Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Ocean Life Institute
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OLI Director Laurence Madin, right, views whale images with biologist Michael Moore. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI Graphic Services)
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2004 OLI Research Project Locations

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» Ocean Life Institute (OLI)

The Ocean Life Institute (OLI) seeks to foster novel and interdisciplinary research on organisms and ecosystems in the oceans, providing a scientific basis for marine conservation. The ocean is the origin and major repository of biological diversity, and life processes in its waters affect everything else on Earth. Working under three broad themes—Discover Life, Sustain Ecosystems, and Develop Tools—OLI stimulates and supports research on subjects ranging from microbes to whales, Antarctic birds to tropical fish, and mangroves to deep-sea corals. Often discovery and explanation depend on new techniques and instruments, and OLI supports development of novel hardware for the ocean and new theoretical methods for data analysis and prediction.

In 2004, OLI supported three Institute Fellows. Cabell Davis is working on ways to merge holographic imaging and DNA recognition with autonomous vehicles to create a new breed of automated plankton survey instruments that can cruise independently and record detailed information on species distributions. Heidi Sosik, supported jointly with the Coastal Ocean Institute, is using remote sensing, in-situ instruments, and physical oceanography to help understand the dynamics of phytoplankton blooms in the coastal ocean (see map below). Mike Neubert develops innovative mathematical models that will help predict the effects of marine reserves on fisheries production. Five new research grants were awarded to WHOI researchers in 2004, adding to those still in progress.

Communication of research results and applications is an important Ocean Institute function. During the year, the Institute hosted the third meeting in the series “Fisheries, Oceanography and Society”, on deep-sea fisheries, co-sponsored with the New England Aquarium. An even deeper subject was the workshop co-sponsored with the Deep Ocean Exploration Institute on the recently discovered communities of microbes living within the Earth’s crust beneath the ocean. An OLI workshop on the demographics of albatross species brought together world experts to analyze the risk of extinction to these increasingly threatened oceanic birds.

OLI has also developed larger research initiatives focused on particular problems in marine ecology or conservation. The Right Whale Research and Conservation Initiative was launched with projects on population genetics and effects of ship collisions. A new initiative on coral reef fishes in the Caribbean will investigate the dispersal and survival of threatened species like grouper. Other research in tropical environments is based at the Liquid Jungle Laboratory in Panama, where OLI has helped develop a modern field station in a pristine tropical environment. It promises to offer many new opportunities for WHOI scientists of all disciplines.

—Laurence Madin (lmadin@whoi.edu)
Institute Director

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