LéXPLORE - a novel floating platform to advance aquatic sciences

LéXPLORE platform from the air © Florian Bentele / Photographer Stuttgart 2021

LéXPLORE platform from the air © Florian Bentele / Photographer Stuttgart 2021

Discover the new article describing in detail the novel LéXPLORE platform. We also present the new research opportunities that this unique infractructure has opened.

Why do we need a floating platform to study lakes?

Understanding changing lakes in times of climate warming require novel and multidisciplinary measurements taken at high resolution and in any weather conditions. To bridge this data gap and allow measurements that were impossible before, a floating laboratory was installed on Lake Geneva in 2019. Traditionally, researchers investigate lakes during day visits from boats or with submersible instruments installed directly in the water, with many logistical constraints. LéXPLORE floating platform overcome these limitations by providing an optimal working environment directly on the lake. The platform further enhance collaborations across disciplines through a strong partnership between five research institutions in Switzerland and France. Any international research is welcome to benefit from this facility and its active collaborations.

What are the main characteristics of the LéXPLORE platform?

With this platform, we can bring the laboratory to the lake and attract many disciplines to work jointly. The multipurpose pontoon of 10 m x 10 m provide spacious and safe-working conditions for up to 16 researchers simultaneously. Multiple and interdisciplinary projects can thus work in parallel and profit from each other. In the cabin, non-weatherproof laboratory instruments are installed on the lake for direct measurements. It also provide an ideal setting to test and develop new technologies in-situ. The key technical features are high-tech instrumentation, a stable electricity supply, data transfers in real-time, a water pumping system for multiple depths, and facilitated accesses to the lake. Around the platform, a protected perimeter of 15’000 m2 allows to safely install submersible instrumentation. In addition, a core dataset with background information is openly available on the online data portal www.datalakes-eawag.ch, supporting researchers to interpret the key processes in lakes. The scientists can also take advantage of an open model in 3 dimensions, that provide the hydrodynamic within the entire Lake Geneva with 5 days predictions.

Developing new research opportunities across disciplines

The LéXPLORE platform has the potential to advance aquatic science in different topics, which require interdisciplinary teams working in parallel on the same question from different angles. We can cite as examples the connection between physical and biogeochemistry mechanisms of the carbon cycle, gas exchange dynamics at the air-water interface, diverse applications for remote sensing, high-frequency monitoring of algae, as well as the evolution of fish populations. Over 30 projects already make use of the platform. Some projects concentrate on the ecosystem functioning including viruses, bacteria, mussels, phytoplankton to fishes. Other projects focus on key physical and biogeochemical processes or on evaluating pollution such as microplastics. A significant number of projects develop and test new technologies such as bio-sensors or underwater modem. This great interest from researchers demonstrate the efficacy and necessity of the LéXPLORE platform.

Natacha Pasche and Alfred Wüest


A. Wüest, D. Bouffard, J. Guillard, B.W. Ibelings, S. Lavanchy, M-E. Perga, and N. Pasche (2021): LéXPLORE – a floating laboratory on Lake Geneva offering unique lake research opportunities. WIREs Water 8. doi:10.1002/wat2.1544