The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded a four-year, $3.7 million grant to Jonathan Zehr, professor of ocean sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The grant funds Zehr's ongoing research as a Moore Foundation investigator in marine science. In May, the foundation also provided $4.8 million in new funding for the marine microbiology research facility (MEGAMER) that Zehr oversees.
Both grants are renewals of earlier ones made as part of the Moore Foundation's Marine Microbiology Initiative, which aims to discover important new knowledge about the distribution, function, and ecological role of marine microbes.
"This is a wonderful opportunity and an exciting time for the marine microbiology field," Zehr said. "With new technologies making it possible to sequence the DNA of microorganisms and communities of microorganisms, we are poised to learn some of the fundamental processes that control the habitability of the oceans and the planet itself."
Zehr's research focuses on microorganisms that "fertilize" the oceans by converting nitrogen gas into a form that other organisms can use (a process called nitrogen fixation). His discoveries in this area have implications for understanding the ecology of the open ocean, the cycling of nutrients, and how the oceans might respond to global warming.
In the MEGAMER facility supported by the other grant, Zehr and his collaborators at UCSC and other institutions are focusing on the development of methods and instruments needed for the collection of real-time data in the ocean via remote processing (see earlier press release).
Note to reporters: You may contact Zehr at (831) 459-4009 or firstname.lastname@example.org.