Campus News

UGA marine scientist receives research grant of more than $3.1 million

UGA marine scientist receives research grant of more than $3.1 million from Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Athens, Ga. – Mary Ann Moran, a University of Georgia marine scientist whose research on marine bacteria has garnered widespread attention, has received a grant of more than $3.1 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to continue her studies.

This is the second major grant that Moran, a distinguished research professor in the marine sciences department of the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, has received in four years from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. In 2004, she became the first UGA professor to have support from the Foundation when she received $2.6 million.

Both grants are part of the Foundation’s Marine Microbiology Initiative aimed at attaining new knowledge about microbial communities in the world’s oceans.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, established in 2000, seeks to advance environmental conservation and cutting-edge scientific research around the world and improve the quality of life in the San Francisco Bay area. The Foundation’s Marine Microbiology Initiative supports the discovery and dissemination of scientific findings and technological developments in the fields of marine microbiology and microbial ecology, which contribute to ocean health and productivity. For more information, visit

Moran’s research focuses on marine bacteria that are important in the cycling of carbon and sulfur in the coastal ocean. Her research team uses the genomes of cultured marine bacterioplankton to investigate how bacteria influence sulfur emissions, carbon storage and energy acquisition in marine surface waters and coastal marshes.

The bacteria also influence the flow of sulfur-containing gases between the ocean and atmosphere. This flow provides a key feedback loop in theories of global climate regulation for which biotic processes are central elements.

Moran said the Foundation’s support has been instrumental in her research team’s success in achieving greater understanding of the importance of marine microorganisms on climate change, ocean health and other global environmental problems.

“The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is unusual in that it actively encourages research that may be risky but has potentially high payoffs,” she said. “Being able to pursue challenging lines of research without being continually hampered by financial constraints is almost unheard of in the ecological and earth sciences.”

Since receiving the first Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grant, Moran and her team have received an $864,782 grant from the National Science Foundation. Moran has also reported on her research in a number of scientific publications including the prestigious journal Nature, which this year published an article reporting the first experimental evidence on how ocean bacteria can change their functions depending on the availability of food.

Also this year, Moran was the first recipient of the D.C. White Research and Mentoring Award, created by the American Society of Microbiology to recognize distinguished achievements in interdisciplinary research and mentoring in microbiology. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology in 2006.

Last year, she was chair of a U.S.-European workshop on cyberinfrastructure for microbial sciences. In 2005, she was co-chair of a U.S.-European workshop on genomic approaches for studying the marine environment and resources.