Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the planet. And within the oceans, it is the microbial ecosystem, made up of bacteria and phytoplankton, that forms the base of the food chain and powers the cycling of carbon, oxygen and other elements. Yet despite its importance, marine microbial ecology remains an underfunded area of science.
To help remedy this situation, in 2017 the Simons Foundation created the Simons Postdoctoral Fellowships in Marine Microbial Ecology. These three-year awards, given out each year to five early-career researchers, were inspired by Sallie (Penny) Chisholm, a marine microbiologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “She always gets lists of fellowships that MIT postdocs can apply to, and there’s never anything targeted to people in this field,” says Marian Carlson, director of the Simons Foundation’s Life Sciences division.