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Three WHOI Scientists Recognized with Endowed Positions

November 17, 1998

Three scientists have been recognized by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) for their contributions to ocean sciences research. Drs. Cheryl Ann Butman of the Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, David A. Caron of the Biology Department and Brian E. Tucholke of the Geology and Geophysics Department have each been named the recipient of an endowed chair at the Institution. Each chair brings financial support for a period of five years, allowing the recipient the freedom to pursue a variety of career interests.

“The chairs, which are endowed positions for senior staff, allow the Institution to recognize excellence in various fields of marine research by providing the recipient with some relief from the constant pressure of writing proposals to raise funds to support their research,” WHOI Director Robert B. Gagosian said in announcing the awards. “It gives them breathing room to pursue areas of research they may not have been able to do before, to write about their research, and to have the time to think about future paths of research. It is critical to our scientific staff that they have the time to step back and think about what they want to do, to see the larger picture and new opportunities. In the end, the freedom the chairs provide each scientist makes their research that much more productive and rewarding.”

Dr. David A. Caron, senior scientist in the Biology Department, has been named the first recipient of the new Mary Sears Chair for Excellence in Oceanography, established earlier this year in memory of the long-time WHOI biologist who was among the Institution’s first staff members. Caron, a graduate of the University of Rhode Island, received his doctoral degree in biological oceanography from the MIT/WHOI Joint Graduate Program in Oceanography/ Oceanographic Engineering in 1984. He was appointed to the WHOI staff as an assistant scientist in 1985, was promoted to associate scientist in 1989, and to senior scientist in 1997. Caron has participated in 17 major oceanographic research cruises and has published more than 75 scientific papers.

Caron’s research interests include marine and freshwater microbial ecology, with emphasis on the relationships between plankton and other microorganisms. In recent years he has become well known for his work on harmful algal blooms, particularly brown tide outbreaks and their impact on shellfish and fish in coastal areas, and in finding natural remedies to alleviate the outbreaks. Much of his fieldwork has taken place in Long Island Sound and Narragansett Bay, where the harmful algal blooms have devastated scallop, mussel and clam industries and have caused massive fish kills. In the laboratory, Caron and colleagues are developing innovative natural biological tools to try to bring the outbreaks under control.

Dr. Cheryl Ann Butman, a biological oceanographer who has been a senior scientist in the Institution’s Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department since 1997, is the recipient of the Stanley W. Watson Chair. Watson was a microbiologist at the Institution for more than 35 years. In addition to his many scientific contributions, Watson founded Associates of Cape Cod in Falmouth, a biotechnical firm which supplies a product derived from horseshoe crab blood that is used to test for toxins in pharmaceuticals and other medical products.

Butman received her B.A. degree in zoology from San Jose State University in 1976, a master’s degree in marine biology from San Jose State University and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in 1980, and her Ph.D. degree in biological oceanography in 1984 from the MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography/ Oceanographic Engineering. She was appointed a postdoctoral investigator at WHOI in 1984 and was appointed an assistant scientist in 1986. In 1989 she was promoted to Associate Scientist, and in 1997 she was promoted to Senior Scientist.

Butman has studied the dispersal of benthic larvae in the ocean for years, and has developed new tools and techniques to advance the understanding of the role of various ocean processes in larval settlement. This information is critical to developing management strategies for commercially exploited shellfish resources and in evaluating the ability of a particular habitat to recover from the effects of pollutants, waste dumping and other environmental events. She has also played a leading role in developing a national research agenda for marine biological diversity. In 1995 she co-authored the book “Understanding Marine Biodiversity” to raise awareness of the impact of human activities on biological diversity.

Dr. Brian E. Tucholke is a marine geologist and the recipient of the Henry Bryant Bigelow Chair, named in honor of the Institution’s first Director. A native of South Dakota, Tucholke received a B.S. degree in geology from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 1968 and a Ph.D. in marine geology in 1973 from the MIT/WHOI joint Program in Oceanography/ Oceanographic Engineering. During his college years, Tucholke worked as a field geologist and museum assistant in paleontology, as a geophysicist and as a teaching assistant. Following completion of his Ph.D. he was appointed as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Lamont Doherty Geological Observatory (now Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory). He subsequently was a Research Associate and Senior Research Associate at Lamont before joining the WHOI staff in 1979 as an Associate Scientist in the Geology and Geophysics Department. He was promoted to Senior Scientist at WHOI in 1987, and also held appointments as a Visiting Senior Research Associate and Adjunct Senior Research Scientist at Lamont until 1991. Tucholke has had 26 research cruises, most recently participating in dives on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge using the Japanese submersible Shinkai 6500. He is author or editor of five books and more than 100 scientific articles.

Tucholke’s research has centered on the structure and evolution of the Atlantic Ocean basin. His research on the oceanic sedimentary record reconstructed the paleoceanographic evolution of the Atlantic Ocean from the time that its basins first began to open about 180 million years ago, and it demonstrated that abyssal currents played a major role in shaping sedimentary deposits over the past 40 million years. Tucholke’s studies of extensional and transform tectonics have investigated early rifting of the Atlantic Ocean as recorded in its continental margins, as well as currently active faulting and volcanism at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Analysis of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which is the modem extensional boundary between the American and African plates, is providing new insights into tectonics of continental extensional areas such as the Basin and Range province in the western United States.

The endowed chairs are awarded for a five-year period to tenured members of the Institution’s scientific staff who have “distinguished themselves through extraordinary scientific research and education.” Nominations are solicited from the scientific staff, with selection based on the individual’s record of scientific excellence. The Executive Committee of the Institution’s Board of Trustees approves the awards.