Prestigious European prize for NIOZ researcher

March 20, 2006

Prof. Gerhard J. Herndl of the NWO institute Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) on Texel has won the 2006 EUR-OCEANS Roland Wollast Prize for Scientific Achievements. He has received the prize during the general meeting of the EUR-OCEANS Network from 15 to 16 March in Barcelona. Gerhard J. Herndl is the first winner of this honourable Roland Wollast prize.

Professor Gerhard Herndl is a microbiologist and head of the Department of Biological Oceanography at NIOZ. The EUR-OCEANS Committee praises his considerable achievements in the area of integrating physics, chemistry and biology in scientific marine research. Herndl mainly works on the diversity and ecological role of microorganisms such as bacteria, archaea and viruses in the food web of the open oceans. In doing this he introduces new ecological concepts, research methods and approaches to the field. The report also praises Herndl's leadership qualities.

For example, Herndl recently developed a new measurement and sampling device for the deep sea in close cooperation with the Department of Maritime Technology at NIOZ. This equipment can be used to investigate the activity of deep-sea microorganisms at sea under conditions of high pressure and low temperature. At a depth of five kilometres on the ocean floor, the pressure is no less than 500 times higher than on the sea surface, while the water temperature is about two to three degrees Celsius.

Measurements with the new equipment have revealed that hydrostatic pressure has a substantial impact on the activity of these microorganisms in oceanic deep waters. Further he has recently shown that deep-ocean archaea are taking up inorganic carbon such as carbon dioxide and can therefore be considered as autotrophic organisms, just like algae in the sunlit surface waters. These new insights were mainly obtained during the scientific maritime expeditions TRANSAT, BADE and ARCHIMEDES led by G.J. Herndl with the NIOZ research vessel the Pelagia. These expeditions were funded by the NWO Division for the Earth and Life Sciences.

EUR-OCEANS is the European Network for excellent research for Ecosystem Analysis of open oceans. This network is partly financed by the Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technology Development of the European Union (FP6). The network consists of more than 60 oceanographic institutes and universities from 25 countries. EUR-OCEANS was started in January 2005 and will run until December 2008.

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

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