Moore Foundation Awards $8 Million for Marine Microbial Ecology Models

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has announced grants totaling $8 million over two years to accelerate the development of experimental model systems in marine microbial ecology.

Awarded through the foundation's Marine Microbiology Initiative, the grants will support more than a hundred scientists at thirty-three institutions around the world working to develop model systems and genetic tools for exploring the physiology, biochemistry, and ecology of marine microbes. The tools will enable researchers to more easily disrupt the activities of microbial genes to analyze how the organisms function in driving the ocean's elemental cycles, influencing greenhouse gas levels, and supporting marine food webs. Recipient organizations include Charles University in the Czech Republic, the Institut de Biologia Evolutiva in Spain, the National Institute for Basic Biology in Japan, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and Harvard, Stanford, the University of California, Berkeley, and the J. Craig Venter Institute in the United States.

"These organisms help drive the carbon cycle of the planet," said Peter von Dassow of the Instituto Milenio de Oceanografía de Chile. "With the ocean changing pretty fast, we need more tools to understand their basic biology. Understanding this means we could extend knowledge from the molecular level out to the whole earth. This is an important opportunity to do really high-risk research that one couldn't possibly get funded by most funding mechanisms, and it can lead to a really big impact. If we get even one good model created from this effort, it will be a big deal."

"An important aspect of our grantmaking in marine science is to identify opportunities to overcome bottlenecks that are preventing scientific progress, which often requires taking a risk," said Jon Kaye, program director of the foundation's Marine Microbiology Initiative. "We are also working with this group of scientists to broadly share information about their developing genetic techniques — both what is working and what remains unsolved — through online forums such as, an open-access repository of science methods."