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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chinese province honors Hans Paerl

On Lake Taihu in eastern China, Hans Paerl scoops algae to be studied.

China’s Jiangsu Province gave Carolina researcher Hans Paerl an International Science and Technology Cooperation Award on Aug. 28 for helping the Chinese government develop a nutrient management strategy to counter the proliferation of toxic algal blooms in
its lakes.

The award was accepted on Paerl’s behalf by professor Guangwei Zhu, one of his key collaborators at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Paerl is Kenan Professor of Marine and Environmental Sciences at the Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City. His research includes environmental controls of harmful algal blooms and assessing the effects of pollution, storms and floods on bodies of water. 

In China, Paerl has helped scientists manage an ecological disaster on Taihu, the third largest lake in China, a source of drinking water for 10 million people. Since being taken over by massive algae blooms in 2007, however, the lake is as green as pea soup most of the year and off limits for human consumption or swimming for those times. 

Thanks to the research of Paerl and many other scientists, the government has intervened to decrease the levels of the phosphates and nitrogen that the algae feed on, and the water quality of the lake is slowly improving.

In North Carolina, Paerl leads the Neuse River Estuary Modeling and Monitoring Program, ModMon (unc.edu/ims/neuse/modmon) and ferry-based water quality monitoring program, FerryMon (ferrymon.org), which employ environmental sensors and various microbial indicators to assess near real-time ecological condition of the Pamlico Sound
System, the second largest estuarine complex in the United States.  

He heads the Institute of Marine Sciences’ microbial ecology/nutrient cycling laboratory and holds a joint appointment in the departments of marine science, environmental sciences and engineering, and biology.

Paerl received the 2003 G. Evelyn Hutchinson Award from the Association of the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and the 2011 Odum Award from the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation for addressing the causes, consequences and controls of eutrophication in aquatic ecosystems. In 2015, he was recognized as a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.