Meet the Director
The geological history of our planet is best revealed by studying the global ocean seafloor. Understanding the geological, chemical and biological processes that form and alter the ocean crust, all of which influence the chemical composition of the ocean, are crucial goals of 21st century oceanographic science. The technological and scientific challenges involved in unraveling these processes and their linkages in space and time are significant. The Deep Ocean Exploration Institute (DOEI) at WHOI plays a key role in supporting scientists, engineers and students working on these topics, fostering innovative cross-disciplinary research and developing unique technologies to explore, map and sample in the deep ocean and beneath the seafloor in earth’s crust and mantle.
DOEI supports WHOI staff and students through Institute themes and the Ocean Ridge Initiative (ORI), which encompasses a broad agenda of research focused on Earth's most continuous volcanic and tectonic lineament—the global mid-ocean ridge, the 50,000 mile-long undersea mountain chain where oceanic crust is generated.
Initially the ORI has funded research on microbial and dynamic geological/geochemical processes and the nature of deep-sea fauna at oceanic spreading centers. Technology and instrument development that facilitates such studies are an integral part of the ORI.
DOEI's research themes expand the breadth of the ORI by providing opportunities for high-risk/high-reward science that can lead to breakthroughs in our understanding of coupled dynamic processes in deep seafloor environments, from trenches to mid-ocean ridges to continental slopes. DOEI funding has focused on detailed geochemical studies pertaining to the role of the deep earth and ocean in global elemental cycles—especially the role of volatile elements in magmatic and volcanic systems, carbon sequestration in ocean floor strata and investigating what is perhaps the largest unknown ecosystem on this planet, the deep biosphere within the oceanic crust and the deep ocean.
Dan Fornari is a marine geologist and senior scientist in the Geology & Geophysics Department. He is known for his research on volcanic and hydrothermal processes and mapping at mid-ocean ridges, and also studies the structure and magmatic processes at oceanic transforms and oceanic islands, such as Hawaii and the Galápagos. He has participated in more than 70 research cruises in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and has completed more than 100 dives in Alvin and other Navy submersibles. He is the author or co-author of more than 100 scientific papers. Dan has served on numerous scientific panels, and national and international committees including the President’s Commission on Ocean Exploration.