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WHOI Scientists Garner Awards in 2013

WHOI Scientists Garner Awards in 2013


Scott Doney, senior scientist in the Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department, received the 2013 A.G. Huntsman Award for Excellence in Marine Science. The Royal Society of Canada gives the annual award to an oceanographer who has made significant contributions in the fields of marine geosciences, physical or chemical oceanography, or biological and fisheries oceanography.

According to the A.G. Huntsman Foundation, Doney was selected because of his fundamental contributions to our understanding of the role of marine life in global biochemical cycles, his analysis of the vulnerability of ocean biological processes to global changes such as ocean acidification, his leadership in applying the ocean research community’s intellectual assets to pressing scientific problems of our time, and his tireless efforts to educate students of oceanography and the general public on complex issues related to changes in the global ocean.

Doney is a senior scientist in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry and director of the Ocean and Climate Change Institute.

Mak Saito, a tenured associate scientist in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, has been selected for a Marine Microbiology Initiative (MMI) investigator award by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. He will receive more than two million dollars over five years to pursue pioneering, high-risk research in the field of marine microbial ecology.

Saito’s research focuses on the requirements of marine microbes for metal micronutrients, with an emphasis on microbial proteins that require a metal cofactor in order to function. Metals such as iron, cobalt, and zinc are essential components in many biogeochemical reactions, and their scarcity in seawater can have a profound effect on Earth’s carbon and nitrogen cycles. He has developed and adapted new methods for understanding nutrient-microbial interactions, including proteomics, a branch of biochemistry that enables him to study the entire set of thousands of proteins present in an organism, and high-throughput sampling and analytical methods, which enable him to measure very low concentrations of trace metals in different parts of the ocean.

Susan Humphris, senior scientists in the Department of Geology and Geophysics has been elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Fellows must have attained acknowledged eminence in the Earth and space sciences and made exceptional scientific contributions. A graduate of the MIT/WHOI Joint Program, Humphris studies the geochemistry of seawater-rock reactions in hydrothermal vent systems. She has made more than 30 dives in the HOV Alvin and many virtual dives with ROV Jason in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. She was a member of the 1986 scientific party that made the first discovery of hydrothermal vents in the Atlantic Ocean. In its announcement of the honor, the AGU cited Humphris’s “sustained and exemplary contributions to our understanding of volcanic and hydrothermal processes at mid-oceanic ridges.”

Ben Van Mooy, a tenured associate scientist in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, has been awarded one of two inaugural fellowships at the University of Southampton in England. The Diamond Jubilee International Visiting Fellowship was established last year to commemorate the university’s 60th anniversary and to foster international collaboration. Van Mooy will spend about one month a year over the next three years at Southampton working with students and researchers on emerging oceanographic concepts.

Van Mooy’s research focuses on understanding the chemical communication between microbes in marine biofilms, the molecules that make up the cell membranes of plankton, and the biogeochemical cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in the upper ocean.

Van Mooy and Helen Fredricks of the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, with Liti Haramaty, Kay Daniel Bidle, and Assaf Vardi from Rutgers University, have obtained a U.S. patent titled, “Methods for obtaining bioactive compounds from phytoplankton.” The patent describes methods for identifying glycerolipids and apoptosis-inducing sphingosine-like lipids from virally-infected phytoplankton.

Desiree Plata, a 2009 graduate of the MIT-WHOI Joint Program, with Philip Gschwend and John Hart of MIT, Eric Meshot of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Chris Reddy of WHOI, have obtained a U.S. patent titled, “Alkyne-assisted nanostructure growth.” The patent describes a sustainable, environmentally-safe process for manufacturing carbon nanotubes and is based on work Plata did as part of her dissertation research. Plata is now an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke University. She will be moving to a faculty position at Yale University in spring 2014.

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Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, has been appointed a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Buesseler is one of two foreign members in the 2013 cohort of 17 new members. The selection committee noted Buesseler’s pioneering role in detection and interpretation of radioactive plutonium in the oceans resulting from nuclear bomb tests. Buesseler lived and attended school in The Netherlands for four years as a teenager and is fluent in Dutch.

Buesseler also received a short-term or “S” Fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. This is the highest fellowship offered to non-Japanese researchers. The fellowship program facilitates collaboration between Japanese scientists and their foreign colleagues. Buesseler has played a leading role in tracking and analyzing radioactivity released into the ocean from the damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan.

Virginia Edgcomb, a research specialist in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, received The International Society of Protistologists’ Seymour Hutner Award. It is given each year to an outstanding scientist in the field of protozoology who is recognized on an international level and is not more than 15 years from completing the doctoral degree. Edgcomb studies the diversity and adaptations of protists in extreme marine environments. She also helped design a robotic instrument that collects, incubates, and preserves microbes in the deep ocean.

Darlene Ketten, a senior scientist in the Department of Biology and director of WHOI’s Computerized Scanning and Imaging Facility, has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). A marine biologist and neuroanatomist specializing in functional analysis and biomedical imaging of sensory systems, Ketten was elected for her contributions to the understanding of the biophysics of hearing in mammals and for development of ultra-high resolution imaging for diagnosis of hearing impairments. Her work blends biomedical imaging, forensics, and biophysical models of hearing in both humans and marine mammals. She also conducts necropsies on dolphins, sea turtles, and other ocean animals and assists with autopsies, particularly those requiring expertise in head and neck trauma, neuropathology, and auditory pathology. She has assisted with or conducted radiological exams on more 1,000 cases involving more than 100 species.

WHOI biologists Heidi Sosik, Sam Laney, Emily Brownlee (top row, r to l), and Emily Peacock and physical oceanographers Bob Pickart and Frank Bahr (bottom row, r to l) were members of a research team that received the NASA Group Achievement Award for its work on the ICESCAPE project (Impacts of Climate on the Eco-Systems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment). This certificate is awarded for an outstanding group accomplishment that has contributed substantially to NASA’s mission. Sosik and Pickart are senior scientists, Laney is an associate scientist, Peacock is a research assistant, Bahr is a research specialist, and Brownlee is a student in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program.

See Beneath Arctic Ice, Life Blooms Spectactularly (Oceanus magazine)

Bernhard Peucker-Ehrenbrink, senior scientist in Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, received a Sitka Sound Science Center Scientist in Residency Fellowship for 2012/2013. The Sitka Sound Science Center is dedicated to increasing understanding and awareness of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the Gulf of Alaska through education and research. Peucker-Ehrenbrink is co-leader of the Global Rivers Project, an international effort to investigate the chemistry of significant river systems throughout the world, including the Fraser River of British Columbia.

Fiamma Straneo of the Department of Physical Oceanography and Rich Camilli of the Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, both associate scientists with tenure, were selected as 2013 Leopold Leadership Fellows by the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. The program provides training in communication and leadership skills to outstanding mid-career researchers in environmental fields. The fellowship aims to help the researchers effectively convey the relevance of their work to nonscientists, in addressing some of today’s most pressing environmental challenges. Camilli and Straneo join WHOI scientists Scott Doney and Chris Reddy, who were Leopold Leadership Fellows in previous years.

Kurt Polzin, tenured associate scientist in the Physical Oceanography Department, was appointed Visiting Fellow at the University of Tasmania. From July to October, 2013, he was in residence there while working on issues of isopycnal stirring and diapycnal mixing in the Southern Ocean.

Joseph Pedlosky, scientist emeritus in the Physical Oceanography Department, delivered three presentations on the oceanic thermocline, baroclinic instability, circulation around islands, and other topics as the 2013 Mark Kac Memorial Lecturer at the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Chris Linder, research associate III in the Physical Oceanography Department, was elected to Senior Fellow status in the International League of Conservation Photographers. His portfolio includes extensive coverage of polar expeditions, exemplified by his recent book Science on Ice (University of Chicago Press).

Glen Gawarkiewicz, senior scientist in the Department of Physical Oceanography gave the keynote address at the Taiwan Geosciences Assembly in May, 2013. He spoke about the Quantifying, Predicting, and Exploiting Uncertainty (QPE) program, with particular emphasis on the impacts of Typhoon Morakot on the coastal ocean, and about the formation of internal waves.

Tom Farrar, associate scientist in the Physical Oceanography Department and a 2007 graduate of the MIT-WHOI Joint Program, received the Editors’ Citation for Excellence in Refereeing from the Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans.

Tom Austin and Mike Purcell, principal engineers in the Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, were members of a team from the Oceanographic Systems Laboratory that won the “1st and 2nd Quarter FY 2013 NAVSEA Excellence Award” presented by the Naval Sea Systems Command.

Al Bradley, who retired from his job as a principal engineer in the Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department in 2006, received the 2012 Distinguished Technical Achievement Award from the Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) group of the Oceanic Engineering Society. The group cited his contributions to AUV technology in the ABE and Sentry programs and his role in mentoring young engineers and encouraging them to pursue careers in the field of AUVs.

Susan Avery, WHOI president and director, was named to the United Nations’ newly created scientific advisory board. The 26 members hail from all continents and include two Nobel Prize winners and the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The UN described the new board as “the first such body … to influence and shape action by the international community to advance sustainable development and eradicate poverty.”

Chris Reddy in the Department of Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry has been selected to receive the 2014 Clair C. Patterson Award from the Geochemical Society for his analytical and scientific contributions to organic geochemistry. The C.C. Patterson Award recognizes one scientist a year who has led an innovative breakthrough of fundamental significance in environmental geochemistry, particularly in service to society. Reddy studies the effects of pollutants on the environment especially following major oil spills.

According to the Geochemical Society, Reddy was nominated because he “has produced a body of work that has provided an unprecedented view of the compositional evolution of petroleum and a quantitative understanding of weathering processes that determine its fate in the ocean.”

Reddy will be presented the award at the Goldschmidt 2014 conference in Sacramento, Calif. in June.

Reddy also was awarded a patent in 2013 for methods and systems incorporating radiocarbon analysis techniques to guide the design and modification of biofuel manufacturing systems.