The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa celebrated the dedication and opening of C-MORE Hale, the new two-story, 27,000-square-foot home of the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education, on the UH Mānoa campus Oct. 25, 2010.
C-MORE is one of 17 National Science Foundation Centers of Science and Technology across the United States. It focuses on the role that marine bacteria and viruses play in sustaining planetary habitability.
“The open sea is the natural laboratory” for oceanographic research, commented UH President M.R.C. Greenwood. Now Hawaiʻi also has a modern, dynamic place designed for the incubators and instrumentation needed to pursue the new frontier of microbial oceanography.
The opening of the new sea-motif inspired facility abutting the Biomedical Sciences Building was the first public event for newly appointed NSF Director Subra Suresh and “a once in a scientific lifetime” dream-come-true for C-MORE Director David Karl.
“It should be a thrilling decade,” Karl predicted after Suresh announced an additional five years of NSF support for C-MORE activities. Suresh lauded the center both for its work in studying the structural, genomic and metabolic diversity of marine microorganisms using the latest advances in technology and computing, and for its outreach and educational activities.
“I’m extremely proud,” commented Sen. Daniel Inouye, who championed the project. Winning the NSF grant demonstrates UH’s expertise in microbial oceanography, he said.
A veteran UH Mānoa oceanographer and member of the National Academy of Sciences and fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, Karl participated in more than 70 major oceanographic cruises around the world, observed on more than 30 submersible dives and made 23 trips to the Antarctic, identifying new microbes that live in harsh environments. Since joining the UH faculty in 1978, he has been principal investigator on more than 80 grants bringing close to $42 million in federal and foundation funds to the university.
“Marine microorganisms sustain planetary survival. They produce most of the oxygen we breathe,” Karl says. They capture solar energy, produce food and sequester carbon dioxide, yet we are largely ignorant about how they live and interact.
The organisms are small in size—less than a hundredth of the thickness of a human hair—but their impact is enormous, Suresh agrees.
“Today the questions science faces are so complex, cooperation among scientists and institutions is desirable and indispensable,” he adds. Joining UH researchers on the interdisciplinary C-MORE team are scientists, engineers and educators from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute; Oregon State University; University of California, Santa Cruz; and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Next on the agenda for Karl? Hawaiʻi has a state flower, bird and tree. “I’m going to propose a state microbe.”