Renowned Oceanographer Joins UM Flathead Lake Bio Station Faculty

August 24, 2016

Matthew Church, associate professor at the University of Montana Flathead Lake Biological StationMISSOULA – Later this month, one of the nation’s preeminent oceanographers will join the faculty of the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station.

FLBS recently hired Matthew Church as a microbial ecologist. He will leave his post at the University of Hawaii to begin his duties as an associate professor at the station at the end of August, adapting his work to Flathead Lake.

He will use his knowledge and experience studying microorganisms found in the ocean – the tiny life forms upon which the entire ecosystem depends – and apply that skillset to studying Flahead Lake.

“He will bring to FLBS some of the most cutting-edge methods in aquatic microbial ecology,” FLBS Director Jim Elser said. “He will bring the ‘big science’ perspectives of ‘blue water’ oceanography to UM. Our landing Matt for FLBS has made a big splash in the worlds of oceanography and limnology.”

In studying the lake’s tiny microscopic community, Church will uncover a piece of the puzzle as to how the lake works.

“I try to use approaches that provide insight into how temporal and spatial changes in the aquatic habitats influence the distributions, physiology and diversity of microbes,” Church said.

FLBS Assistant Director Tom Bansak said Church’s research will fill a gap in the current understanding of the lake.

“Matt works routinely in some of the most technically challenging situations in the aquatic sciences – the ultra-dilute waters of the central Pacific Ocean,” Elser said. “His methods and perspectives will help keep FLBS research on the cutting edge in the aquatic sciences as he brings his considerable talents to the pure, clear waters of Flathead Lake.”

Church has conducted research in Antarctica and the subtropical North Pacific Ocean. In total, he has spent more than a year at sea working aboard research vessels in ocean ecosystems across the globe.

In 2004, he joined the Department of Oceanography at the University of Hawaii in large part to work with the scientists and staff of the Hawaii Ocean Time-series program. Since 1988, this interdisciplinary research program has sustained near-monthly observations of ecosystem variability at an open ocean site about 60 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands. He served as the lead principal investigator of this large interdisciplinary research program from 2009 to 2016.

In recognition of Church’s research and education contributions, he was awarded the Yentsch-Schindler Early Career Award by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography in 2015.

Church earned his bachelor’s degree from The Evergreen State College in 1994 and then worked for a few years at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research. He went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in marine science from the College of William and Mary’s School of Marine Science.

For more information call Bansak at 406-982-3301 ext. 229 or email tom.bansak@umontana.edu.

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Contact: Tom Bansak, assistant director, Flathead Lake Biological Station, 406-982-3301 ext. 229, tom.bansak@umontana.edu.