Monaco Oceanographic Museum more than 6,000 marine species protected by ALERT


The oceanographic museum,100 years of historypaying tribute to the sea


monaco.jpgThe Oceanographic museum, which was founded by Albert I, Prince of Monaco, in 1910 is an exceptional site entirely dedicated to the sea. It aims to develop oceanography and introduce the science to a wide audience, using the founding Prince's historical collections, temporary and permanent exhibits and the live collections in the site's aquarium..

Albert I was a sailor and pioneer of oceanography who led 28 scientific research campaigns from the North Atlantic to Spitsbergen in the Arctic between 1885 and 1915. The results of this research are presented as a permanent collection.
As early as 1903, the museum housed a library produced as a result of a very active policy of publication exchanges established by the Prince in 1890. The documents collected by Albert I together with the scientific library left as a legacy by Doctor Jules Richard (1863-1945), the Oceanographic Museum's first director, form the heart of the collections, which today include more than 28,000 works, reports and theses, 155 oceanographic expedition reports and 3,500 series of periodicals.
The Monaco Oceanographic Museum also houses an exceptional collection of over 400 works by artists and craftspeople from all the continents who, since the time of the Pharaohs, have been inspired by seashells and marine fauna.
In creating this "Temple to the sea", Albert I sought to make an exceptionally rich scientific and artistic heritage available to all, for all eternity. In addition to the natural history specimens which constitute a unique heritage, the collections include numerous objects: collection and measurement instruments, objects relating to underwater exploration, naturalists' paintings and drawings, ethnographic objects, works of art, models, photographs and films.

The Monaco Oceanographic Museum is unusual in the fact that it is simultaneously a natural history museum, science museum and art museum, and also houses one of Europe's most famous and best-stocked aquariums.

The aquarium, a unique marine wealth...

The Monaco aquarium is fact one of the oldest in Europe. As early as 1903, Mediterranean fish and invertebrates were kept in reinforced concrete tanks, and in 1931 tropical fish were shown to the public for the first time.
Today, the 90 tanks offer the visitor as many viewpoints on all of the planet's seas. The faithful reconstruction of ecosystems resulting from unique expertise enables the marine world to revel not only its secrets but also its beauty and diversity: the collection boasts 350 species of fish (with a total of more than 6,000 specimens), 200 species of invertebrates and more than 100 species of tropical coral. This exceptional wealth makes the aquarium one of the best in the world.

Apart from its educational role, the aquarium is also a remarkable tool for research in applied technology (preservation techniques for marine organisms, diseases, reproduction and water treatment).   It is also a precious resource for fundamental research into the physiology of coral and the ecology of reefs.


The aquarium is also involved in conservation projects: the cultivation and proliferation techniques developed in the coral farm are directly applied to the repopulation of reefs which have been damaged by human activity or climatic factors. Another example is the reproduction of marine species, and in particular endangered species: clown fish, seahorses and cuttlefish are reared successfully and form the subject of specific displays. The Banggai Cardinalfish, which is threatened by over-fishing, is reproduced on a large scale as part of an international programme involving public aquariums from all over the world.

... which demands constant vigilance

"The aquarium's tanks form a fragile ecosystem whose rare and delicate species require a stable living environment" stresses Thierry Thevenin, oceanographer and manager of the museum's IT systems. Their survival depends on a critical balance where the water's physico-chemical properties (salinity, oxygen, temperature, PH, etc) must be constantly monitored. Some of the most demanding species can only tolerate tiny variations from their optimal living conditions.
In 1993, it became indispensable to install a BMS (Building Management System) to make it possible to fine-tune the physico-chemical properties of the aquarium's tanks on a permanent basis.
Before this, the aquarium was monitored manually. "Patrols were organised daily, with a written checklist of monitoring to be carried out tank by tank", recalls Thierry Thevenin.

But firstly, problems were always possible between patrols, especially at night, with potentially disastrous consequences, and secondly, with the aquarium diversifying increasingly, requirements were reaching a level of complexity where only automatic monitoring could permanently maintain perfectly stable environments for the increasingly fragile species.

Light, salinity, PH, temperature, etc are all variables which are monitored on a permanent basis to maintain the balance in the tanks.

Shown is the "shark lagoon", a genuine technical and biological challenge with 400,000 litres of water, a depth of 6m and 30cm thick windows, behind which all the diversity of the reef is on show.


The BMS coupled with ALERT:
more than 333 parameters monitored in real time

In 1993, an invitation to tender was launched in order to install this BMS. The IC 2000 solution from Aura Technologies (now Infovision) was eventually chosen for the automatic monitoring. As it was based in the same technological park as Micromedia International, Aura Technologies chose to twin IC 2000 with ALERT for the management of the alarms.

Sensors were installed in the 50 most sensitive aquariums, to constantly measure temperature, oxygen level, salinity, PH, etc, according to the requirements of each tank. Information collected by the tanks was transmitted to remote ABP boxes, which served to pass the information to the IC 2000 machines via the 2km of cables that linked them together.

"More than 156 analogical variables (on the water's physico-chemical properties) and 177 digital variables (for technical parameters: flow, tank water level, etc) are analysed by the BMS every 8 milliseconds" explains Alexis Millot, who is responsible for operations within the aquarium.
When the BMS reaches a tolerance threshold, IC 2000 transmits the information to ALERT, which goes on to notify the right people, in the right place, giving the right information. Two on-call teams have been formed; a technical team (plumbers, electricians etc) and a biological team (for the care of the specimens).

The information is transmitted to the relevant people by telephone, using the ALERT voice server with 400 pre-recorded messages which make it possible to clearly identify the nature of the problem.

ALERT contacts in the first instance the on-site watchman, who is responsible for making an initial assessment, and above all for detecting artefacts. In fact, the main problem with BMSs in aquariums is managing false alarms. In order to keep levels stable, the sensors in the tanks are extremely sensitive. However, they are situated in a living environment, with all the difficulties that this creates. A fish which touches or stops too close to a sensor can provoke a completely false reading. The watchman therefore checks whether the alarm is genuine, then contacts the relevant team (technical or aquarium). The person dealing with the problem logs into the system using a password and neutralizes the alarm. This person can view the alarm history and the evolution of the parameters to assist in diagnosing the problem (for example, a sudden drop in temperature could be the result of a cold water inlet which had been left open, whilst a progressive drop would mean looking for a different cause for the problem). However, although the BMS would be capable of managing them, remote interventions have purposely not been programmed, in order to reduce the risk of error in such a fragile environment.

monaco5Several systems have been implemented to avoid false alarms, especially at night. Sensors have been sited in the best-protected areas, in the middle of the tanks. Different alarm thresholds have been set for day and night, for example, for a tank held at 25°C containing species which are not too fragile, the threshold has been set at 23°C during the day, and only 21°C at night. Delays have also been programmed between the reception of the information by IC 2000 and the activation of the alarm by ALERT: 240 secs for biological alarms, and 30 secs for technical alarms, which allows time for the system to regulate itself (particularly in case of artefacts) before disturbing the on-call person unnecessarily.
Finally, only those variables which constitute an emergency are transmitted to ALERT. The least sensitive variables monitored by the BMS (for example the level of diesel oil in the heating tank) are managed without transmitting alarms.

The BMS installed in 1993 is now obsolete. A new invitation to tender was therefore launched for renewing the entire system (including the PC and OS). Consequently, next October IC 2000 will be replaced by Genesis, a new-generation BMS, coupled with... the latest version of ALERT!

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