Alexandre Levallois is a doctor in marine biology at the University of Caen. In parallel with the completion of his thesis, he launched almost three years ago, a science popularization channel on YouTube to make animals better known. An approach that is both educational and ecological.
In Pokemon, the aspiring trainer not only captures pocket monsters, he stores a lot of information in his pokedex, an encyclopedia listing the different species and characteristics of pokemons. The game’s creator, Satoshi Tajiri, was inspired by his childhood spent searching and collecting insects. Some video game fonts. Other videos.
Alexandre Levallois launched his Arthropsie YouTube channel in 2019. At the time, this” heavy consumer of popular science videos” does not quite find his happiness on the web. ” My project it was to make videos on the classification of a group of little-known animals, which people do not necessarily appreciate but me who fascinate me, the arthropods.“An ambitious project since this population, which includes insects, crustaceans and spiders, covers no less than 1.5 million species. And a lot of upstream documentation work for the videographer.” I’m not really an expert. I’m not doing a thesis on it.”
Because Alexandre Levallois’ specialty is marine biology. ” I am working on the impact of aluminum-based galvanic anodes. These are metal plates that are placed on metal structures immersed in the sea to protect them from corrosion. These plates sacrifice themselves in place of the structures and, in doing so, release the elements that constitute them into the environment: aluminum and zinc. The objective of my thesis is to see if these discharges have an impact on marine organisms, animals such as molluscs or algae.“The 25-year-old doctoral student started his thesis shortly after launching his YouTube channel. On the strength of this experience as a popularizer on the web, last year he took up the challenge of the “My thesis in 180 seconds” competition: explaining on stage and in public, in three minutes, the subject of his research.
Originally from Bayeux, Alexandre explains that he made ” the classic route” from the aspiring researcher, from high school to university. A classic career that owes nothing to chance. ” My father is a microbiology professor. My mother studied biology. My parents met in college for a biology degree. Both my parents instilled in me a curiosity for nature. When I was very young, I was outside catching insects, I spent my summer doing that. It forced me to orient myself towards biology studies that I wanted to do.”
Currently, the doctoral student spends more time behind a microscope or on his computer to write his thesis. The realization of his videos constituting welcome breaths of oxygen. However, these two activities are not so far apart. ” I don’t feel like I work differently when I’m working on my videos or when I’m working on my thesis“, believes Alexander, “It is a work of research, of bibliography on the subject to try to know more about it and then try to transmit it. It’s just the format that changes. I proceed almost the same way.“But the biologist recognizes that he has” maybe more freedom on YouTube because I’m not compartmentalized in the scientific aspect.”
Over the months, Alexandre has broadened his range of videographers. “ To breathe between two big ranking videos, I said to myself: why not make other formats. At the same time, I had just acquired a new camera and I was doing a lot of ground to observe animals, insects but also birds. I started filming them. And with these images, I started making animal mini-documentaries.“Alexandre has thus produced videos on the fauna of the regional natural park of the Cotentin marshes, the Prairie de Caen but also the Poitevin marshes, the Camargue and even Sweden, over the course of his travels.
The Meadow of Caen
Since this summer, the biologist regularly takes his camera to Sallenelles, in the Orne estuary. ” My goal is to do an episode in naturalistic outing mode, take people with us to the field and show them the diversity that we can see here.“The star of the future video will be the harbor seal.” It is one of the two species that we have in France. The other is the gray seal, which is much less present on the sandy shores than we have in Normandy. We find it more in Brittany.“
On this autumn afternoon, about fifteen specimens are languid on the sandbank, on the other side of the estuary near Ouistreham. Members of the seal brigade of the Norman mammological group are on site for observers but also to answer questions from walkers. ” At high tide they go diving in the water to go hunting, they feed mainly on flatfish: sole, plaice, that sort of thing.“But the wise eye spots many other treasures in the telephoto lens.” From this time of year it starts to get even more interesting for the birds. We can observe large waders, herons, egrets, kingfishers too.” Everyone will have their place in this “expedition” in Baie de Sallenelles.
After nearly three years of existence, the Arthropsida channel now has more than 2,000 subscribers. A relative success for the videographer” It doesn’t surprise me more than that compared to the growth of certain channels on other subjects that are more entertainment“, smiles Alexander, ” But it’s cool. I’m very happy. Sometimes it encourages. Sometimes you say to yourself: why am I wasting time doing this. But in the end, what I also like is creating, I take pleasure in writing, in editing.”
Creating but also transmitting is what drives this nature enthusiast . “All the videos have a pedagogical intention. This is the main objective. To try to share naturalist knowledge in biology, in zoology. In the current context, these are ecological messages. Certainly, it is biological knowledge but it is to show all the biodiversity that there is on earth, all the evolutionary past that we must safeguard and all the species that we must protect at the present time”, emphasizes Alexandre Levallois .
To get his message across , the biologist must learn a new trade. ” Today, when we watch the first videos, it can be a little indigestible“, believes Alexander, ” It has evolved, we are improving in editing, in the diversity of formats.“So in addition to the classification videos, the “nature outings” or the “expeditions”, the biologist has also published bird recognition quizzes or “thesis” interviews where some of his colleagues try to popularize their research subject. ” I still have lots of ideas. But not enough time.” Among his upcoming projects, a short film “in a fictional and naturalistic atmosphere”, the latest videos on arthropods and, when his thesis is finished, a trip to Costa Rica. “I talk a lot about giant insects in my videos. I would love to see them on location.”