Jerlov AwardMobley

The Oceanography Society proudly recognizes Dr. Curtis Mobley as the 2016 recipient of the Jerlov Award for his lifetime of achievements and contributions to optical oceanography.

Dr. Mobley is an internationally renowned expert in applications of radiative transfer theory to problems in optical oceanography and ocean color remote sensing. Dr. Mobley received his Ph.D. in Meteorology from the University of Maryland in 1977, and he has been Vice President for Science and Senior Scientist at Sequoia Scientific, Inc. since 1996. He has over 65 refereed publications in optical oceanography on topics ranging from sea surface reflectance and transmission to ocean color remote sensing, inverse methods, ocean ecosystem modeling, bioluminescence and camouflage, bio-optics, and numerical techniques for radiative transfer calculations. Through the software he wrote and commercialized (HydroLight), he has democratized radiative-transfer calculations as a tool to be used for applications from instrument design, through realistic light fields for primary productivity estimates, to providing the lookup tables necessary to invert space-based observations to obtain in-water properties. In addition, Curt is highly regarded for the quality of his lectures, short courses, tutorials, and web pages, which have introduced many undergraduate and graduate students to the field. He has received scholarly recognition ranging from a Fulbright Fellowship to Germany as a graduate student to selection as the 2012 Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Maryland School of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Dr. Mobley's achievements will be celebrated during the awards ceremony at the Ocean Optics Conference on Thursday, October 27, 2016.

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.


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: [email protected]

The nomination deadline is June 1, 2018.


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.

Previous recipients of the Jerlov Award include:

2014: Dr. George W. Kattawar
2012: Kendall L. Carder
2010: Charles S. Yentsch
2008: Talbot Waterman
2006: J. Ronald V. Zaneveld
2004: Howard R. Gordon
2002: Raymond C. Smith
2000: André Morel