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LéXPLORE: A floating laboratory on Lake Geneva offering unique lake research opportunities

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Abstract Environmental sciences depend heavily on observational data. Successful studies of ecological processes in lakes require in‐situ data that cover the relevant temporal scales from milliseconds to entire seasons. Temporal and spatial coverage requirements represent a non‐trivial challenge in lake sciences, which have traditionally used sampling campaigns conducted from research vessels or anchored moorings. These come with various logistical tasks and impose constraints on data coverage. An open water platform can overcome many of these limitations by providing continuous access and a wide range of analytical capabilities in direct contact with the lake environment. A consortium of five partner institutions constructed a 10 × 10 m, open‐water, multipurpose platform on Lake Geneva (Switzerland/France) for a broad range of limnological research. The LéXPLORE platform, anchored since February 2019 at a position reaching 110 m depth off the lake's north‐shore, provides workspace for a large number of instruments and up to 16 staff working in parallel on individual or integrated multidisciplinary projects. The safe, dry and protected floating laboratory offers direct access to the lake environment for high‐sensitivity, high‐throughput analyses including those which might advance sensor technology. The platform provides flexible workspace for both high‐resolution measurements and investigations of larger‐scale external forcing. It thus supports multidisciplinary empirical research in limnology, atmospheric sciences, and remote sensing. This article describes the platform and how it will advance aquatic sciences. The large number of projects that have already requested access to the platform demonstrate the efficacy and necessity of the LéXPLORE concept. This article is categorized under: Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness Water and Life > Methods
Side view of LéXPLORE from the south with the town of Pully in the background. The image shows the sheltered laboratory and exterior meteorological instruments (a), solar panels (b), on roof and towards south, two A‐frames (c), the outdoor moonpool (d) with electrical winch (e), support frame for lifting loads (f), and the structure maintaining a thermistor chain (g). Blue anchor winches with cables for positioning rest at all four corners (h) and are mounted with navigation lights (i). The two doors access the toilet (k) and the laboratory (l). Battery banks and diesel‐generator rest inside the pontoon‐hull. The yellow buoys delineate the safety perimeter (j) for instrument protection. Reprinted with permission from Florian Bentlee, Stuttgart, Germany
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Thetis profiler measurements at LéXPLORE: Thetis deployment with various sensors inside the cylindrical black‐meshed rack (a) and Thetis rising and breaching the surface with its antenna installed above the bright‐yellow buoyancy body (b). The antenna operates via FreeWave radio technology. The three panels show examples of vertical temperature (c), oxygen (d), and chlorophyll‐a (e) data series collected by Thetis in the upper 50 m of the water column near LéXPLORE at a resolution of ~3.0 h. Black‐dashed and white lines, respectively, indicate the thermocline and euphotic depths. Thetis can also acquire electrical conductivity, hyperspectral absorption and attenuation, backscattering and fluorescence at discrete wavelengths, PAR and hyperspectral up‐welling and down‐welling radiations (Appendix S1). These exemplary profiles show a warming period in April 2020 interrupted by 2 days of wind‐driven mixing/upwelling (black arrow in c) and subsequent chlorophyll‐a and oxygen accumulation in the epilimnion. Reprinted with permission from Minaudo et al. (2021)
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LéXPLORE elements (from top left to bottom right): (a) outdoor work area, (b) outdoor moonpool with electric crane (left) and pump system (right), (c) Wirewalker deployment using an A‐frame, (d) partially covered indoor moonpool, and (e) office work area
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Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness

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