Dr. Mitarai and collaborators to receive Canon Foundation Research Grant


A black smoker at a mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal vent
Source: The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Since their discovery in 1977 in the East Pacific Rise, hydrothermal vents have been a source of fascination for scientists.  These natural, deep-sea plumbing systems ventilate heat and minerals from the interior of the Earth, while supporting complex ecosystems of exotic organisms. The organisms living in hydrothermal vent communities do not move from place to place when they are adults, but their larvae do, with the help of oceanic turbulence.  The dispersal of larvae affects the dynamics of the population of the species that inhabit the areas close to the vents, as well as the population genetics and the community structure.

A group of researchers led by Dr. Satoshi Mitarai, Independent New Investigator of the Marine Biophysics Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), has been awarded the 2011 “Pursuit of Dreams Grant” by the Canon Foundation to support their research on the understanding of hydrothermal vents.  With the grant totaling 38 million yen for the next three years, the group aims to study the mechanisms of dispersal of vent species in the hydrothermal vent fields of the Okinawa trough in the East China Sea. A diverse team of marine physicists, marine biologists, molecular biologists, and systems biologists will participate in this research project, to be jointly carried out by OIST and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).

I am very honored to receive this grant on behalf of my colleagues,” said Dr. Mitarai. “It will enable us to carry out important research on the dispersal of exotic larvae living close to hydrothermal vents in the Okinawa trough. I would like to express my gratitude to the Canon Foundation.

The Canon Foundation supports research that contributes to the deepening of human wisdom and to lasting human prosperity.  The “Pursuit of Dreams Grant” is awarded by the Foundation to a cross-disciplinary research project that displays frontier spirit, and promotes welfare and sustainability. For 2011, the Foundation chose “Ocean” as its theme, and four research projects including the one by Dr. Mitarai’s team have been selected.

Research Project Title Larval dispersal and metapopulation dynamics of hydrothermal vent species
Lead Researcher: Satoshi Mitarai (OIST)
Collaborating Researchers:    Holger Jenke-Kodama (OIST)
  Hiroaki Kitano (OIST)
  Noriyuki Satoh (OIST)
  Igor Goryanin (OIST)
  Tadashi Maruyama (JAMSTEC)
  Yoshihiro Fujiwara (JAMSTEC)
  Yasuo Furushima (JAMSTEC)
  Hiromi Watanabe (JAMSTEC)


Giant smoky plume pouring out of a Brimstone Pit in the Mariana Arc
Source: The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration






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