Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department
email this pageEmail to a Friend font size: Change text to small (default) Change text to medium Change text to large
Enlarge image
Jim Lynch, right, became chair of the Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, taking over from Rocky Geyer, who returns to research. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI)
Related Links

» Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department

» Red Tide in New England

The Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering (AOPE) Department is one of the foremost departments in the world in producing ocean instruments, sensors, and vehicles. We also take pride in our growing reputation in interdisciplinary ocean science and engineering. The Department’s broad spectrum of activities revolves around five central themes: ocean acoustics and signal processing, environmental fluid dynamics, submersible vehicles, observing systems and sensors, and engineering services.

Environmental issues have loomed large in oceanography in recent years, and the 2005 huge red tide bloom in New England waters, which closed shellfish beds from central Maine to Massachusetts, provided a large, societally important issue for oceanographers to deal with. AOPE Associate Scientist Dennis McGillicuddy spent a large amount of his summer mapping this red tide bloom, and, as a result of both his observations and the numerical models he uses to interpret them, was able to contribute significantly to our understanding of how these harmful outbreaks work. Such efforts will hopefully lead to means of mitigation and perhaps even prevention.

Surf-zone oceanographers Steve Elgar and Britt Raubenheimer tackled a different coastal problem for the Navy: How do large craters (30 feet wide by 6 feet deep) on a beach—such as those produced by bombardment—erode under wave action? The fieldwork was quite challenging because Steve and Britt had to quickly instrument a hole they dug as the waves worked furiously to destroy their “anti-sand castle.”

In acoustics, AOPE scientists Tim Stanton, Dezhang Chu, and others deployed a new broadband acoustic system that allows researchers to both quantify and classify fish populations. This system, which utilizes the acoustic resonances of fish swim bladders as a signal, promises to significantly improve the rapidly growing field of fish population assessment.

In a combination of AOPE’s Remote Environmental Monitoring Units (REMUS) autonomous underwater vehicle technology and ocean acoustics, Boston University (BU) Guest Student Jason Holmes and Adjunct Scientist Bill Carey teamed up with AOPE personnel to attach a towed acoustic array to the REMUS vehicle, a smaller version of the systems towed by submarines. This advanced technology has allowed AOPE and BU researchers to carefully characterize ocean bottom acoustic reflectivity properties, and should eventually prove of great value to the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare and mine-hunting missions.

Our department’s future is determined largely by the new principal investigators we hire, and representing that new blood we welcomed sensor experts Sheri White and Rich Camilli, inverse theorist Gonzalo Feijoo to the scientific staff, and marine archaeologist Brendan Foley to the technical staff. These people represent not just new faces, but new directions for our department, and help keep our department an exciting and innovative place to work. We hope 2005 was just the beginning of a long and rewarding career for them.

—James F. Lynch, Department Chair

Copyright ©2006 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, All Rights Reserved.

Mail: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 266 Woods Hole Road, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA.
E-Contact:; press relations:, tel. (508) 457-2000

Home | Site Map | Contact