Spotlight: Giora Proskurowski

Research Scientist/Engineer

GioraLike many oceanographers, Giora ping-ponged between the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast, following exciting educational and research opportunities. Born in Eugene, Oregon, Giora received a chemistry BA from Amherst College in 1998, but was drawn to the earth sciences after a senior thesis of experimental physical chemistry proved too abstract and narrow. He returned to the Pacific Northwest as a graduate student at the UW School of Oceanography to study the gas chemistry of deep-sea hydrothermal vents with Drs. Marv Lilley, Deb Kelley and Paul Quay. After getting an MS (2001) and PhD (2005) here at the UW, he moved to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as a Postdoctoral Scholar under the mentorship of Dr. Jeff Seewald. The postdoctoral phase lasted several years studying the isotope chemistry of hydrocarbon gases from the Lost City hydrothermal field, the Lau Basin, and high-pressure/high-temperature experiments.

While in Woods Hole he grew interested in the operations of the Sea Education Association, just up the road from WHOI. He was hired on as a contract Chief Scientist to teach a “SEA Semester”—a 6-week shore-based oceanography course followed by a 38-day voyage on the SSV Corwith Cramer, one of SEA’s two steel-hulled brigantine-rigged sailing vessels. The experience of tall-ship oceanography provides an intimate relationship with studying the open ocean that is vastly different from UNOLS vessels, and Giora signed onto the SEA faculty full-time. In addition to teaching at SEA, Giora worked with collaborators Kara Lavender Law (SEA), Skye Moret-Ferguson (SEA) and Chris Reddy (WHOI) to uncover a valuable dataset and sampleset of plastic marine debris collected by SEA over the past three decades. This archive discovery work led to several major publications and created another line active research, in addition to deep-sea hydrothermal vent work.

Giora working at seaIn 2010 Giora returned to the University of Washington to work as a Project Scientist on RSN project, the cabled observatory component of the NSF’s Ocean Observatories Initiative. Working closely with Drs. John Delaney and Deb Kelley, Giora spends three-quarters of his time helping to design and build a massive and complex network of powered fiber-optically linked spread across the seafloor from the coast of Oregon to the mid-ocean ridge at Axial Seamount. This instrument network will go live in 2015, providing real-time data to scientists and the public via the internet. One of the most exciting aspects of working on the RSN project is imagining the possibilities to expand the cabled observatory and incorporate new technologies.

In addition to working on the cabled observatory Giora maintains active seagoing and laboratory-based research projects as PI and co-PI on hydrothermal vent and marine plastic debris related questions. In summer 2012 he mentored University of Maryland student Abby Ahlert during her nanoplastic debris research project through the JISAO undergraduate internship program. Currently, Giora is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Schmidt Ocean Institute to develop a synoptic model of the Giora's kidschemical-microbiological-viral interactions in the subseafloor at Axial Seamount; by the National Science Foundation to investigate the kinetics and mechanisms of plastic marine debris degradation in the surface ocean; and by NOAA to understand the vertical distribution of plastic marine debris distribution in the dynamic upper ocean.

When not in the office or at sea, Giora spends as much time as possible with his three kids (ages 7, 5, and 2), wife and dog (boxer-sheltie mutt)--with short excursions to get into the rugged mountains of the Pacific Northwest via snow/ice/bike/rock.