You can find this interview in Letter N°6 sent to the members of the Friends of the Tour du Valat.
Marion Vittecoq is a researcher at Tour du Valat, studying pathogens’ dynamics at the interface between wildlife, livestock and human populations.
She has been a member of the Association’s Board since its inception and is the Assistant Secretary.
When did you first visit Tour du Valat and what was the occasion?
I came in the summer of 2009 to do an interview for a PhD. My friend Anne-Sophie Deville was driving me (without knowing she would join me the following year) and we were running very late. Despite my lack of punctuality I was accepted to work on avian flu. I spent three very exciting years and when the opportunity arose in 2014 to become part of the team for the longer term, I did not miss it.
What was your first impression?
I thought, “Great, we can do research on biodiversity while being surrounded by it and by passionate people! Where do I sign?” I immediately loved this setting. I was so motivated that, not having the driving licence, I proposed to my PhD director to do all my field work by bike! He was not convinced so I took the driving test as soon as possible and in the meantime I cycled from Arles during the first weeks.
What is your best memory at Tour du Valat?
There are many and I do not like ranking so I will mention one of the last ones. I was participating in an ibis ringing. We entered the marsh of Bomborinette. It was early morning, grazing light conditions and cobwebs glittered with dew in the reeds. Ibises, cormorants, egrets were passing above us… in the distance the bulls were quietly crossing, water up to their chest. I said to myself, as often, that I was lucky to be there.
What was your best encounter at the Tour du Valat?
Once again I do not like ranking. I would say that what I find rewarding is the mixture between, on the one hand, a team of passionate people, who have been here for a long time and have a lot to pass on, and on the other hand, the regular passage of many researchers, students, managers from the four corners of the world.
What emblematic species of Camargue do you prefer?
Are you done asking me to make choices! Alright, I will name a parasite, the great liver fluke, which spends its entire life in the bile ducts of cattle, coypus and sometimes humans. It is not specific to the Camargue, but it particularly likes it here because it loves wetlands. It can cause significant economic losses, especially in dairy herds, but in the Camargue it seems that although the great liver fluke is very abundant, there is no or very little impact on Camargue bulls. It is even possible that this parasite blocks the way for other parasites, but we must continue investigating to find out more.
Why did you join the Friends of Tour du Valat Association?
I joined the Association since its inception because I like sharing my passion for knowledge and being an advocate for biodiversity (which includes parasites, viruses, bacteria and other small unloved critters, yes, yes). The Association allows me to interact around these themes with a large number of people from various horizons.
Do you have any advice or messages to pass on to future generations who will come spend some time at Tour du Valat?
To future generations, is it that I already belong to the past? I have to accept it. When you’re here, unless you’re cloistered away in your office, you’re struck by the beauty and diversity of the Camargue environment and that’s as important if not better than anything you might have read about the importance of wetlands conservation before arriving here. We are also immersed, not only in our waders and their dubious smell in the hot hours, but also in a team very involved in this conservation. Even if you only come for a short stay, you are left struck with the beauty of the natural environment and the energy transmitted by all the people you meet. So I have only one recommendation to make: Come