UH Manoa oceanographer receives $3.79 million grant

Grant From Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Will Continue Support of Research by Renowned Marine Microbial Biologist

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Jul 22, 2008

University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa Professor David Karl has been named the recipient of a $3.79 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to continue and expand research on the microbial inhabitants of the world‘s oceans.

Dr. Karl, founder of the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) at SOEST, has focused his research on the ecological role of microorganisms in the oceans, ranging from the sunlit surface waters to the deep abyss. Dr. Karl has led groundbreaking efforts to promote collaborations among the previously separate disciplines of oceanography, microbiology, ecology and genomics to better understand the sea, including its potential response to environmental variability and climate change.

The grant is in continued support of Dr. Karl to quantify solar energy capture and transduction, and to gain an improved understanding of essential bioelemental cycles and sequestration of atmospheric carbon. Funding will be utilized to develop methods and technology to routinely measure marine microbial community structure and function, to use Seaglider technology — small free-swimming vehicles that gather data from the ocean — to survey habitat variability and to design, construct and field test a mesocosm that can be used to conduct experiments in open ocean habitats.

In 2004, Dr. Karl received a $3.15 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, as one of seven Marine Microbiology Senior Investigators selected for outstanding contributions to the field of marine microbial ecology. The Senior Investigator Program is part of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation‘s 10-year, $145 million Marine Microbiology Initiative, which aims to accelerate the creation of new knowledge regarding the composition, function and ecological role of microbial communities in our oceans.

"I am grateful to the Moore Foundation for their continued support of ocean research at UH," said Karl. "I have some new ideas that I would like to pursue and the best support team in the world to make this happen. We are all very excited to be part of this important initiative."

"Dr Karl's innovative research has lead to a greater understanding of microbial life in the ocean, which modulates the respiration and health of our planet," says Brian Taylor, Dean of SOEST. "A member of the National Academy of Sciences and winner of numerous awards, Dave is one of the nation‘s most acclaimed ocean scientists."

Dr. Karl joined the faculty of UH Mānoa in 1978 as an assistant professor of oceanography and was promoted to professor of oceanography in 1987. He has been an adjunct faculty member of the Bermuda Biological Station for Research since 1995 and during the course of his career, he spent three full years at sea, including 23 expeditions to Antarctica. In 1979, he was a member of the Galapagos Rift Biology Expedition and was among the first to observe and sample deep sea hydrothermal vent communities from a submersible vehicle. In 1987, he and his colleagues discovered a new hydrothermal system at the summit of Loʻihi Seamount, the next Hawaiian island. In 1988, Karl and fellow UH researcher Roger Lukas established a long-term study of the impact of climate variability on ecosystem processes.

"Dr. Karl‘s work in microbial oceanography is internationally recognized and may answer some of the world‘s most pressing environmental and climate related questions," said UH Mānoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw. "I am truly grateful to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for their most generous investment."

Dr. Karl has received numerous honors and awards including a White House Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1984, the G.E. Hutchinson (1998), A.G. Huntsman (2001) and H.B. Bigelow (2004) medals for his scientific contributions. He has also been awarded the UH Board of Regents Medal of Excellence in Research in 1985 and 1993.