Oceanographer Bidigare Named ARCS Scientist of the Year

UH Manoa professor honored for excellence in research and teaching

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Jun 13, 2003

Robert Bidigare, a professor with the Department of Oceanography and Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa‘s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, has been named 2003 Scientist of the Year by the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS Foundation) Honolulu Chapter. From a high school epiphany that resulted in Bidigare‘s switch from architectural drafting to science to his current collaboration with the UH School of Medicine to look at microorganisms as a source of new drugs, being open to possibilities has been a career pattern for Bidigare, now also serving as director of the university‘s MarBEC, a collaborative Marine Bioproducts Engineering Center.

Along the way, Bidigare has been involved in numerous discoveries—

- that ammonia secreted by zooplankton sustain phytoplankton

- that a whole deep-sea animal community could live off toxic hydrocarbons and hydrogen sulfide because bacteria in their gills converted methane gas to nutritional organic compounds

- that ocean plants use their pigments to create their own sunscreen by blocking the detrimental effects of ultraviolet radiation

- that satellite measurements of plant pigments can be used to gauge the productivity of ocean eddies and fronts and monitor the health of fisheries.

"We measure the concentration and kinds of algae that feed the fisheries that feed us," he says. "It‘s the things you can‘t see that are the most important."

Bidigare has been remarkably productive since earning his PhD from Texas A&M in 1981. He has spent 600 days on 20 different research ships and a submarine, conducted research from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Gulf of Maine to Gulf of Mexico, averaged eight publications in peer-reviewed journals per year and secured $4 million in extramural research funding over the past decade. He is a member of professional organizations related to geophysics, oceanography and phycology, and reviews grants for federal funding agencies and manuscripts for scientific journals.

It was this research record combined with the opportunities he creates for a new generation of scientists that earned him 2003 Scientist of the Year honors from the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Honolulu Chapter.

"As an organization that raises money for graduate students in the sciences, we were impressed that Dr. Bidigare has supervised five undergraduate space grant fellows and served on the committees for 31 masters and doctoral students, three of them ARCS scholars," comments Helena Sena, president of the Honolulu chapter.

Bidigare is the 21st UH researcher to receive the ARCS Scientist of the Year award and the sixth member of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology faculty so honored.