The Ocean Biogeochemistry Virtual Institute (OBVI)

OBVI aims to accelerate society's response to climate change by tackling some of the most challenging data and modeling problems in ocean biogeochemistry research.



The ocean plays a powerful role in regulating Earth’s climate and acts as a vast repository for carbon. Studies to date reveal that the ocean has absorbed and stored nearly one-third of the carbon dioxide that humans have emitted over the last century. Ocean biogeochemists have developed a broad understanding of how the ocean shapes climate, as well as how the ocean sequesters (stores) carbon from the Earth’s atmosphere. We are lacking, however, a deeper fundamental and mechanistic understanding of the physical, chemical, biological, and geological processes that govern the cycling and storage of carbon in the ocean. We have much to learn about the connections between carbon and other elemental cycles, and the specific roles that marine microbes and animals play in shaping those relationships. Our gaps in knowledge impede our ability to predict the extent to which the ocean can continue to sequester carbon dioxide, as well as our ability to predict the structure, function, and resilience of marine ecosystems in a rapidly warming world.


A more robust understanding of the fate of carbon in the ocean, as well as the relationships between elemental cycles and the biosphere, is necessary for developing a predictive model of how the ocean carbon cycle might change. This knowledge is critical to the assessment and development of viable ocean-based carbon dioxide removal methods as part of climate mitigation strategies. However, achieving this level of understanding is challenging for technical, logistical, and cultural reasons.


The Schmidt Sciences Ocean Biogeochemistry Virtual Institute (OBVI) aims to improve the breadth and rigor of ocean biogeochemistry research, capacity to manage ocean resources, and environmental decision-making in order to better respond to climate change. 


OBVI seeks to tackle some of the most challenging biogeochemical data and modeling problems across systems and scales by developing novel approaches for ocean data collection, integration, and interpretation. We hope that through these efforts, we can improve our understanding of the cycling and storage of carbon in the ocean.


OBVI is purposefully focused on enhancing the speed and effectiveness of discovery and the translation of fundamental research to inform environmental decision-making. As one of Schmidt Sciences’ Virtual Institutes of Science, OBVI will build an international, integrated network of carefully selected scientific and technical talent to solve hard and important problems of scientific knowledge by working across institutions and disciplines – taking high-risk bets that apply advanced computing and innovative technologies to STEM R&D for better results. This network will confront grand challenges in ocean biogeochemistry by reimagining how we address some of the reasons for why they are difficult to overcome. Together, OBVI projects may produce outcomes including but not limited to; a more robust, global synthesis of ocean carbon flows; a new model of ocean biogeochemical research that allows for greater international participation (especially from underrepresented scientific communities); and an advanced ability to predict the ocean carbon cycle and the resilience of diverse marine ecosystems.


OBVI will maximize opportunities to support ocean observing and data collection as part of these high-quality interdisciplinary research projects by collaborating with the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI), a 501(c)(3) private non-profit operating foundation established by Eric and Wendy Schmidt. SOI’s mission is to catalyze the discoveries needed to understand our ocean, sustain life, and ensure the health of our planet through the pursuit of impactful scientific research and intelligent observation, technological advancement, open sharing of information, and public engagement at the highest levels of international excellence.

Expressions of Intent:

OBVI is seeking brief EOIs, followed by invitation-only proposals, for research projects that advance understanding and predictions of the ocean carbon cycle and resilience of marine ecosystems across systems and scales by innovating in the following areas:


  1. Integrated Ocean Observation and Modeling: Addressing critical gaps in data and theory at new study sites and/or study sites with pre-existing foundational knowledge that can be built on in novel directions through integrated observing and modeling efforts. Projects may focus on processes involved in ocean carbon cycling and/or marine ecosystems to move a capacity for state estimation and prediction forward across multiple systems and scales.
  2. Ocean Data Synthesis: Synthesizing diverse datastreams in ocean biogeochemistry (e.g., microscopy, optical measurements, ‘omics data, satellite data, tracers, model output). Projects may focus on building computational workflows, establishing collaborative, flexible frameworks for data synthesis, facilitating development of software platforms or tools in order to gain new insights, advancing sophisticated process representation or model frameworks, identifying/prioritizing data gaps and needs, or facilitating efficient and effective use of ocean data in regional and global models.

Learn more about the EOI and submission details below:

The submission window for OBVI’s Expressions of Intent (EOIs) closed on June 1, 2023. Please e-mail with any questions.

Expressions of Intent: FAQ

Read our FAQs:

OBVI Advisory Board

Peter Girguis

Harvard University

Peter Girguis is a Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and an Adjunct Oceanographer in Applied Ocean Engineering and Physics at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. His research examines the relationship between organismal ecology, physiology, and biogeochemical cycles employing a variety of tools from genomics to biogeochemical measurements. Dr. Girguis and his lab also develops novel methods and technologies to explore marine environments, such as underwater mass spectrometers, underwater microbial fuel cells, and deep sea autonomous laboratories. In order to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the sciences, Dr. Girguis has co-founded a high-school marine science internship program at Harvard, leads DEI efforts in ocean sciences in the U.S. and abroad, and works closely with United Nations delegates to promote democratization of ocean sciences around the world. 

Dr. Girguis received his B.S. from the University of California, Los Angeles and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He carried out postdoctoral research at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute with Dr. Edward Delong on the growth and population dynamics of anaerobic methanotrophs. Dr. Girguis has received numerous awards, including the Petra Shattuck Excellence in Teaching award from Harvard University and Lowell Thomas Award for groundbreaking advances in Marine Science and Technology. In 2020, he was named a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Investigator for his research on marine symbioses. Dr. Girguis currently serves as a board member of the Ocean Exploration Trust and the Schmidt Marine Technology Partners, among other consortia across the international science community. 

Visit the Girguis Lab website for more information about their work. 

Quote: “I’m honored and delighted to be a part of this effort. The ocean may well be Earth’s most complex feature. Even after centuries of ocean science and exploration, we have much to learn about the ocean system, including its role in Earth’s biogeochemical cycles. I am hopeful that we, as a community, can revolutionize how we study ocean biogeochemical processes, for the health and well-being of our planet and all of humankind.”

David Karl

University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

David Karl is the Victor and Peggy Brandstrom Pavel Professor of Microbial Oceanography and Director of the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, leading the Laboratory for Microbial Oceanography within the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). Dr. Karl has spent more than 1,000 days conducting research at sea including 23 expeditions to Antarctica. In 1988 he co-founded the Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT) program that has conducted sustained physical, biogeochemical and microbial measurements and experiments at Station ALOHA on approximately monthly intervals for the past 35 years. In 2006, Dr. Karl led a team of scientists in the establishment of The Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) – a new NSF-supported Science and Technology Center that conducts collaborative research on marine microorganisms from genomes to biomes, and has a vital training mission to help prepare the next generation of microbial oceanographers. He is also the co-director of the The Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology (SCOPE) program, which aims to advance our understanding of the biology, biogeochemistry, ecology and evolution of microbial processes at Station ALOHA.

Dr. Karl holds a PhD from the University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. received several awards and honors including the G. Evelyn Hutchinson Medal from the American Society for Limnology and Oceanography, the Henry Bryant Bigelow Medal from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Alexander Agassiz Medal from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and an honorary D.Sc. degree from the University of Chicago. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Academy of Microbiology, and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Visit the SOEST website for more information about his work. 

Quote: “I am thrilled to be part of the OBVI project.  The mission is timely, important and one of the most challenging in all of ocean science for understanding the current and future states of our planet.  I look forward to meaningful collaborations and unexpected discoveries.”

Debbie Lindell

Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

Debbie Lindell is the Dresner Chair in life sciences and medicine at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and a Simons Foundation SCOPE Investigator. Dr. Lindell explores the interactions between viruses and their hosts in marine environments – from the Red Sea to the North Pacific Ocean. Her research uses a combination of laboratory experimentation, oceanographic fieldwork, and molecular biology to investigate the ecology, physiology and evolution of host-virus interactions, with the goal of understanding how these interactions impact the ecological roles of both cyanobacteria and cyanophages in ocean ecosystems. The Lindell lab focuses primarily on the marine cyanobacteria, Synechococcus, and Prochlorococcus, abundant primary producers of global importance, and the viruses that infect them. 

Dr. Lindell holds a M.S. and Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Interuniversity Institute of Marine Sciences. She completed postdoctoral research training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying the physiological and evolutionary implications of photosynthesis genes in phages that infect Prochlorococcus. Dr. Lindell received the Yigal Alon Fellowship from the Israel Council for Higher Education (2007-2010), the Robert J. Shillman Career Advancement Chair from the Technion (2007-2012) and the Krill prize for scientific excellence from the Wolf Foundation (2009). Recently, Dr. Lindell received the 2022 “Morton and Beverley Rechler” Prize for Excellence in Research at the Technion.

Visit the Lindell Lab website for more information about their work.


“I am excited to be part of Schmidt Sciences’ OBVI to help shape the program. I am particularly looking forward to working with innovative scientists to gain a fundamental understanding of ocean biogeochemistry and the ability to accurately model and predict ocean carbon cycling.”

Matthew Long

National Center for Atmospheric Research

Matthew Long is a Scientist in the Oceanography Section of the Climate & Global Dynamics Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) where he works on the development and application of the Community Earth System Model and conducts cross-cutting research pertaining to biogeochemical modeling, the global carbon cycle, airborne CO2 observations, climate change and marine ecosystems. Prior to NCAR, Dr. Long built and deployed instruments to measure ocean carbon variables on seagoing expeditions. Dr. Long is co-founder of [C]worthy, which is currently a project incubated by Convergent Research, part of the Schmidt Sciences network, and aims to develop into a full-scale Focused Research Organization by 2024.

Dr. Long holds a B.S. and M.S. in environmental engineering from Tufts University and a Ph.D. in oceanography from Stanford University. He has served on a number of professional research boards, including the Ocean Carbon & Biogeochemistry (OCB) Scientific Steering Committee and NOAA Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Climate Change Working Group.

Visit Dr. Long’s website for more information about his work.


“The ocean provides many critical ecosystem services essential to human well-being and the habitability of the planet—yet our ability to understand and predict the response of marine ecosystems to a changing climate and growing human impacts remains insufficient. I am excited to engage with a diverse group of researchers in OBVI to confront these challenges, advancing our fundamental understanding of the ocean and improving the capacity for informed decision making.”

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