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The Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize

Information on the Taira Prize

The Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize is given annually in recognition of outstanding, transdisciplinary research accomplishment in ocean drilling to an honoree within 15 years of receiving their Ph.D.

The Taira Prize is generously funded by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International and is given in partnership between AGU and the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU). It is presented at the AGU Fall Meeting.

The prize was named after Dr. Asahiko Taira of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. Dr. Taira has more than 40 years of experience in geological research and previously served as an associate professor at Kochi University, as well as a professor at the University of Tokyo. His work has been published in more than 200 American and Japanese publications.

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Award benefits

AGU and JpGU are proud to recognize our honorees. Recipients of the Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize will receive an engraved crystal award as well as the following benefits:

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    $18,000 monetary prize
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    Recognition in Eos
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    Recognition and invitation to present at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year
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    Two complimentary tickets to the Honors Banquet at the AGU Fall Meeting during the award presentation year


To better understand eligibility for nominators, supporters and Taira Prize Committee members, review AGU’s Honors Conflict of Interest Policy.

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    • The nominee must be an active scientist who is within 15 years of receiving their Ph.D. of any discipline. Exceptions to the 15-year requirement due to special circumstances can be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Taira Prize Committee.
    • They should be in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Policy.
    • The nominee must be making an impact in the field of ocean drilling.

    PLEASE NOTE: Allowances to this eligibility requirement will be considered under AGU's Honors Program Career Stage Eligibility Requirement Allowance Policy. This policy grants allowances to the career stage eligibility requirement based on the following family or medical leave circumstances: childbirth; adoption; personal serious illness; primary caregiver of a person with a health condition, and any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, child, or parent of the employee is engaged in military service. Allowances for other extenuating circumstances not covered in the above examples (i.e., economic hardship, other career breaks, etc.) can also be considered.

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    Nominators: Nominators must be active AGU members and in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Policy. Duplicate nominations for the same individual will not be accepted. However, one co-nominator is permitted (but not required) per nomination.
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    Supporters: Individuals who write letters of support for the nominee are not required to be active AGU members but must be in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Policy.
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Nomination package

Your nomination package must contain all of the following files, which should be no more than two pages in length per document. For detailed information on the requirements, review the Union Awards, Medals and Prizes Frequently Asked Questions.

  • A nomination letter with one-sentence citation (150 characters or less). Letterhead stationery is preferred. Nominator’s name, title, institution, and contact information are required. The citation should appear at either the beginning or end of the nomination letter.
  • A curriculum vitae for the nominee. Include the candidate’s name, address and email, history of employment, degrees, research experience, honors, memberships, and service to the community through committee work, advisory boards, etc.
  • A selected bibliography stating the total number, the types of publications and the number published by AGU.
  • Three letters of support not including the nomination letter. Letterhead is preferred. Supporter’s name, title, institution, and contact information are required.

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Nominations are Open!

The nomination cycle for 2022 AGU Union awards, medals, and prizes is now open until 15 April. Nominate a colleague, peer or student today.

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Past recipients

Robert M Mckay


Beth N. Orcutt was awarded the 2019 Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 11 December 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. The prize is given “for outstanding transdisciplinary research accomplishment in ocean drilling.”



Beth N. Orcutt has made transdisciplinary contributions to microbiology and biogeochemistry in the deep oceanic subsurface through the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). She has made these advances largely through her research in ocean drilling, and she has also performed leadership roles in IODP, including serving on the Science Evaluation Panel and being chief scientist of expeditions.

In 2011, Orcutt used IODP-dilled boreholes to demonstrate colonization of native rock–hosted communities on mineral surfaces. This work opened up the basalt basement to direct microbial observation. From IODP Expedition 336 to North Pond, Orcutt showed oxygen consumption rates in subseafloor basalt-hosted ecosystems, using reaction-transport models of high-resolution oxygen concentration profiles to show that 1 nanomole of oxygen is consumed per cubic centimeter of rock per day in ~8-million-year-old basaltic crust. This was a major advance on previous work demonstrating widespread aerobic activity in subseafloor basalt.

From IODP Expedition 327 to the Juan de Fuca Ridge flank, Orcutt’s group demonstrated the microbial connections between deeply buried subseafloor basalts and the surrounding sediments. They showed that sedimentary communities are stimulated by fluids coming out of the basalts, but the microbial community composition is not changed by the presence of different kinds of basalts. From the observatories installed on this same expedition, Orcutt’s group used genomic techniques to determine the environmental role of one of the most enigmatic members of subseafloor basalt communities: the Hydrothermarchaeota. No microbial isolate has ever been obtained from this group, but it appears to be widespread among deep subseafloor ecosystems. Orcutt’s lab demonstrated for the first time that this group of organisms likely uses carbon monoxide as a respiration substrate, allowing it to be somewhat decoupled from pure heterotrophy, achieving a C1 compound–supported lifestyle.

Orcutt is also an innovator in the methods used in scientific drilling. She has evaluated the suitability of construction materials for IODP boreholes and developed flow-through Osmo colonization experiments that enhance the quality of scientific experiments that can be performed with IODP-drilled boreholes. These findings set important boundaries on the extent of influence of subseafloor basalt communities and have enabled discoveries by other researchers as well. By continually being open and courageous with new methods, field work, and data interpretation, Orcutt has made truly great breakthroughs that have made her a highly respected member of the scientific drilling community.

—Karen Lloyd, University of Tennessee, Knoxville


I am deeply honored to receive the Asahiko Taira Prize for my involvement with the international scientific ocean drilling programs. Dr. Taira inspires me with his commitment to scientific progress and international collaboration, and I hope to live up to his leadership example within the AGU and IODP communities. I am also indebted to Karen Lloyd for her generous citation and unflagging support.

My interest in ocean drilling science was sparked during my undergraduate studies by reading papers on curious methane patterns in marine sediments. With the incredible support of Mandy Joye at the University of Georgia and Antje Boetius and Kai-Uwe Hinrichs in Bremen, Germany, I had the opportunity to delve into studying sediment hydrocarbon cycling during my Ph.D. research. These experiences opened my eyes to the possibilities for international collaborative research within the ocean drilling program and also inspired a peculiar passion for working with increasingly more difficult and low-biomass samples.

My immersion into the drilling program began in earnest under the leadership of Katrina Edwards at the University of Southern California, who supported me as a postdoc to design experiments to study microbe–mineral interactions in oceanic crust. This experience was foundational for my involvement in IODP Expeditions 327 and 336 specifically and for my career in general. Katrina’s unapologetic enthusiasm for achieving aspirational scientific goals was infectious and unmatched. I am thankful for the lessons I learned from her and miss her dearly.

Through the doors that Katrina opened, I had opportunities to get involved with borehole observatory research, with the unendingly generous support of colleagues Keir Becker, Andrew Fisher, and Geoff Wheat. I am indebted to Bo Barker Jørgensen for allowing me to pursue these efforts during my second postdoc, to Graham Shimmield for his encouragement to continue my interests as I started my own laboratory, to Gretchen Früh-Green for inspiring me to take on more leadership roles, and to Jan Amend, Julie Huber, and the entire Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations community for making deep biosphere research so fun. Ocean drilling and observatory science are truly collaborative efforts, and I am grateful to all of the scientific teams and partners I have had the honor of working with and learning from.

—Beth N. Orcutt, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, East Boothbay, Maine

Brandon Dugan received the Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 12 December 2018 in Washington, D. C. The prize recognizes an individual “for outstanding transdisciplinary research accomplishment in ocean drilling.”



Brandon Dugan’s transdisciplinary contributions, which couple pore pressure, fluid flow, and the evolution of sediment properties, are a crucial pillar of the geohazard research highlighted in the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) science plan. His novel approaches shed light on the fundamental physical processes operating at granular to regional scales by combining field experiments with robust and experimentally validated models.

Brandon’s early work laid the theoretical foundation tested on IODP Expedition 308, “Gulf of Mexico Hydrogeology.” The mechanism for overpressure generation and slope failure that he pioneered has since been adopted elsewhere and continues to guide research in this arena. As part of the Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone Experiment (NanTroSEIZE), he sailed on Expedition 322, served as the hydrogeology planning group leader for NanTroSEIZE Stage 2, and was co–chief scientist for Expedition 338. Through these projects, Brandon showed how sediment fabric, porosity, and permeability evolve during consolidation and provided basic information to support models of fluid flow, overpressure development, and slope stability. In 2016, Brandon coled Expedition 362 and in a collaborative effort with members of the science party, documented complete dehydration of silicates before plate subduction, expanding on prevailing models of subduction seismogenesis. Processes such as these, which take place outboard of the deformation front, are key to understanding the behavior of plate boundary seismogenesis and tsunami generation.

Brandon’s research has been expanding beyond slope stability and seismogenic themes to multiple directions that encompass both observation and theory. For example, the integration of numerical modeling and IODP data toward understanding gas hydrate dynamics in Hydrate Ridge and the Kumano basin has important linkages to carbon cycling. He recently spearheaded an integrated offshore–onshore drilling program to understand freshwater resources along the New England continental shelf that will address how glacial dynamics, sea level variations, and groundwater flow have emplaced large volumes of fresh water in offshore sediments. This pioneering research has direct and immediate societal relevance, as traditional freshwater resources are declining due to overexploitation and climate change.

Brandon has made extraordinary contributions to the ocean drilling program. He has served the IODP community in many advisory capacities, including as a long-term member of the Environmental Protection and Safety Panel and as a leader or steering committee member of various workshops. Noteworthy is the workshop Engaging Early Career Scientists in Future Scientific Ocean Drilling, which illustrates Brandon’s commitment to engage, train, and motivate early-career scientists to take an active role in IODP, a key effort to ensuring the success and long-term vitality of the program.

—Marta E. Torres, Oregon State University, Corvallis


I am honored to receive the Taira Prize, and I thank AGU, Japan Geoscience Union, and IODP for establishing it. I also thank Marta Torres for her kind citation. My path to ocean drilling started at the University of Minnesota, where Mark Person introduced me to integrating mathematical modeling and Earth science research. An internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory exposed me to working with wells. Most influential, however, was a handwritten note from Michelle Markley on a structural geology homework that said, “use your imagination.” This led to a Ph.D. at Penn State blending engineering and geosciences. Peter Flemings, my advisor, set me loose on data from Leg 174A. Under his guidance, I started linking fluid flow and slope stability. Peter’s mentorship was invaluable. He encouraged me and pushed me to understand and to explain. This inspired me to sail on Leg 194, where I experienced the grind and the joys of working at sea and, even as a young graduate student, was treated as an equal while being mentored. I loved the environment that mixed hard work, cutting-edge science, and engineering. On Expedition 308, we tested models that I developed, and we advanced in situ pressure analyses. Here I realized the true value of working with a diverse group of scientists all looking at the same problem. In addition, I became aware of all that the technicians and crew do so we can focus on science. This blossomed into other projects looking at fluid–rock interactions, like NanTroSEIZE, where I sailed as a scientist (Expedition 322) and a co–chief scientist (Expedition 338). This leadership opportunity helped me grow as a scientist and as a mentor and pushed me to integrate across disciplines. Since then I have had other great experiences as a co–chief scientist studying inputs to the Sumatra subduction zone (Expedition 362) and as a logging scientist studying landslides and slow-slip earthquakes (Expedition 372). Every project has amazed me, and I am proud to be part of this community—working together, testing hypotheses, and solving problems at sea. Within this community, many scientists have inspired me, but a few who have had the biggest impacts are Peter Flemings, Lisa McNeill, Casey Moore, Greg Moore, Demian Saffer, Marta Torres, and Mike Underwood. I thank them. Most of all, I thank my family, wife, and children, who support me as I chase my dreams.

—Brandon Dugan, Colorado School of Mines, Golden

Michael Strasser was awarded the 2017 Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 13 December 2017 in New Orleans, La. The Taira Prize is a partnership between AGU and the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU) and is made possible through a generous donation from the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International (-IOPD--MI). The prize honors an individual for “outstanding transdisciplinary research accomplishment in ocean drilling.”



Michael “Michi” Strasser is a key science driver for increasing our understanding of submarine mass movements through scientific ocean drilling. He has enthusiastically conducted research on mass transport deposits induced by historic mega earthquakes in the Nankai Trough and also by the 2011 Japan Trench mega earthquake and tsunami. His achievements have significantly contributed to our understanding of the causes and mechanisms of such deformable sediments and their tectonic backgrounds. Importantly, these scientific achievements are also highly relevant to human society in terms of natural geohazards.


Beginning with his Ph.D., he initiated his research with the study of Swiss lake sediments and proposed a novel method to reconstruct magnitudes and source areas of prehistoric earthquakes. By combining sedimentology, exploration geophysics, and geotechnical methods on seismic slope stability, he quantified prehistoric earthquake intensities produced by subaquatic sediment failure. In 2007–2008, he participated in the Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone Experiment sailing on the D/V Chikyu as a member of the scientific team during Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition (Exp.) 316. As a shipboard sedimentologist, he clarified the origin and evolution of a tsunamigenic thrust system based on slope failure sediments. In 2010, he assumed a leadership role in proposing the Nankai Trough Submarine Landslide History (-NanTroSLIDE) project, again using the D/V Chikyu, and served as a co–chief scientist during IODP Exp. 333. One of the most fascinating scientific achievements resulting from IODP Exp. 333 was his 2011 paper, which presents several novel aspects of a submarine landslide study combining the use of -X-ray computed tomography and 3-D seismic interpretations of the targeted area.

In 2011, he established his own lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and systematically pursued a conceptional research scheme to study -earthquake--triggered subaquatic landslides and sediment stability along subduction margins. Major scientific achievements emanating from these projects include important discoveries of transient geochemical signals in the slump deposit that constrained the triggering of the slump associated with the 2011 Japan Trench mega earthquake and the history of methane release from hydrate dissociation induced by recent offshore earthquakes. Michi’s research has expanded further to include -trans- and interdisciplinary directions to integrate both observational and theoretical processes. His interdisciplinary research achievements have broadened to include the impacts of active margin tectonics on the deep carbon cycle and biosphere and the integration of numerical modeling using IODP data. Since 2010, he has been serving as a leader of the international scientific community, for example, as cochair of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (-UNESCO) International Geoscience Programme IGCP 585 and 640 and as subchair of the Proposal Evaluation Panel of IODP.

As a recipient of the Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize, Michael Strasser is honored for his outstanding contributions to the investigation of submarine mass movements using multidisciplinary approaches through scientific ocean drilling.

—Yasuhiro Yamada, Center for Ocean Drilling Science, Japan Agency for -Marine--Earth Science and Technology, Yokohama


I feel deeply honored to receive the Taira Prize. I thank AGU, the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU), and IODP for establishing this prestigious prize and express my supreme gratitude to Yasuhiro Yamada for his gracious citation.

The enthusiastic lectures by Judy McKenzie, Gretchen Bernasconi, and Gerald Haug triggered my fascination for studying Earth’s structure and history through scientific ocean drilling. I cannot overemphasize the encouragement and support I received from them to apply for the ODP student trainee program in 2002. I had the good fortune to join the JOIDES Resolution with fantastic international colleagues during Leg 205 to study subduction zone processes offshore Costa Rica. I am thankful to co–chief scientists Julie Morris and Heinrich Villinger and staff scientist Adam Klaus, who nurtured my scientific growth from a student trainee to a shipboard sedimentologist.

After this cruise, I did my Ph.D. project on lakes with Flavio Anselmetti, who taught me how to conduct my own little IODP-style project in lakes as model oceans and introduced me to the fascinating research of subaquatic mass movements and paleoseismology. Thereafter, I had the great opportunity to be involved in the IODP Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone Experiment (-NanTroSEIZE), to get exposed to the tremendous technological opportunities of Chikyu, and to establish exciting interdisciplinary collaboration with many -NanTroSEIZE scientists. I would particularly like to thank Greg Moore, Achim Kopf, Mike Underwood, and Gaku Kimura in addition to the NanTroSEIZE chief scientists Harold Tobin and Masa Kinoshita and all co–chief scientists of Expeditions 316, 333, and 338, who were mostly influential on my research developments. They encouraged and supported me in writing my first drilling proposal to study submarine mass movement, which was implemented during Expeditions 333 and 338. Similarly, I am deeply thankful for the great momentum created by my colleagues within the UNESCO IGCP 585 and 640 projects, in particular, Angelo Camerlenghi and Roger Urgeles, to foster submarine landslide research within IODP. In representation of all not mentioned colleagues and friends within the bigger “IODP family,” I also thank Dick Kroon as past chair of the Science Evaluation Board, the panel membership of which provided me with yet another highly rewarding experience in learning how outstanding new research proposals are emerging. I acknowledge my host institutions, ETH Zürich, MARUM Bremen, and the University of Innsbruck, for all their support, and also my students for conducting their research projects with me. Finally, I thank my wife and family for all their incredible support.

—Michael Strasser, University of Innsbruck, -Innsbruck, Austria

Heiko Pälike was awarded the 2016 Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 14 December 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. The Taira Prize is a partnership between AGU and the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU) and is made possible through a generous donation from the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International (IODP-MI). The prize honors an individual for “outstanding transdisciplinary research accomplishment in ocean drilling.”


The centerpiece of Heiko Pälike’s work is the development of tuned timescales in critical intervals of the Cenozoic era. He opened up new and unknown regions to precise timescale generation and then applied this timescale to extract properties of Earth and solar system orbital motion and to solve ­first-­order questions about Earth’s climate system and Earth system sensitivity. The approach of this work is located at the frontier and intersection of solar system astronomy, geochronology, stratigraphy, Earth system modeling, paleoceanography, and a mathematical analysis of the interaction between the component systems while applying transdisciplinary approaches in novel ways to constrain critical Earth system parameters.

Heiko Pälike’s research combines a fundamental mathematical understanding of orbital mechanics and its application to forcing of climate. Since early in his career, he has combined this approach with the active design of drilling expeditions to gather and interpret marine geological data in a paleoclimatic context.

An early paper, written with the late Nick Shackleton in 2000, demonstrates how geological data can be used to extract and calibrate astronomical parameters. In 2006, another paper provided an elegant demonstration of the power of astronomically tuned records to reveal the mechanisms controlling climate change at a whole range of timescales, using quantitative models to marry observations and theory.

One of his major contributions was the design and execution of a research project using the unique capabilities of the R/V JOIDES Resolution, applying geological principles developed through ocean drilling (detailed plate tectonic reconstructions and integrated stratigraphies), to locate the best possible drilling locations for a paleodepth transect in the equatorial Pacific, which allowed a major refinement of the understanding of the carbonate system over Cenozoic time. Parts of this work were published in a seminal paper involving all Expedition 320/321 participants in 2012.

Heiko Pälike has also taken up high-level responsibilities in the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) scientific strategy by cochairing the Science Evaluation Panel, contributing to the JOIDES Resolution Facility Board, and promoting the ­high-­level scientific aims of ocean drilling through his deep involvement in the IODP New Ventures in Exploring Scientific Targets (INVEST) Renewal Meeting and codesigning the current science plan for IODP for 2013–2023.

As recipient of the Taira Prize, Heiko Pälike is honored for his outstanding transdisciplanry contributions to the problem of Earth climate system reconstructions and the extraction of astronomical parameters from geological data.

—Michael Schulz, Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, Bremen, Germany


I feel extremely honored to receive the prestigious Taira Prize. First, I would like to thank Michael Schulz for his kind and generous citation and AGU, JpGU, and IODP for establishing the Taira Prize to recognize research enabled by international scientific ocean drilling. I am grateful to my mentors who introduced me to marine research, foremost Paul Wilson and the late Harry Elderfield, who supported me to apply for a Ph.D. in Cambridge. I cannot overemphasize the encouragement I received from the late Sir Nicholas Shackleton, who allowed me to learn so much about how the planet (and science) works, and was always open and excited to apply new methods to hard and exciting problems, and who introduced me to Jim Zachos, who was on sabbatical in Cambridge in 2000. Nick also introduced me to my postdoc advisor Jan Backman, and to participating in my first Ocean Drilling Program Expedition, 199, to the equatorial Pacific in 2001, which was a perfect deadline to finish my Ph.D. project with Nick in time to travel to Honolulu to join the JOIDES Resolution. The co–chief scientists Mitch Lyle and Paul Wilson assembled a fantastic international team of scientists, many of whom became my lifelong friends and colleagues and who together represented my first experience of the great “family” of scientific ocean drilling. Nothing can be more exhilarating than awaiting the next “Core on Deck!” call over the intercom, and knowing that no one else has seen the treasure archive of ocean and climate history to be retrieved from several kilometers below. Colleagues and friends from that first cruise were involved in our research on the climate history of the Paleogene, and I would particularly thank Hiroshi Nishi, Ted Moore, Steve Hovan, Tom Janecek, Carrie Lear, and Helen Coxall in addition to the co–chief scientists. After this first cruise, Jan Backman, Ted Moore, and Mitch Lyle encouraged and supported me in writing my first drilling proposal, which later turned into IODP Expeditions 320 and 321 in the equatorial Pacific, and on which I was allowed to sail as co–chief scientist. I particularly thank Nobu Eguchi for moving this proposal through the IODP panels, with a memorable AGU town hall in 2003. I thank my host institutions in Cambridge, Stockholm, Southampton, and Bremen for their incredible support, and finally I thank my wife and family for supporting me throughout this incredible journey.

—Heiko Pälike, MARUM–Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany

Fumio Inagaki was awarded the 2015 Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 16 December 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. The Taira Prize is a partnership between AGU and the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU), and is made possible through a generous donation from the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International (IOPD–MI). The prize honors an individual for “outstanding transdisciplinary research accomplishment in ocean drilling.”


Fumio Inagaki is one of the most influential leaders in the science and technology of exploring life through ocean drilling. He has significantly advanced the study of microbial life in deeply buried sediment. He is internationally recognized as an innovator of techniques, standards, and instrumentation in ocean drilling geomicrobiological research. Fumio has published over 100 articles in renowned international journals and textbooks on life below the ocean floor. His truly interdisciplinary work combines microbiology, geochemistry, and geology with ocean drilling science and technology to understand the limits of life on Earth. His studies of the biogeochemical functions of deep–ocean microorganisms include transdisciplinary contributions to important societal challenges, such as the fate of Earth’s deep carbon, subseafloor carbon dioxide storage, and the microbial potential for converting carbon dioxide to methane in deeply buried coal beds.

Among his major scientific contributions through ocean drilling are the first demonstration of subseafloor biogeography of microbial life, the proof by stable–isotope tracing experiments that cells in deep subseafloor sediment are capable of metabolic activity, and the recent discovery of microbial life in deeply buried subseafloor coal by ultradeep ocean drilling. His achievements have not only pushed the frontiers of ocean drilling for deep biosphere research but also been influential in a broad range of other fields, such as extreme environment research, microbial ecology, geobiology, and astrobiology.

Fumio Inagaki’s exceptional leadership in the science and technology of ocean drilling include his outstanding support of young scientists and his engagement in design of the Chikyu, the most modern scientific drilling vessel. He has -co-led or participated in 10 ocean drilling expeditions focused on exploration and understanding of subsurface life. In all of his work, Fumio has shown exceptional generosity, dedication to international collaboration beyond any frontier, and amazing integrity as a person in a highly competitive field. He has a great sensibility for the achievements of others, which he is always ready to put before his own. He opens his lab at the Japan Agency for Marine–Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) to any international student or postdoc in need of advice or equipment. He has dedicated a lot of time to service on scientific boards and committees for the advancement of ocean drilling science. As the first recipient of the Taira Prize, Fumio Inagaki is honored for his exceptional scientific and technological leadership in international ocean drilling research.

—Antje Boetius, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany; and Steven D’Hondt, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett


It is a tremendous honor for me to receive the prestigious Taira Prize. I would like to express my deepest thanks to Antje Boetius and Steve D’Hondt for their gracious citation, and AGU, Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU), and Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) for establishing the Taira Prize to recognize international scientific ocean drilling research.

My first participation in ocean drilling was on the U.S. drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution (JR) during the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Leg 201 off Peru and in the East Equatorial Pacific in 2002, which was the pioneering project dedicated to the study of subseafloor life and the deep biosphere. I had the good fortune to work with fantastic international colleagues during Leg 201, including the co-chief scientists Steve D’Hondt and Bo Barker Jørgensen. I still remember the electric blitz I felt when numerous geochemical and microbiological profiles were posted on the shipboard wall, which systematically showed the beautiful nature of the subsurface microbial ecosystems that we had explored with drilling. In 2010, I had the opportunity to sail as co-chief scientist with Steve on IODP Expedition 329 to explore the -ultra--oligotrophic South Pacific Gyre. This challenging adventure on the JR confirmed the deep penetration of dissolved oxygen into the deep–sea sediments from the seafloor to the basement and, for the first time, demonstrated that there are no limits to the aerobic sedimentary biosphere. In 2012, onboard the Japanese riser–drilling vessel Chikyu, I had the unprecedented second opportunity to sail as co-chief scientist, this time with Kai–Uwe Hinrichs, to explore the limits of deep life down to ~2.5 kilometers below the seafloor. During the Chikyu’s Expedition 337, it was an unforgettable moment with Kai and colleagues when we extended the previous scientific ocean drilling world record to a depth of 2466 meters and observed ultra–deep microbial life in ~20 million–year–old coal horizons.

I am particularly proud to have had the opportunity to explore the deep–biosphere frontiers working with many excellent teams and friends, not only in my geomicrobiology laboratory at JAMSTEC, but also during the drilling expeditions. Indeed, this first Taira Prize recognizes the efforts of the entire deep–biosphere ocean–drilling community. Finally, most importantly, I would like to especially thank my wife and family, who have always supported my scientific ventures. In 2011, Bo mentioned that “deep–biosphere research is still a young science with exciting challenges ahead”—where nobody has gone before.

—Fumio Inagaki, Japan Agency for Marine–Earth Science and Technology, Nankoku, Kochi, Japan

Name Year of honor
Rob Mckay 2020
Beth N. Orcutt
Brandon Dugan 2018
Michael Strasser 2017
Heiko Pälike 2016
Fumio Inagaki 2015


Honors Contacts

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Artesha Moore

Vice President, Affiliation, Engagement & Membership

202-777-7530 | [email protected]

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Leah Bland

Program Manager, Honors

202-777-7389 | [email protected]

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Rosa Maymi

Director, Engagement and Membership

202-777-7322 | [email protected]

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Hannah Hoffman

Honors and Affiliation Program Coordinator

202-777-7515 | [email protected]