Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Deep Ocean Exploration Institute
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Dan Fornari, right, took the helm from first DOEI Director Susan Humphris in 2004. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI Graphic Services)
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The Deep Ocean Exploration Institute (DOEI) promotes interdisciplinary investigations of planetary processes occurring in the deep ocean and within Earth’s interior. These processes help to regulate the chemistry of its ocean, determine the nature of magmatic activity observed on our planet’s surface, and impact microbiological, chemical, and geological processes that shape the planet and affect its inhabitants.

The development of technology that provides access to the seafloor is also a key component of the Institute’s activities. To support these pursuits, in 2004 we funded six new projects within the Institute’s ongoing themes of Seafloor Observatory Science and Instrumentation, Fluid Flow in Geologic Systems, and Earth’s Deep Biosphere (see map below).

The Institute currently supports three scientists as research fellows. Wolfgang Bach (MCG) studies the relationship between chemical and microbiological processes occurring within oceanic rocks. Greg Hirth (G&G) uses his understanding of rock mechanics to study geological and chemical processes that occur deep below the planet’s surface. Stan Hart (G&G) studies the evolution of Earth’s interior by using chemical clues from magma erupted from oceanic volcanoes as a window into the mantle. As a fellow, he is spearheading a broad, multi-disciplinary study of Vailulu`u, a 4,333-meter (14,300-foot), active submarine volcano in the Pacific Ocean east of Samoa.

In March, the Institute concluded a seminar series for national and international scientists focused on microbes in the deep biosphere. Processes that allow bacteria, protozoa, and other tiny organisms to live in the harsh environment of the seafloor were also the subject of an October workshop, co-sponsored with WHOI’s Ocean Life Institute.

In the spring, DOEI supported the presentation of the eighth expedition of Dive and Discover™, an online science learning adventure developed at WHOI. The Website received more than 30,000 visitors during the 17-day cruise from people reading posted stories, viewing photos and videos, and interacting with researchers diving in the submersible Alvin as they explored hydrothermal vents offshore Oregon and Washington.

After four years as director of DOEI, Susan Humphris stepped down in May to become Chair of WHOI’s Geology and Geophysics Department. She guided the Institute during its formative years, nurturing innovative and exciting deep-ocean research. I look forward to continuing her legacy.

—Dan Fornari (dfornari@whoi.edu)
Institute Director

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