Ariège: Adeline Loyau humorously recounts her life as a mountain scientist in her first book

the essential
Adeline Loyau, a researcher at an ecology laboratory in Toulouse, publishes her first book. In The Tribulations of a Scientist in the Mountains, the adopted Ariégeoise wanted to “show behind the scenes” of humorous research.

Your research is already the subject of scientific articles and lectures. Why did you decide to publish a book in late April?

When you are a researcher, you write scientific papers and go to conferences where you explain your work to your colleagues. It is hyperfactual, without emotions and there is no other side. When you read us, you get the impression that everything happened to the best of the worlds. We make a hypothesis, we explain what worked in the end, but not all the faults or problems because we do not have time. However, real life is not that at all. Often there are problems, or we do not choose the right method or a donkey does not want to help us (smiles). Sometimes we realize that we were not asking the right question, that the assumption we made was not the right one. People are not aware of this whole process.

What should you share with the general public?

I needed to pamper myself and put all those emotions that can’t be shared through scientific articles. My goal was not to write a book for specialists on chytridiomycosis in the mountains (smiles). I wanted to write a book for people who would never read scientific articles. Under the humor and explaining something else, I want them to learn things about ecology; who look at amphibians, ecosystems and the mountain differently, without having that idea that is preserved, that there is no effort to make. As a researcher, we think about how to make people aware, whether it’s through numbers or emotions. I thought I could hook people up by telling them funny things (smiles).

Beyond the humor, your publisher considers this story to be “worthy of the best thrillers.” Is it a choice?

I see research as research. It’s like when you watch a series on TV, at first you don’t know the culprit. We have a question and we have to formulate hypotheses, collect evidence and elements to know if we are going in the right direction. I thought maybe I’d talk to more people. I like series with investigations where I also look for the culprits (laughs) so I think we can get a little caught up in the game.

This book explains part of the RACE project, a scientific research in the mountains dedicated to a pathogenic fungus that decimates amphibians. How did this project start?

The RACE project, led by an international team of about 40 researchers, really started in 2009. At first, we didn’t know why quitrid (a “killer fungus”) was present, especially in the mountains. We started with nothing, we just knew there was a pathogen and it was killing amphibians. We didn’t know where, or when, or how, or where it came from and how it worked and what caused death in individuals.

What role have you played in this 5-year research?

Matthew Fisher, an English epidemiologist working on pathogenic fungi, started the project. He was not an expert on amphibians and needed to surround himself with people who knew the species, knew where to find them and how to treat them. That’s how Dirk (Schmeller, her husband, editor’s note) and I got into the project. We have worked on the impact of the environment on the expression of the disease.

Ariège is very present in your book. How important is your territory to the RACE project?

Most of the survey was carried out in the Ariège Pyrenees, thanks to the rather special context of Ariège, with more vegetation and moss around the sites. We wondered what was going on, if there was anything different in Ariège, why amphibian populations were less affected in the department. The protector was not what we thought (laughs). Even for us it was a surprise.

Why are amphibians interesting subjects to study?

As a non-scientist, I find amphibians to be friendly and sympathetic. As a scientist, amphibians are very important for mountain ecosystems. If they disappear, the whole ecosystem will collapse in no time. In some places, it was clean. In ecosystems, they have two functions. On the one hand, adults eat, for example, biting insects in order to regulate nuisance to humans or livestock. On the other hand, tadpoles are water grazers. They eat algae and keep the water clean. Then amphibians are eaten by other animals. For example, we came across a small ermine that needs adult amphibians to be there to eat.

In your book, you talk about the amazing strategies that amphibians have developed over the centuries.

They live in harsh conditions in the mountains. They are very large and have survived thanks to very interesting behavioral strategies. They managed to overcome the limitations by inventing systems that we would not have imagined in a science fiction film (smile). There are species where tadpoles stick to their father’s back and eat the skin of their backs. It is normal for the father (river). If they tell you that your children will cost you the skin of their buttocks, some of them will cost you the skin of their backs (laughs). I find this crazy.

The book “The Tribulations of a Scientist in the Mountains” by Adeline Loyau, was published on April 27 by Glénat Editions

The desire to write other books about his research

Adeline Loyau, The Tribulations of a Scientist in the Mountains in His Hands.
MDD – Martin Boissereau

After enjoying writing her first book, Adeline Loyau plans to repeat the experience.

Live your passions. As a child, Adeline Loyau had two main interests: animals and books, especially biology. “I told my parents I wanted to be a writer and they made me realize it wasn’t a job, she rewinds. They advised me to go to a vet. (Laughs).”

By becoming a researcher, Ariégeoise has been able to combine her passions for animals and science with the most recent one for mountaineering, where she enjoys hiking. “It was an unexpected effect, he admits. It seemed unimaginable to me.” In writing his first book, The Tribulations of a Scientist in the Mountains, he adds that of literature.

“More enjoyable than writing scientific articles”

Adeline Loyau enjoyed this new writing experience. For three months this summer, he enjoyed re-immersing himself in his notes and memories. “I found it much more enjoyable than writing scientific articles,” he says. “I don’t write them in my mother tongue, in English, and we have to weigh every word.

Another change, the guarantee of seeing his work appear in a book: “For the first time in my life, I knew that the book would be published when it was not yet written,” he rejoices. If the researcher went through some periods of hesitation and “hots snaps” during the writing phase, she would like to renew it.

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