Jon White – From the President’s Office: 05-06-2019

2019-05-08T17:57:05+00:00 May 6, 2019|

If You Could Have a Superpower, What Would It Be?

As hundreds of millions of people enjoy the fantastic heroes (and others) who magnificently move across the screens in front of us in productions such as Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones these days, I can’t help but wonder what superpower I would want to help save the world. I doubt it would be associated with saving it from supervillains bent on multiverse-wide destruction (or semi-destruction), or the end of all humanity in an everlasting “winter” filled with wights, but instead something related to our changing ocean that we need to better understand and revitalize to truly ensure the survival of our planet and all life on it.

Maybe I could use technology to my advantage, designing sunglasses that would let me look deep into the ocean and observe myriad types of observational data, or a golden hand I can dip into the water that lets me automatically analyze traces of eDNA left by its inhabitants? Or what if I accidentally ingested a plastic-eating bacteria that meant I could do the work of those tiny microbes and consume ocean plastic myself — while obviously also having the ability to make that plastic taste like key lime pie and growing to a Captain Marvel-like size and combating IUU fishermen? Or I could have the ability to share an enhanced immune system with dying coral reefs, bringing them back to life with the touch of a hand, or I could breathe ice and refreeze our melting ice caps and permafrost.

The good news is, while I’m fantasizing about developing the ability to communicate with sea life and create a hive consciousness that leads to a global fish rebellion against those who unsustainably exploit our ocean, there are many real superheroes who are conducting research right now in many areas that will actually save our ocean planet — more than the Avengers or dragon-riders ever will. I am forever grateful to the dedicated scientists, researchers, students, professors, lab technicians, and more who have dedicated their lives to understanding our world’s ocean. And thanks to them, as we learn more and more about our ocean planet and what we need to keep it healthy, and as we let this science inform our decision-making, I am optimistic that in the words of Captain America, “We are going to win.”

Moore Foundation’s New Symbiosis In Aquatic Systems Initiative
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation launched a new area of research, the Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative, earlier this year. Over the next nine years, the initiative will invest $140 million to support development of new tools, theory, and concepts about aquatic symbioses and to bring different research communities together to learn how symbioses involving microorganisms function, evolve, and serve critical ecosystem roles in marine and freshwater environments. The first funding call for individual investigators has a deadline of June 3, and two additional calls will be announced later this year for advancing model systems and concerning the origin of the eukaryotic cell.

Read the announcement here, learn more about the initiative here, read the open call here, and sign up for announcements here (add “” to your address book)

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