Laboratory for Microbial Oceanography
in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa

General Information

The Laboratory for Microbial Oceanography is a research unit within the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Professor David M. Karl currently serves as unit Head and co-ordinates all activities in the Laboratory. He also holds an appointment in the Department of Oceanography where he performs his academic duties including teaching and graduate student advising and an appointment in the SOEST Division of Oceanic Biology where he currently serves in the capacity of research oceanographer. Professor Karl has recently been appointed an Affiliate Faculty member of the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, Inc. A brief summary of the relevant organizational units and a description of the research activities of the Laboratory for Microbial Oceanography are presented below.

The University of Hawaii

The University of Hawaii is a multi-campus system of post-secondary educational institutions serving the State of Hawaii. The University of Hawaii at Manoa, on the island of Oahu, is the major comprehensive research campus with more than 24,000 students and is commonly referred to as UH-Manoa.

UH-Manoa, the founding campus of the system, began in 1907 as a land-grant college of agriculture and mechanic arts called the College of Hawaii. In 1912, the school moved to its permanent location in Manoa Valley and with the addition of a College of Arts and Sciences in 1920, it became the University of Hawaii. The campus took its present name in 1972, to distinguish it from the other units in the growing Statewide university system. Currently, UH- Manoa is one of the few Universities in the country to have been designated, Land-Grant, Sea- Grant and Space-Grant status.

Throughout its history, UH-Manoa has emphasized studies related to the distinctive geographical and cultural setting of Hawaii. The geographical location generates interest in oceanography, Asian and Pacific studies and interdisciplinary studies of tropical environments and resources. The physical characteristics of Hawaii focus academic attention in such areas as tsunami research, volcanology, astronomy and marine sciences. The State's multi-racial culture and close ties to Asia create a favorable environment for the study of various aspects of diverse cultural systems, including but not limited to linguistics, genetics, philosophy and interrace relations.

Currently more than 200 of the University's activities have an international dimension. In addition, UH-Manoa ranks among the leading American institutions of higher education in terms of numbers of foreign scholars on its staff and foreign students enrolled in its numerous colleges. In all, the University offers course work leading to bachelor's degrees in 89 fields of study, master's in 77, doctorates in 41, first professional degrees in law and medicine, and a number of certificates.

The UH-Manoa campus is located on 300 acres of land in Manoa Valley, a residential section close to the heart of metropolitan Honolulu, the State capital. Easy access to the center of the commercial, cultural and political life of Hawaii is an extra benefit for students and staff.

The School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology

The University of Hawaii's SOEST was founded in 1988 as an interdisciplinary academic unit focusing on education and research in the earth and ocean sciences. SOEST currently has about 170 faculty, 500 staff and an annual operating budget of $48 million. Approximately one-third of these funds are derived from the State of Hawaii. The University of Hawaii is firmly committed to establish SOEST as one of the world's leading academic institutions in multi-disciplinary research and education on the oceans, the atmosphere and the solid earth. SOEST is composed of faculty, staff and students from the Departments of Oceanography, Atmospheric Sciences, Ocean & Resources Engineering and Geology & Geophysics.

In line with the philosophy that education, especially graduate education, and research are inseparable in University programs, most SOEST faculty are also affiliated with one or more academic Departments. In addition to traditional classroom instruction, a large part of our students' education takes place in laboratories and in the field. Approximately 200 graduate students and 40 undergraduate majors are currently enrolled in degree programs in SOEST.

Current facilities within SOEST complement the previously described, broad spectrum of research and educational programs. Of relevance to this present proposal are the NASA Pacific Regional Satellite Center and the excellent ocean design/engineering and ocean support facilities that include modern machine shops and the University's Marine Center located in Honolulu Harbor. Marine operations personnel, shops, laboratories, research vessel berthing and shore support operations are all located on this 16.2-acre State facility. The University of Hawaii currently operates three ocean-going research vessels one of which, the R/V Kilo Moana, also has UNOLS designation.

SOEST is strongly positioned to provide unique educational opportunities to students interested in ocean sciences and the effects of the ocean on global climate. Many of the SOEST faculty are involved in large scale ocean programs such as WOCE, JGOFS, as well as many multi-investigator atmospheric chemistry and tropical meteorology programs.

The Department of Oceanography

The Oceanography Department occupies most of the six-story Marine Science Building on the UH-Manoa campus. This building, designed with input from the faculty, represents a significant asset in the form of laboratories and scientific facilities available to support our educational programs. Marine scientists and students enjoy the advantages of a mild tropical climate year-round, with easy access to both shallow coral reefs and to deep ocean habitats. At the same time they have available the technological and intellectual support found in a large research university. In addition, our students also interact with marine scientists and other personnel in the Departments of Geology and Geophysics, Zoology, Botany, Microbiology, and Ocean Engineering, in the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research and in the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory.

In addition to the two ocean-going research vessels (R/V Ka'imikai-O-Kanaloa and R/V Kilo Moana), nearshore vessels are operated by the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics & Planetology and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. A research submersible, Pisces V with a 2000 m depth capability, operated under the aegis of HURL (Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory) is also available to all University of Hawaii researchers on a proposal competitive basis. The submersible is deployed from a dedicated tender, the 220 foot R/V Kaimikai-O-Kanaloa.

The Biological Oceanography Division of SOEST

The Biological Oceanography Division is one of several major research units of the Department of Oceanography. The Division includes the following individuals and respective research specialties:

  • R. Alegado (Marine microbial ecology, choanoflagellate-bacterial interactions, influence of bacteria on animal evolution)
  • E. DeLong (Microbial oceanography, biogeochemistry, plankton biomass and production, ocean ecosystem dynamics)
  • J. Drazen (Physiological ecology of deep-sea fishes, energetic strategies, trophodynamics, deep sea fisheries)
  • K. Edwards (Ecology of phytoplankton, and planktonic and benthic communities in general; Theoretical ecology and synthesis of models with empirical research; Ecological statistic)
  • E. Goetze (Evolutionary ecology of marine zooplankton, dispersal and gene flow in marine plankton populations, small-scale behavioral ecology of marine copepods)
  • A. Jani (Assembly, stability, and function of symbiotic microbial communities, ecology of infectious disease, biological conservation in aquatic ecosystems.)
  • D. Karl (Microbiological oceanography, ocean productivity, biogeochemical fluxes)
  • G. McMurtry (Geochemistry of marine deposits, seafloor venting processes, chemical volcanology, stable and radioisotope geochemistry, geochronology, in situ instrumentation development)
  • C. Nelson (Structure and function of natural bacterial communities in aquatic habitats such as coral reefs, lakes, streams, and the open ocean)
  • A. Neuheimer (Quantitative marine ecology of fish and invertebrates; biological modeling of individuals, populations & ecosystems; fisheries oceanography)
  • C. Smith (Benthic ecology, deep sea biology, sediment biogeochemistry, climate change effects on Antarctic ecosystems, marine conservation)
  • G. Steward (Marine microbial ecology, molecular ecology of viruses and bacteria, microbial contributions to biogeochemical cycles)
  • A. White (Marine microbial ecology, bio-optics, elemental stoichiometry, biogeochemical fluxes)

Funding for the Division is provided, in part, by the State of Hawaii and by federally-funded research grants (primarily from the Office of Naval Research, National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, University of Hawaii Sea Grant Program) awarded on a proposal competitive basis to individual Division scientists.

The Laboratory for Microbial Oceanography

The Laboratory for Microbial Oceanography conducts basic research on microbial inhabitants of the sea, including bacteria, protozoans and unicellular algae. These studies range in scope from the development of novel techniques to assess in situ microbial biomass, activity and growth, to comprehensive field studies designed to elucidate the mechanisms and rates of microbiological cycling of C, N and P. The laboratory was founded by Dr. David M. Karl in 1978 and has grown significantly in size and has diversified in scope over the intervening years. In the past two decades, the major field research foci have been: the investigation of microbial processes at deep-sea hydrothermal vents, studies of open ocean productivity and particle flux, studies of nutrient dynamics and interdisciplinary investigations of Antarctica coastal habitats. At present, our research efforts are supported by two major NSF grants: the Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT) and the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) as well as funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Simons Foundation (SCOPE).