameters in these extreme environments,
  • contribute to innovations with regard to marine renewable energies.

It is therefore specifically involved in research on :

  • the formation of continental shelves. Continental shelves are records of past global changes, and are centres of resource accumulation, particularly hydrocarbons. The study of continental shelves requires modelling and determining biogeochemical budgets based on observations provided by high-resolution imaging tools, seismic tools and acoustic tools.
  • geological and geochemical processes related to fluid circulation on continental shelves and ocean ridges. To locate hydrothermal activity in various geological settings, it is important to understand the variability of these processes, identify the most active zones and to determine the factors that control the size and composition of sulphide deposits. Specific exploration tools have been developed to facilitate cost-effective exploration.
  • geological risks The oceans are centres of seismic activity, the formation of gas hydrates and submarine slides due to sediment accumulation, all of which lead to risks for the coastline and offshore installations are other exploitation areas (e.g. oil and gas industry, submarine cables).
  • study of ecosystems. The studies undertaken aim to describe biological diversity of deep-sea ecosystems and determine the interactions that occur between biological communities and their biotope using inter-disciplinary approaches on multiple scales, from molecules to ecosystems. These studies target the human-induced effects on the deep-sea environment and its biodiversity.
  • behaviour of offshore installations. This research seeks to understand the physical, chemical and biological mechanisms that cause polymers and composites to age in the marine environment, and also to produce scientific and technical knowledge to design appropriately sized structures and equipment (modelling fluid-structure interactions, experimental simulations) and to contribute to the development of demonstrators of marine energy converters for all MRE sectors.

The attractiveness of the department lies in its capacity to tackle technological challenges required for the development of marine instrumentation based on varied disciplines, the improvement of in situ measurement devices (exploration, resource assessment, environmental impact, warning systems), and the setting up of experimental techniques in the laboratory to simulate certain deep-sea phenomena.

This capacity contributes to the development of innovative and reliable equipment for commissioning new deep-sea oil fields, prolonging production in mature oil fields and exploiting mineral resources and marine renewable energy resources.

Deep-Sea Ecosystems research unit

The Deep-sea Ecosystems (Étude des Écosystèmes Profonds — EEP) research unit seeks to describe and understand the composition, structure and functioning of various deep-sea ecosystems using integrated, multi-disciplinary approaches and focuses on all faunal and microbial compartments, from molecules to populations.

Technological Research and Development research unit

The Technological Research and Development (Recherche et Développements technologiques — RDT) research unit contributees to the technological developments required for the exploration and sustainable exploitation of the oceans as well as environment monitoring from the coast to the depths.

Marine Geosciences research unit

The Marine Geosciences (Géosciences Marines — GM) unit carries out research to enhance knowledge on the ocean domain (geological structures and processes in the deep sea, exploration of the continental shelf and the deep seabed), and participates in the technological developments required to conduct this research.