UH Manoa Oceanographer Receives $3.85 Million Grant from Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Five-year grant is the foundation's first Investigator in Marine Science award presented for contributions and research in marine microbiology

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Carolyn Tanaka, (808) 956-9803
Associate Vice President
Kristen Bonilla, (808) 956-5039
Public Information Officer
Posted: Jul 26, 2004

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Professor David Karl has been named the recipient of the inaugural Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Investigator in Marine Science award. Selected on the basis of his past research and community leadership contributions in the field of biological oceanography and his potential for future contributions, Karl will receive a five-year, $3.85 million award in support of his ongoing marine research efforts at the University of Hawaiʻi.

"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. "He has been instrumental in helping to establish the university as a renowned institution for the study of oceanography and his contributions have been an asset not only to the UH community but to the entire world of marine science as well."

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation launched its 10-year, $145 million marine microbiology initiative in April 2004 with the goal of attaining new knowledge regarding the composition, function, and ecological role of microbial communities in the world‘s oceans. Funding strategies include supporting Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Investigators, linking scientists in related fields, establishing intern programs, and supporting select research projects that will affect ocean science as a whole.

According to David Kingsbury, director of marine science at the Moore Foundation, "It is the Foundation‘s goal to not only support the top scientists in marine microbiology like David Karl, but to stimulate close collaborations between all of the Foundation‘s Marine Science Investigators to even further accelerate progress in this key area of ocean research."

Karl is the first oceanographer to be honored with the foundation‘s Investigator in Marine Science award. Two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professors Sallie Chisholm and Edward DeLong, and Professor Jonathan Zehr from the University of California, Santa Cruz, have also recently been honored with the award and will be collaborating with Karl in the near future.

A microbial biologist and oceanographer in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, Karl has focused his research on the ecological role of microorganisms in the sea, ranging from the sunlit surface waters to the deep abyss, and has enjoyed successful and groundbreaking research discoveries along the way. In 1979, Karl 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. Later, 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 UH colleague Roger Lukas established a long-term study of the impact of climate variability on ecosystem processes.

"Dr. Karl‘s work has contributed to a greater understanding of the seas and their tremendous influence on the global environment," said UH Mānoa Chancellor Peter Englert. "In his many years on our faculty he has demonstrated exceptional leadership in his field and innovative approaches to the creation of new knowledge. He embodies the finest attributes of our excellent corps of ocean scientists at UH Mānoa, and he brings tremendous distinction to the university."

Karl is also heavily involved with the Hawaiʻi Ocean Time-series (HOT) program where on approximately monthly intervals, field teams sail to Station ALOHA, the open ocean study area 100 km north of Oʻahu to conduct interdisciplinary experiments.

"This is a team effort and the HOT team is second to none," says Karl.

The Moore Foundation award will support new research efforts at Station ALOHA and will give Karl the opportunity to pursue novel, high risk research that would be more difficult to fund with federal grants. The Moore Foundation‘s initiative in marine microbiology will also facilitate the collaboration of diverse groups of microbiologists, ecologists, molecular biologists and oceanographers who share common interests but rarely interact. The award will also provide support for the training of undergraduate and graduate students, who according to Karl, "are the future of our discipline."

"This generous grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is significant because it formally recognizes the high-caliber of our faculty whose work is garnering the attention of such prestigious national foundations," said Donna Vuchinich, president of the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation. "Private investment in our faculty and programs creates that margin of excellence which impacts future generations and has worldwide implications."

Karl joined the UH Mānoa faculty as an assistant professor of oceanography in 1978 and was promoted to his current position of professor of oceanography in 1987. He has been a member of the affiliate faculty of the Bermuda Biological Station for Research since 1995. In the course of his career, Karl has spent more than three full years at sea, including 23 expeditions to Antarctica. He received a bachelor‘s degree in biology from the State University College at Buffalo, New York, in 1971, a master‘s degree in biological oceanography from Florida State University in 1974, and a doctorate in oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, in 1978.

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


The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation was established in November 2000 by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife Betty to create positive outcomes for future generations. The foundation funds outcome-based grants and initiatives to achieve significant and measurable results. Grant-making supports the foundation‘s principal areas of concern: environmental conservation, science, higher education, and the San Francisco Bay Area.