OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Experts in marine microbes, amphibian declines named as distinguished professors

03/28/2012

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Two Oregon State University educators have been given the title of “distinguished professor,” the highest honor made to faculty members for their teaching and research.

Honored were Stephen Giovannoni, a microbiologist and international leader in the study of marine microbes through advanced molecular techniques; and Andrew Blaustein, a zoologist who studies animal behavior and conservation biology, and one of the world’s leading experts on biodiversity and amphibian declines.

“Both of these researchers have helped us understand the function of our natural world and important changes taking place in it,” said Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president. “As a result of their efforts, we have learned a great deal about the critical role that previously unknown bacteria play in our oceans, and the serious threats facing amphibians in the terrestrial environment.

“Basic knowledge of this type is critical to dealing with climate change, pollution, and other threats to global biodiversity,” Randhawa said. “And it also allows both undergraduate and graduate students at OSU to learn from some of the leading experts in the world.”

The two OSU scientists have received millions of dollars in grants supporting their research from the National Science Foundation and other agencies, produced scores of professional publications in leading journals, and received numerous other awards for both their teaching and research.

Giovannoni, who received his doctoral degree in biology from the University of Oregon, has been at OSU since 1988. His work on marine bacterioplankton, from the oceans, seafloor rocks and Antarctica is at the forefront of microbial molecular ecology. He discovered SAR11, now known to be one of the most abundant microbes on the planet and a major player in the ocean carbon cycle. The oceans absorb about half of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by humans, and store much of it by a process involving SAR11 that’s known as the biological “carbon pump.”

“At OSU there are no boundaries between environmental science and molecular biology,” Giovannoni said. “This has stimulated faculty and students to explore new, interdisciplinary directions in research.”

Blaustein received his doctorate from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and has been on the OSU faculty for 33 years. Some of his most important research has been on the range of forces, from increasing ultraviolet light to fungal infections, which are causing amphibian declines around the world. He has also spoken widely on issues related to conservation biology, climate change, loss of biodiversity and other pressing ecological concerns.