2012 Annual Report

Academic Programs

The strength of all the WHOI education programs is the close linkage with the WHOI research mission and projects, and we are very proud of the ways our students and postdocs contribute to WHOI research. What is most encouraging about our programs is that participating in WHOI education and training programs generally leads to excellent professional opportunities following time spent here. Joint Program graduates and postdoc alums find positions, and most of the summer undergraduates we train continue in science and engineering graduate programs, including some in our joint graduate program with MIT. 

We were pleased that the National Science Foundation (NSF) chose our climate change education project, led by the New England Aquarium and entitled National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI), as one of six national programs to continue for the next five years. NNOCCI’s primary goal is to encourage a national dialog about climate change and its potential impacts. For our project, Joint Program (JP) graduate students participate in Study Circles that include social scientists who specialize in how people learn and retain information, as well as interpreters who engage the public at national science centers, zoos and aquariums. The JP students are responsible for providing accurate information on climate change and its effects on the ocean and its ecosystems. Each year, 4 Study Circles of about 25 participants are formed, and each one spends two days at WHOI for training sessions that include seminars, laboratory demonstrations and tours. A second NNOCCI goal is to train scientists and graduate students as to how to effectively deliver and present climate change and impacts information to public audiences - a skill that should help our scientists’ careers and help increase public knowledge of the ocean and its role in climate change.

For the past decade, WHOI has participated in the NSF-program, Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellent (COSEE). The center WHOI is affiliated with—the COSEE-Networked Ocean World (COSEE-NOW) (http://coseenow.net/)—is based at Rutgers University. WHOI contributions to COSEE include the Ocean Gazing podcasts produced by JP alum and independent radio producer, Ari Daniel Shapiro (http://coseenow.net/podcast/). These are short entertaining and informative stories of ocean scientists working in different ocean environments and with different approaches to observe and study the ocean and its ecosystems. WHOI has also been involved in COSEE professional development workshops for young scientists to help develop teaching and communication skills. Over the past decade, the COSEE network had a major impact on ocean science education, including training many ocean scientists to more effectively engage students of all ages as well as adult public audiences. The COSEE network is currently winding down owing to funding constraints. Nevertheless, COSEE leaves an important legacy and foundation on which to build future public ocean science outreach and engagement projects.

In 2012, WHOI Academic Programs again offered a 2-week, non-credit, short course on basic principles in ocean science for 20 BP employees primarily involved in the BP Environmental and Safety Divisions supporting offshore operations around the world, including Gulf of Mexico, North Sea, Arctic, and in waters off Angola and Trinidad. WHOI technical and scientific staff members and WHOI postdocs gave the lectures, tours, and demonstrations that comprised the course.

During the 2011-12 academic year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-WHOI Joint Program awarded 7 master’s and 19 doctoral degrees in ocean science and engineering. As of spring, 2012, the Joint Program (JP) has awarded 919 degrees. Enrollment is stable at 125-130 JP graduate students split between WHOI and MIT advisers. Our Summer Student Fellow program for undergraduates trained 32 students during summer, 2012, and WHOI averaged approximately 90 postdocs in residence during 2012.

James Yoder, Vice President for Academic Programs & Dean

Last updated: August 16, 2013