11. marts 2020

Michael Kühl wins Moore Investigator award in aquatic symbiosis


After a tough international competition, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has selected 15 innovative researchers, who will receive large, flexible investigator awards for the next 5 years. The Danish professor in aquatic microbiology Michael Kühl, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen is among this group of researchers.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation invests about 140 million US$ in an ambitious research program on aquatic symbiosis to support and stimulate groundbreaking research on symbiotic interactions in marine and freshwater habitats.

Professor Michael Kühl is widely recognized for his research on the microenvironmental regulation of metabolic processes and cellular interactions in microbial biofilms, aquatic plants and symbioses. And he is excited about receiving this award and says:

- ”This is a fantastic recognition of my research and is a bit of a dream award. It will enable my group to develop and test novel ideas and experimental tools for studying interactions between the coral host, its microalgal symbionts and the microorganisms associated with coral tissue and skeleton. The award is both generous and very flexible, giving opportunities to think “out of the box” and test bold ideas. As an example, I envision micro-endoscopic investigations of the gastric cavity of living corals to learn more about the role of microbes for coral health and function – inspired by novel findings on the importance of the gut microbiome for human health”. 

Portrait Michael Kühl
Professor Michael Kühl, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen

Michael Kühl´s research team has developed novel microsensor and bioimaging techniques, several of which are also widely used in many other research fields such as medical microbiology, water science and technology, physiology and biogeochemistry. As a Moore Investigator, Michael Kühl plans to explore the microenvironmental landscape ecology in symbiont-bearing corals:

- Michael Kühl continues, ”Corals are composed of different components and compartments that together form the so-called coral holobiont. It consists of the coral animal, its intracellular microalgal symbionts, and a variety of microorganisms that colonize the coral tissue and the porous calcium carbonate skeleton, which is deposited by the living coral. The interplay between these partners determines coral health and resilience against environmental stress. However, we know very little about the physical and chemical boundary conditions for these interactions. I will study how these microhabitats are changed by, and regulate, host, symbiont and microbiome metabolic activities and interactions - and how environmental stress might affect such conditions and processes.”

Photo: Corals

It may appear contradictory for a Danish researcher to have an impact on coral research, which is dominated by many large research groups in countries like Australia and USA with direct access to coral reefs and large research programs. Michael Kühl explains:

- ”My research is very interdisciplinary and biological studies in my group often employ novel technology, which we partly develop ourselves. This enables novel experimental approaches that attract international collaboration, e.g. with several Australian research groups, and my group works regularly on the Great Barrier Reef. Beyond the great possibilities in my investigator grant, I am also looking much forward to exchange ideas and explore novel collaborations with the other Moore investigators, who were selected for their potential for transformative research in aquatic symbiosis', says Michael Kühl.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. Visit Moore.org or follow @MooreFound.