CSM History

The creation of the Monaco Scientific Center (CSM), in 1960, by the Prince Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, aimed to provide the Principality of Monaco, with the means to conduct scientific research and to support the action of Governmental and International Organizations that are responsible for protecting and conserving marine life.
Since 1989, the CSM has specialised in the study of the functioning of coral ecosystems (tropical and Mediterranean) in relation to global climate change.
In this perspective, Marine Biomineralization and Symbiosis, key biological processes of these ecosystems, are studied from the molecular and cellular to the organismal scale by two research teams with complementary skills: a Physiology and Biochemistry team and an Ecophysiology team.


The beginning

Scientific research is a tradition in Monaco, since more than a hundred years. The initial impetus has been given by Prince Albert I, born 150 years ago. He explained his commitment and his passion for science in these terms:
"I thought that the most captivating study for a modern science-loving worker, with an independent spirit, would be the one that would mark the origin and trace the march of the life force, through the ages of our planet, ...".

It is this same spirit of curiosity and desire to contribute to the understanding of the “Great questions” about nature, its diversity and its evolution, H.S.H. Prince Rainier III, explained his desire to create the Scientific Center of Monaco, to provide the Principality with the means to conduct observations and research in the various fields of Science.
On November 16th, 1959, speaking at the opening of the First Scientific Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on the disposal of radioactive waste, H.S.H. Prince Rainier III underlined the fact that this conference was a continuation of Prince Albert I’ work. He underlined that He "had dedicated His life by choosing more particularly the scientific field as a field of international understanding and peace".
Continuing His presentation, H.S.H. Prince Rainier III, announced the setting up of new laboratories and declared: "Thus, after the end of this conference, the Principality will be able to continue to contribute to the pursuit of its essential objective, peace, health and prosperity of the whole world".
The Monaco Scientific Centre (CSM) has then, been asked to develop, in liaison with Governmental and International Organisations, research oriented towards the conservation and protection of marine life.
The CSM set up, at the Oceanographic Museum, a low radioactivity laboratory directed by researchers seconded by the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA). It also took charge of the Meteorology Observatory created by Prince Albert I and set up a neurobiology laboratory and a laboratory for the study of marine pollution.


From 1961 to 1989

Thus, from 1961 to 1989, the CSM monitored the radioactivity in the atmosphere and used natural and artificial radioactive carbon as a tracer of the great ocean currents and as an indicator of palaeontology.
Similarly, in the tradition of oceanographic and marine biology studies, the CSM has made valuable contributions to the assessment of deep-sea residence times, in the Mediterranean, the study of pollutant and organism transfers in the Mediterranean straits, the modelling of coastal water circulation, the fate of bacterial pollutants in the sea, and the effects of nutrient overload on natural cycles.
He has shown, in collaboration with the CNRS laboratories in Marseille, the adaptive capacities of marine mollusc nerve cell activity and has actively participated in the development by the Physical Oceanography Laboratory of the Natural History Museum in Paris of floats tracked by Argos satellites to study the major marine currents in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.


From 1990 to today

In 1990, CSM “Pollution Monitoring Laboratory” and “Meteorology and Seismology Observatory”, were taken over by the Environment Service of the Government of Monaco. This transfer was motivated by the high degree of standardization reached by environmental monitoring techniques. In particular, pollution control had left the field of research to enter that of administrative techniques, related to the verification of quality standards applicable to the environment.
In the same year, the Principality of Monaco joined the Partial Open Agreement on the prevention, protection and organization of relief operations against major natural and technological risks (EUR-OPA Agreement). This agreement, adopted by a resolution of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, on 20 March 1987, aimed to boost cooperation between member states, using all the current resources and knowledge, in order to ensure effective prevention, protection and organization of rescue operations. The agreement is said to be "open" because any non-member state of the Council of Europe could apply to join it. At the time of the Principality of Monaco's accession to this agreement, eight Centers were part of the network. Among them : the European Centre for Disaster Medicine in San Marino, the European University Centre for Cultural Heritage in Ravello (Italy), the European Centre for Earthquake Prevention and Forecasting in Athens (Greece), the Euro-Mediterranean Centre for Accidental Marine Contamination in Valletta (Malta), the European Natural Disaster Training Centre in Ankara (Turkey), the European Centre for Geo- and Morphodynamic Hazards in Strasbourg (France), the European Centre for Geodynamics and Seismology (Luxembourg) and the European Centre for Research on Public Information Techniques in Emergencies in Madrid (Spain). Following its accession to this Agreement, the Principality of Monaco created the European Oceanological Observatory (EOO) within the Scientific Centre of Monaco. This Observatory's initial mission was to develop research aimed at the prevention of major ecological risks and the regeneration of degraded environments. The proposed objective was then to study the effect of climate change on coral ecosystems. The latter has been chosen because of their major role in the global carbon and calcium cycle on a planetary scale, their particular sensitivity to climate change which was manifested by the phenomenon of bleaching and which could constitute an early warning signal.
In order to develop this research, CSM first set up a Physiology and Biochemistry team, which quickly welcomed thesis students of different nationalities. In 1993, an Ecophysiology team has been created to develop multidisciplinary research from the ecosystem to the molecule. The aim was understand the effects of climatic disturbances on coral ecosystems and to develop methods for detecting environmental stresses.
From 1994 to 2001, following the proliferation in the Mediterranean of the tropical algae Caulerpa taxifolia, an experimental ecology team has been created at the request of the Princely Government of Monaco.
Since October 2001, the activities related to the Partial Open Agreement of the Council of Europe have come under the supervision of the Permanent Delegate of the Principality of Monaco to International Organizations. The activities of CSM are thus, refocused on the mechanisms of marine biomineralization and symbiosis, with the focus of study on reef-building corals, Mediterranean red coral and related organisms.