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David Karl elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Some of the world’s most accomplished leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities and the arts have been elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among those elected this year is David Karl, the Victor and Peggy Brandstrom Pavel Chair in Oceanography and Director of the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM).

Members of the 2015 class include winners of the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize; MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships; and Grammy, Emmy, Oscar and Tony Awards.

“I am humbled and honored by this announcement from the Academy,” said Karl. “I have been very fortunate to be able to work with such great students, postdocs and staff here at UH, and with colleagues from around the world.  I am also grateful for the outstanding support from the University leadership, and generous funding from the National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Agouron Institute and the Simons Foundation.”

One of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies, the American Academy is also a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to Academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, global security and international affairs, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts and education.

“David is a hugely productive longtime member of the UH Mānoa faculty. He has made exceptional contributions to our understanding of the role of microorganisms in the structure and function of the ocean ecosystems in the Pacific and around the world,” said UHM Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman.

For decades, Karl had been a leader in the field of microbial oceanography – even having a hand in creating the discipline. Karl, who joined the UH faculty in 1978, has spent much of his career building teams of scientists to tackle large, complex scientific questions.

Although the organisms he studies are the smallest inhabitants of our planet, the implications of Karl’s research are huge. The Hawaiʻi Ocean Time-series (HOT) program, co-founded by Karl, provides a cornerstone in our understanding of the ocean’s role in regulating climate and global nutrient cycles, for example.  And C-MORE, the NSF-supported Science and Technology Center Karl and colleagues established in 2006 at UHM, assesses marine microorganisms from genomes to biomes.  Last year he and UHM colleague and Academy member Ed DeLong established the Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology (SCOPE) to enhance understanding of how microbes control the flow of energy and material in the open sea.

“We are honored to elect a new class of extraordinary women and men to join our distinguished membership,” said Don Randel, Chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors. “Each new member is a leader in his or her field and has made a distinct contribution to the nation and the world. We look forward to engaging them in the intellectual life of this vibrant institution.”

Academy President Jonathan Fanton added, “The honor of election is also a call to service. Through its projects, publications and events, the Academy provides its members with opportunities to discover common interests and find common ground. We invite every new member to participate in our important and rewarding work.”

Karl is ready for duty. “I look forward to continuing the important challenge of enhancing the public understanding of science, and to helping inspire and recruit the next generation of scientists,” he said.  “There is plenty of hard work ahead. It should be an exciting next decade.”

Since its founding in 1780, the Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Margaret Mead and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the twentieth. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Karl will join an august and diverse group of Academy members – including two who inspired him in his early life: Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney – at a ceremony on October 10, 2015, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.