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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, July 27, 2004

UH professor receives $3.85 million research grant

Associated Press

Professor David Karl, an internationally known marine scientist at the University of Hawai'i, has been awarded a five-year, $3.85 million research grant to expand his work.

Karl was named the recipient of the inaugural Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Investigator in Marine Science award based on his past research and leadership in biological oceanography and his potential for future contributions, the university said yesterday.

The foundation, established by the co-founder of computer-chip maker Intel, set up a 10-year, $145 million marine microbiology program in April to learn more about life in the world's oceans.

"This award is a testament to Dave Karl's talent and leadership in the field of marine science and we are extremely proud to count him amongst the respected scientific leaders in their fields that call UH home," said UH Acting President David McClain.

McClain credited Karl with helping establish the University of Hawai'i as a leader in the study of oceanography and to the world of marine science.

The Moore Foundation award comes just a month after Karl was given the Henry Bryant Bigelow Award in oceanography, established in 1960 by the renowned Woods Hole Oceanography Institution for "those who make significant inquiries into the phenomena of the sea."

David Kingsbury, the Moore Foundation's director of marine science, said the foundation's goal is to support top scientists in marine microbiology and stimulate close work between all the investigators to accelerate progress in his area of ocean research.

Similar awards have gone to professors Sallie Chisholm and Edward DeLong of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and professor Jonathan Zehr at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who will collaborate with Karl in the future.

As a microbial biologist and oceanographer at the University of Hawai'i's School of Ocean Science and Technology, Karl has focused on the ecological role of marine microorganisms from the sunlit surface waters to the deep abyss, the university said.

In 1998, Karl co-authored a paper on research that found large amounts of a gas linked to global warming in the Pacific Ocean's shallow waters, suggesting that increased El Niņo activity could stoke even greater production of the gas.

The UH team sampled sea water at a site about 60 miles north of Oahu that's considered representative of the deep-ocean waters that border the Pacific's tropical zone.

They found three times more nitrous oxide than global models had predicted they would find there — and at relatively shallow depths that are influenced by El Niņo, the periodic warming of the Pacific.

In 1999, Karl was on the team of scientists who found living microbes in one of the harshest environments on Earth, a lake in Antarctica, suggesting the possibility that life could exist in other extreme parts of the solar system.

Karl joined the University of Hawai'i as an assistant professor in 1978. The next year he was a member of the Galapagos Rift Biology Expedition and was among the first to observe and sample deep sea hydrothermal vent communities of life from a submersible.

In 1987, when he attained his full professorship, Karl was with the team that discovered a new hydrothermal system at the summit of Loihi Seamount which is 3,000 feet below the surface.

Karl is involved with the Hawai'i Ocean time-series program at Station ALOHA 60 miles north of O'ahu where field teams visit on monthly intervals to conduct experiments.

The Moore Foundation award will support new research efforts there and "will give Karl the opportunity to pursue novel, high risk research that would be more difficult to fund with federal grants," the university said.