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  home > awards and honors > the jerlov award

Awarded in Recognition of Contribution Made to
the Advancement of Our Knowledge of the
Nature and Consequences of Light in the Ocean

About the Award

Nils Gunnar Jerlov was an early leader in the area of ocean optics research. His name is recognized widely within the entire international oceanographic research community. Jerlov's theoretical and experimental work on ocean optical and related processes helped form the foundation of modern ocean optical research. He proposed the concept of an optical ocean water mass classification and the Jerlov water types are familiar to many outside of the ocean optics community. His book, Marine Optics, published in 1976, remains widely referenced and is considered required reading for all students of ocean optics and ocean color remote sensing.

The Oceanography Society (TOS) commemorates Dr. Jerlov and his many contributions to the study of light in the ocean with an international award, established in his name, to recognize outstanding achievements in ocean optics and ocean color remote sensing research.

TOS is responsible for setting award policy, garnering nominations from the international research community, and selecting a recipient from those nominated. To be eligible for nomination, the recipient's work must deal directly with the processes governing the interaction of light with the ocean and/or the consequences of such interactions. The award may be issued in recognition of research (theoretical or applied, field-based or laboratory-based, a landmark paper or lifetime achievement), a pattern of excellence in education, a history of service to the international ocean optics research community, or contributions to all of the above. In the end, the nominated individual must have significantly advanced our knowledge of how light interacts with the ocean.

The award consists of a bronze medallion designed by Judith Munk, a lapel pin, travel support to attend the Ocean Optics Conference, and a cash award.

This award is supported by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

The deadline for nominations for the next award is June 1, 2014. Submit all nomination materials and direct all questions to:

Nomination Procedure

Nominations consist of:

  • A single master nominating statement (no more than 5 pages)
  • A suggested one-paragraph citation of no more than 100 words
  • An abbreviated CV of the nominee
  • Up to five additional letters of endorsement (2 page maximum) solicited by the master nominator (only one of which may be from the candidate's institution—international endorsements are encouraged)

The master nominator serves as the point of contact. Submission of materials in electronic format is required. Submit all nomination materials and direct all questions to:

The nomination deadline is June 1, 2014.

Nils Gunnar Jerlov (1910–1990)

Professor Nils Gunnar Jerlov graduated in 1939 with a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Lund. He was very active in many fields of scientific research including nuclear physics, environmental pollution, and the ocean heat budget. However, he is best known for his many contributions to ocean optics; the study of how light interacts with ocean water. His work ranged from fundamental theory and predictive models to sensor development to field and laboratory observations.

In 1947–48 Dr. Jerlov participated in the Albatross Expedition, a worldwide Swedish oceanographic expedition to study ocean sediments. His observations during this expedition combined with data he collected around the world during many other campaigns, often in collaboration with leading oceanographers of his time, laid the foundations for his optical classification of ocean water; the well-known "Jerlov water types". He summarized his own work and those of many others in his 1968 book "Optical Oceanography", which he revised in 1976 and published under the title "Marine Optics".

In 1963 Dr. Jerlov was appointed professor in physical oceanography at the University of Copenhagen, a position he held until 1978 when he retired. While there, he established one of the leading international centers of excellence in optical oceanography. He was a member of numerous international associations such as the International Association for Physical Oceanography, the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research, the Nordic Committee on Physical Oceanography, and the Danish National Board for Oceanography.

Dr. Jerlov was a man of peace and had no understanding of disputes between colleagues regarding the publication of scientific findings. He was a leading figure in science promoting the establishment of national and international oceanographic cooperation.



photo of K.L. CarderKendall L. Carder

The Oceanography Society is pleased to announce that Professor Kendall L. Carder has been selected as the 2012 recipient of The Nils Gunnar Jerlov Award recognizing his contributions to the advancement of our knowledge of the nature and consequences of light in the ocean. Dr. Carder was specifically cited for his pioneering work on in situ optical measurements of particles and dissolved matter, the development of underwater imaging systems including holographic systems for measuring particle dynamics, his many contributions to ocean color remote sensing and hyperspectral imaging and his teaching and mentoring of students and post-doctoral fellows both at the University of South Florida and in the Ocean Optics Classes with Mary Jane Perry.

Dr. Carder’s achievements will be recognized during a ceremony on October 11th at the Ocean Optics Conference in Glasgow, Scotland (

Dr. Carder earned his B.S. in physics from Fresno State College and his M.S. and Ph.D. in oceanography from Oregon State University.  After receiving his PhD in 1970, Ken joined the faculty at the University of South Florida (USF), where he remained for his entire career except for a brief assignment at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.  His contributions as the first NASA Ocean Color Program Manager and as a NASA Science Team member and researcher have been critical to the success of the NASA spaceborne ocean color sensors CZCS, SeaWiFS and MODIS.  One of Ken’s great contributions at USF was teaching and mentoring students and Post Doctoral researchers.  Beyond his teaching at USF, Ken teamed with Mary Jane Perry in founding the Ocean Optics Class (originally at Friday Harbor, WA now at U. Maine) that became the training ground for many of today’s leaders in the field.

Previous Recipients

2010: Charles S. Yentsch
2008: Talbot Waterman
2006: J. Ronald V. Zaneveld
2004: Howard R. Gordon
2002: Raymond C. Smith
2000: André Morel