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UH-Manoa oceanographer wins prestigious Balzan Prize


The director of the University of Hawaii’s Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education is among the winners of the 2015 Balzan Prize, an international award that honors achievements in the humanities, natural sciences, culture, as well as for peace-focused endeavors. 

David Karl and three other award recipients will receive 750,000 Swiss francs ($766,792), with half of the funds earmarked for research projects. 

The other recipients are Hans Belting (Germany), Staatliche Hochschule fur Gestaltung, Karlsruhe, for history of European art (1300-1700); Joel Mokyr (U.S. and Israel), Northwestern University, for economic history; and Francis Halzen, University of Wisconsin-Madison, for astroparticle physics including neutrino and gamma-ray observation. 

According to a Balzan Prize news release Karl is being recognized for his “fundamental contributions to the understanding of the role and immense importance of microorganisms in the ocean, and of how microorganisms and phytoplankton control the oceanic carbon, nitrogen and iron cycles, work that has yielded significant insights into global change.” 

During his three decades at UH-Manoa, Karl has received numerous honors. In June 2014, Karl and Edward DeLong — both professors in Manoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, were awarded a $40 million oceanography research project by the Simons Foundation to lead the Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology, or SCOPE. The project represents the largest-ever philanthropic gift to UH. 

The SCOPE project aims to advance understanding of the microscopic organisms that inhabit every drop of seawater and how those creatures control the movement and exchange of energy and nutrients. 

The 2016 Balzan Prizes will be awarded in the fields of comparative literature; international relations: history and theory; molecular and cellular neuroscience, including neurodegenerative and developmental aspects; and applied photonics. 

Founded in 1957, the International Balzan Foundation operates through two separate institutions: the International Balzan Foundation Prize, which selects subjects to be awarded and candidates through its general prize committee; and the Balzan Foundation Fund, which administers the estate left by Eugenio Balzan (1874-1953), part-owner of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. 

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