Biology's Erik Cordes earns President's Award for Discovery

At the recent Temple University President's Innovation Award Gala, Erik Cordes, professor and vice chair of the Department of Biology, received the President's Award for Discovery.


Cordes works in some of the most remote environments on earth through his exploration of the deep sea. He has worked on the ecology and conservation of the deep sea for more than 20 years, spending about a year at sea on more than 25 research cruises and 35 dives in the manned submersibles Alvin and Johnson Sea-Link.


Cordes and his team made headlines in 2018 for the discovery of a coral reef off the coast of South Carolina, an entirely intact and healthy reef along the seafloor that extend for nearly 85 miles and is much further out and deeper than other reefs of its kind.


The research in his lab is focused on understanding the areas of the deep sea that support the highest biomass communities: deep-water coral reefs, natural hydrocarbon seeps and hydrothermal vents. He studies these ecosystems at all levels of organization, from energy flow in ecosystems and patterns of community assembly down to gene expression and microbial processes. Cordes worked on deep-sea corals for his master’s thesis at Moss Landing Marine Labs, worked on cold-seep ecology for his PhD at Penn State University and studied the microbial communities within hydrothermal vent chimneys during his NSF post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University.


At Temple, his lab has continued to explore the Gulf of Mexico while working on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on deep-sea coral communities and the effects of ocean acidification on the reef-forming deep-sea coral lophelia pertusa. Ongoing investigations in the Cordes lab extend to the corals of the deep seamounts in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and the seeps off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.


This work has been funded by NSF, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative and Schmidt Ocean Institute.


January 27, 2020