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Last update: May 2021

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Hervé Philippe - senior chair 2013

A new "senior" operation of attractiveness for TULIP

Herve Philippe
© Univ. Montreal
At random or by choice, scientists may be crossing over scientific boundaries and position themselves at the interface of scientific fields. This is Hervé Philippe’s choice, which makes him a precursor in that sense. He recently joined the Experimental Station of Ecology in Moulis (SEEM) thanks to the TULIP LabEx fellowship.

While his initial training led him to vulcanology, a then not so trendy field of investigation, this scientist with a passion for evolution, got the advice from Jean-Jacques Jaeger, to turn to another field: molecular biology and evolution. “We were the second laboratory in France to carry out this activity, it was a vague but promising field of investigation. Now, that this scientific domain has profoundly modified phylogenetic approaches and impacted ecology, I am convinced of the relevance of my choice”. After ten years at the University of Montreal, he recently joined the TULIP LabEx, owing to one of its “mobility packages”, for, he hopes, a final comeback to southern France.

His field of action particularly tackles species evolution, the study of phylogenetic trees and speciation events over time. For example, one of his projects, from past crises, is to compare the renewal of ecological niches. It doesn’t simply rely on basic research: one of his objective is to anticipate the biodiversity crisis caused by human activities particularly involved in habitat degradation. The goal is to identify key species, taxa to focus on, for conservation efforts and thus provide an opportunity to preserve their environment. Besides the iconic polar bear or panda, all species can bring an amazement... A virus can be considered part of it! The phenomenon of extremely brutal development of algae in the ocean masses, also called "algal bloom" can deprive of oxygen an entire area of water which leads to the death of all aerobic species, such as fish, crustaceans... unless the “good” viruses get involved. "Hence the importance of understanding species interactions!" He says. "I hope to determine, thru an ecological crisis, what brings extinction or leads to diversification. At a short term level, I will focus on photosynthetic eukaryotes and early diversification of animals like sponges, cnidarians ..."

Although deeply concerned by his scientific activities, Hervé Philippe manages to look at things from a distance: “We notice that the biodiversity withering is directly linked to the expansion of its knowledge. But this type of research can potentially be questioned considering fewer people are able to understand our results.” A direct lead of this type of activity is a broad communication to non-scientific people: “I don’t want to play a political role but I am deeply convinced of the importance of sharing knowledge through popular books, conferences…” It is indeed, a wide program that can be achieved throughout several years of research…