UGA scientist Moran receives $2.6 million from Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for marine research

11/01/04

University of Georgia marine scientist Mary Ann Moran has been awarded a grant of more than $2.6 million by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to continue her research on marine bacteria that are important in the cycling of carbon and sulfur in the coastal ocean.

Moran, a professor in UGA's marine sciences department, studies bacteria that are critical to the marine food web and the sulfur cycle of the ocean. Her research addresses issues ranging from marine biodiversity to global climate control.

Moran is the first UGA scientist to receive an award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which was started in 2000 by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, and his wife, Betty. The award is part of the foundation's Marine Microbiology initiative aimed at attaining new knowledge about microbial communities in the world's oceans.

"Dr. Moran's work holds great promise for expanding our understanding of the ecology and diversity of coastal bacteria, and how these bacteria affect the health of the oceans as well as other natural processes," said UGA President Michael F. Adams. "We are very grateful to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for recognizing the importance of her research and supporting it so generously."

Moran and her colleagues use the genomes of cultured marine bacterioplankton to investigate how bacteria influence sulfur emissions, carbon storage and energy acquisition in marine surface waters and coastal marshes.

The bacteria also influence the flow of sulfur-containing gases between the ocean and atmosphere. This flow provides a key feedback loop in theories of global climate regulation for which biotic processes are central elements.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation launched its 10-year Marine Microbiology initiative last April with the goal of attaining new knowledge regarding the composition, function and ecological role of microbial communities in the world's oceans. Funding strategies include supporting Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation investigators, linking scientists in related fields, establishing intern programs and supporting select research projects that will affect ocean science as a whole.

According to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Web site, the field of marine microbiology has grown rapidly because of advances in technology and techniques for studying the genetic diversity of ocean microbes. Among these advances is the ability to study these microbes through DNA sequencing, DNA probes and cloning of large segments of microbial genomes.

The expertise of Moran and other marine science faculty in using these new approaches was a key factor in Moran receiving the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grant, said Gordhan Patel, UGA's vice president for research. "We greatly appreciate the foundation's confidence that its support will lead to new insights into the organisms that affect the health and productivity of the marine environment," said Patel.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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