Biography of David M. Karl

CS Dave Karl works with sediment trap.

Oceanographer: David Karl was on board the R/V Polar Duke as it took our video crew south to Palmer Station just before Christmas 1996. He'll be seen deploying sediment traps during program 1. He wrote this Biography for LFA 2 on his cruise back north to Chile, and is now back home in Hawaii!

I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York on the shores of polluted Lake Erie. My interest in science was sparked by my desire to do something to protect the environment and I thought that I would eventually enter the field of wildlife biology. I attended a public high school and received a good education, but in retrospect had only three meaningful courses during those 4 years: Latin, Chemistry and Algebra. My performance in high school was less than my potential, especially by comparison to my academically talented siblings. When I was 17 years old I saw the ocean for the first time and knew at that moment that I would make a career in oceanography. Everything from that time was focused on achieving that goal.

I enrolled at the State University College at Buffalo and majored in biology, although the chemistry courses -- especially the labs -- were the most enjoyable. I had an opportunity to meet and work with several professors who provided the momentum and the focus to keep going. I graduated in 3 1/2 years and decided to teach high school before going on to graduate studies. I was placed into an inner city, vocational training school to teach math. My class was not well liked, although the experience -- in retrospect -- was quite valuable. The following fall, I left Buffalo for sunny Florida and the official start of my new career in oceanography as a graduate student at the Florida State University.

In less than three months I was on my first research cruise aboard R/V Eastward in the Cariaco Trench off Venezuela. This was a most remarkable experience for me and since that time I have spent more than three years at sea aboard numerous vessels in diverse habitats ranging from the Black Sea to the Amazon River to Antarctica. During my tenure at Florida State, I had an opportunity to spend a summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole studying marine microbiology. It was there that I made lasting friendships and professional connections that would later be invaluable to me in my own career.

After graduating from Florida State University in 1973, I was accepted into the Ph.D. program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. I had the good fortune to receive a graduate assistantship in the Food Chain Research Group of the Institute of Marine Resources and to become involved in many diverse research projects, including the Ross Ice Shelf Project (RISP) in Antarctica. I travelled to the ice in 1976-7 and 1977-8 austral summers to participate in this project. Since that time, I have been back to Antarctica twenty times to conduct research on various aspects of marine ecology.

Following my graduation from Scripps I accepted a faculty position at the University of Hawaii where I have been since 1978. Shortly after my arrival in Hawaii, I had the opportunity to become involved in the study of deep sea hydrothermal vents that had just been discovered on the seafloor off the Galapagos Islands. I wrote a grant proposal and was funded to participate in the first biological expedition to the vents.

Since that first submersible dive in 1978, I have logged more than 100 hours in the deep sea. In 1996, I edited a volume on the "Microbiology of Deep Sea Hydrothermal Vents" which summarizes the nearly two decades of discovery of these unique marine ecosystems.

I am currently a Professor of Oceanography at the University of Hawaii, where I enjoy teaching graduate courses and conducting research. When I am not working in the field or in the classroom, I relax by riding my Harley-Davidson motorcycle or by kayaking in the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. My career in science has been both rewarding and exciting. I cannot imagine doing anything else, and I cannot imagine having a "real" job.

Additional materials, including a full "professional" vita (and list of 150 scientific publications) is available electronically on the WWW:

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