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Milieux Environnementaux, Transferts et Interactions dans les Hydrosystèmes et les Sols

The UMR Metis (transfers and interactions in hydrosystems and soils) was created in 2014 from the merger of the UMR Sisyphe and GOME team of UMR BioEmCo. The UMR Metis is associated with UPMC, CNRS (Ecology and environment Institute as well as Earth Sciences and Chemistry Institutes) and the EPHE. The laboratory is located on the Jussieu campus of UPMC. It has a long-term scientific relationship with the Geosciences department of Mines ParisTech.

The unit has about 120 members, almost equally distributed between (i) staff scientists, (ii) engineers, technicians and administrative staff, (iii) PhD students, and (iv) post-doctoral to master students and visitors.

Research topics

The UMR Metis is focused on the functioning of continental environments, in processes that affect the transfers of water, chemical elements, nutrients and contaminants in soil, sub-soil and aquatic environments. It develops characterization tools to investigate these media especially in physical instrumentation and molecular chemical analysis (organic matter and contaminants). It uses numerical modeling approaches from the local to the global scale, long-term monitoring data from dedicated watersheds, and experiments at smaller scales, such as plot scale or in the laboratory.

The Metis UMR has two departments: Physical Hydro(geo)logy and Biogeochemistry.
The first department brings together our expertise in Hydrology, Hydrogeology and near surface Geophysics. In the fields of hydrogeology and hydrology, one of the strong characteristics of our team is its ability for the coupling of physical modeling of the groundwater, or more empirical modeling of river flows, with soil/atmosphere interface modeling, in other words its ability to work at the interface between hydrology, meteorology and climatology. The geophysical team is particularly active in methodological developments (instrumentation, exploration, modeling). Its skills cover different methods of hydrogeophysics: electric, electromagnetic (low and high frequency), magnetic, seismic and thermal. Specific methods for coupling these information are developed to feed the hydro(geo)logical modeling at several scales of interest within watersheds. A distributed knowledge regarding soils and rocks properties still remains today a major obstacle to a significant improvement in hydro(geo)logical modeling.

Within the Biogeochemistry department, we pursue a long tradition of nutrient transfer modeling (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, silica) in river watersheds and to the coastal area, where they play a considerable role in the biogeochemical cycles. These models, which also consider the emissions of greenhouse gases (N2O, CH4, CO2) from soil and water surfaces, have been successfully applied in many watersheds, from small Nordic pristine catchments up to strongly anthropized major rivers of the world. Today the codes are applicable to continental scales, the global scale being a medium-term objective. The deployment of models in new areas cannot be achieved without a thorough analysis of local agricultural production systems. The biogeochemical problematics joins here another global topic, that of agriculture facing the demographic development. In most of its projects, our UMR seeks to include human activities in an integrated vision of biogeochemistry and hydrology.

The UMR Metis also has outstanding skills in organic geochemistry and contaminant chemistry and benefits from a substantial analytical facility. So as to better understand the origin and the fate of organic matter in natural environments, its molecular chemical structure and isotopic composition are studied. A large set of environments is concerned with these studies, including soil and continental waters to investigate recent surface environments, sediments for paleo-environmental reconstructions and meteorites for organic cosmochemistry questions. It is now going further with the characterization of the most labile compounds as they control the transfer of a large amount of associated nutrients and the reactivity of carbon in water and soil. These skills also apply to the field of semi-volatile organic contaminants, whose presence was demonstrated throughout the globe and whose dynamics cannot be understood at regional or continental scales unless combining observation and modeling with a special emphasis on exchanges between water systems, atmosphere and biota.

Main Projects

The UMR Metis is involved in many national and international projects that cover its main themes. Some emblematic projects in which the unit is strongly involved are given here:

  • The i-GEM aims to model at the global scale the role of groundwater on exchanges of water and energy at the soil/atmosphere interface
  • The TEMAS project aims to develop lightweight airborne instrumentation for recording the electromagnetic properties of the near-surface
  • The ABAC network observes the biogeochemical functioning of agricultural plots under organic and conventional farming
  • The European project EraNet-EMOSEM allows nutrients flow model development on a continental scale in all watersheds in northeastern Atlantic coast.

For the than 10 years a series of Liteau and Seine-Aval projects quantify the impacts watersheds to coastal areas, studying the land to sea aquatic continuum


In the fields of hydrology, close collaborations exist with the Geosciences Centre at Mines ParisTech and with IRSTEA. Developments regarding the coupling of hydrological models and climate models are also conducted in collaboration with the LSCE, LMD and Meteo-France. In the field of catchment biogeochemistry, longstanding collaborations exist with the University of Brussels (in the form of an LEA) and with several units of INRA and the University of Utrecht (Netherlands).

The program PIREN-Seine (http://www.piren-seine.fr) has been supported for over 25 years by UMR Metis. It develops an integrated knowledge of circulation of water, elements, and living species in the basin of the Seine, and their interactions with human activities. It brings together the contributions of twenty other research units.

The UMR Metis animates the GEOFCAN network (Geophysics Soil and Superficial Formations) which coordinates national work in Applied Geophysics (with BRGM, INRA, IRD and Université Paris Sud).

Tools / Instrumental developments

  • hydro(geo)logical coupled modeling, ground interface / vegetation / atmosphere, soil, subsoil, underground environment
  • multi-scale biogeochemical modeling of watershed, with coupling to the coastal zonegeophysical instrument development for the close surface plus direct and inverse modeling of geophysical signals
  • organic geochemistry analytical facility
  • analytical facility for organic micro-contaminants

Management team

Director: Jean-Marie Mouchel (jean-marie.mouchel@upmc.fr)
 Assistant Directors:
 Sylvie Derenne (sylvie.derenne@upmc.fr)
 Fayçal Rejiba (faycal.rejiba@upmc.fr)


Université Pierre et Marie Curie, UMR Metis
Mail box 105
4 place Jussieu
75252 Paris Cedex 5

Contact person: Nora Roger: nora.roger (at) upmc.fr ; +33 1 44 27 63 27

Access to Metis website

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