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Google, Intel founders support undersea research by UMass Amherst microbiologist
Date:8/16/2013

AMHERST, Mass. When microbiologist James Holden of the University of Massachusetts Amherst launches new studies next month of the microbes living deep in the cracks and thermal vents around an undersea volcano, for the first time in his 25-year career his deep-sea research will not be funded by a government source.

Instead, Holden will be funded by philanthropists committed to supporting oceanographic research: The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation started by the co-founder of Intel and his wife, and the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI), started by Eric Schmidt of Google and his wife, Wendy. Both organizations are interested in advancing environmental conservation and scientific research.

Holden says, "This doesn't happen very often with ocean research, but I'm very pleased to receive the support. This private funding shows how science research has shifted," he adds. "I still apply for grants from NSF and NASA, but ocean scientists are becoming more dependent on private philanthropy. I'm very glad that organizations outside of the federal government are interested in our research and see the value of the science."

Holden studies high temperature microbes that thrive around 200 degrees F near "black smoker" vents that spew out clouds of dark, superheated water up to 660 degree F. His work addresses such questions as what metabolic processes may have looked like on Earth 3 billion years ago and what microbial life might look like on other planets. "It's thought that the organisms found in these hydrothermal vents are the best representation of the first life on the planet," he notes.

He and colleagues will depart on Sept. 3 from Seattle on back-to-back research cruises to Axial Volcano, a long-term undersea observatory with scores of super-hot vents about 300 miles off the coast of Oregon and nearly one mile below the surface. Both oceanographic expeditions are supported in part by
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Contact: Janet Lathrop
jlathrop@admin.umass.edu
413-545-0444
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Source:Eurekalert

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