Paul G. Falkowski
The 2005 Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky Medal is awarded to Paul G. Falkowski for his outstanding achievements in understanding the photosynthetic processes and evolution of marine phytoplankton, and the role of the ocean in global biogeochemical cycles.
Prof. Paul G. Falkowski was born on September 4th 1951 in New York City, USA. He studied biology at the City College of the City University of New York (B.S. and M.A.) and obtained a Ph. D. in Biology and Biophysics at the University of British Columbia, Canada in 1975. Soon afterwards, he became Senior Scientist at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and Adjunct Professor at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. He served as Head of Oceanographic Sciences Division, Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1987-1991. Since 1998 he is a Professor at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences and at the Department of Geology, Rutgers University, USA. Falkowski started his work by addressing some fundamental questions on the physiology of marine organisms. He first looked at the biochemistry of invertebrates but quickly moved to phytoplankton, publishing important papers on nutrient uptake by, and light-shade adaptation in, phytoplankton both in culture and in the field. His work on marine photosynthesis also involved the design of a new measurement technique, based on in vivo active fluorescence, to estimate the rate of photosynthetic electron transport in situ. This approach lead to a considerable step forward because it avoids incubation in a closed container and allows photosynthesis to be surveyed over large temporal and spatial scales. He greatly contributed to the understanding the influence of the oceans on the primary production of the biosphere. More recently, his interest shifted to molecular tools and to the evolution of the biogeochemical cycles and phytoplankton in the geological past. This led to two recent landmark papers.
Due to his authoritative expertise in marine biogeochemistry, he frequently advised US (NASA, Dept. of Energy, Office of Naval Research) and international programs (SOLAS, IGBP).
Prof. Paul G. Falkowski’s pioneer and truly multi-disciplinary work created a new generation of ideas on the role of the marine biosphere in the global biogeochemical cycling and climate. This work helped us to understand the complex relationships which regulate the dynamics of the Earth System.