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Brian Bowen

Brian Bowen, research professor at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology and the University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program funded researcher, was awarded the 2015 Kobe Award for lifetime achievement in aquatic biology.

Bowen was recognized for his research on sea turtle migrations using DNA fingerprints to assist in the conservation of this ancient and endangered species. Specifically, Bowen’s research showed that Japanese loggerhead turtle hatchlings leave their nesting beaches in Japan and cross the Pacific Ocean to feed off Baja, California. Previously this was deemed impossible by most scientists, but Bowen and his colleagues were able to confirm the findings using DNA fingerprinting.

Loggerhead sea turtles face threats on both nesting beaches and in the marine environment. The primary threat to loggerhead turtle populations worldwide is mortality in fishing gear, largely in driftnets (which are now banned) and other open ocean fishing gear. The research conducted by Bowen and his colleagues also demonstrated the importance of international cooperation in the conservation of sea turtles since the turtles spend so much time at sea in international waters.

Suma Aqualife Park is a world-class public education facility and research institute in Kobe, Japan, which has been in operation since 1957. The aquarium curator, Naoki Kamezaki, is also an expert on sea turtles and is the founder and director of the Sea Turtle Association of Japan. Kamezaki, along with George Balazs from the NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu, were integral members of the research team that demonstrated the loggerhead turtles trans-Pacific migration. The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in a journal article, “Trans-Pacific migrations of the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) demonstrated with mitochondrial DNA markers.”

More on Bowen

Bowen earned an MA from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, a PhD in genetics from the University of Georgia and subsequently worked as a post-doctoral researcher and assistant professor at the University of Florida.

He has been a research professor at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology at UH Mānoa since March 2003. Bowen is the author of more than 200 publications, including contributions in the journals Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, and many more.

He is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a marine turtle specialist for the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

The Kobe Award

The Kobe Award, established in 2011 by Suma Aqualife Park in Kobe, Japan, is given to only one scientist each year in honor of his or her considerable worldwide achievements.

Past winners include Vera Maria Ferreria da Silva from Brazil, J.O. Miller from Scotland, Hans Fricke from Germany, and J. Emmett Duffy from the U.S.

For more information on the Kobe Award, please go to the Suma Aqualife Park website.

—By Cindy Knapman

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