James T. Hollibaugh
Distinguished Research Professor 2010
James T. Hollibaugh, professor of marine sciences, is highly regarded, both for “doing research,” and for “leading research,” where he is simultaneously shaping the field of microbial ecology as a synthesizer, coordinator, and innovator. His research provides insights into how ecosystems work and also serves as the basis for understanding and predicting the effects of climate change, manifested through shifts in temperature or precipitation, for example, on these systems. His work played a central role in developing the “microbial loop” concept, referring to a fundamental shift in ecology incorporating the realization that microbial cells—and not macroscopic organisms such as algae, fish, and mammals—determine the fate of most of the carbon in the world oceans. This, in turn, has led to a better understanding of how carbon is lost as CO 2 to the atmosphere and how much moves through the food web to larger organisms, including fish. Hollibaugh has also had an activist role in leading seemingly disparate interdisciplinary teams to approach environmental science. More recently, his research has discovered new pathways for arsenic metabolism that further our understanding of how this toxic element moves through ecosystems. The work suggests a possible role for arsenic in the early evolution of life.
Creative Research Medal 2003