"Know your Ocean" Science Chats are an annual, summertime series of publicly accessible talks by scientists and engineers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. All talks take place on Tuesdays at 3:00 p.m. in WHOI's Ocean Science Discovery Center Auditorium, 15 School Street, Woods Hole.
July 10 - A Current of Change off Cape Hatteras
Glen Gawarkiewicz, Senior Scientist, Physical Oceanography Department
Off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, cool currents along the continental shelf interact with the warm waters of the mighty Gulf Stream, drawing colder waters eastward and away from the coast. But in January 2018, a team of physical oceanographers sailing on the research vessel Neil Armstrong found that the interaction of the continental shelf water and the Gulf Stream had changed, reversing the prevailing currents north of Cape Hatteras and warming the outer continental shelf. These changes could have major implications for fishing, and ocean-related activities along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.
July 17 - Understanding the Majestic Blue Whales of Patagonia
Alex Bocconcelli, Research Specialist, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering Department
Learn about a collaboration between WHOI and scientists in Chile to better understand the blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) living off northern Patagonia. Researchers photographed the whales to identify individuals and used overhead drones to gather video and other information on the animals' body conditions. They also attached digital recording tags (DTAGs) to the whales via suction cups to collect information about the whales’ diving, feeding, and vocal behavior. This collaboration has great potential to provide information to policymakers on how to protect the unique habitats for highly endangered blue whales in this region.
July 24 - Oases in the Deep - Dark Life at Deep-Sea Vents
Stefan Sievert, Associate Scientist, BiologyThe deep sea is the largest contiguous biome on Earth and is home to a great number and high diversity of organisms. Yet is still only poorly explored. It was only about 40 years ago that scientists discovered hot springs in the deep sea that supported unique, highly productive ecosystems—oases in an otherwise barren landscape! Here, microorganisms live off inorganic chemicals such as hydrogen sulfide or hydrogen gas and off minerals dissolved in the hot hydrothermal vent fluids that bubble up from beneath the ocean floor. In turn, these microbes provide food for larger animals that live around vents. Learn how researchers reveal the inner workings of these fascinating ecosystems that exist in complete darkness, sustained by Earth’s energy.
July 31 - What's in Your Fish?
Jed Goldstone, Research Specialist, Biology Department
Fish are an important source of protein to 4.3 billion people, and Americans need to eat more fish to take advantage of the important heart and brain benefits of consuming better fats. At the same time, humans are increasingly polluting the global oceans. These pollutants - ranging from oil to microplastics - find their way into various marine life, including those eaten by people.
* Please note this event will be held in Redfield Auditorium
Not all life on Earth depends on sunlight. One of the biggest discoveries in ocean science at the end of the last century is that life can also exist in the absence of photosynthesis. This life is sustained by energy released at the ocean floor when seawater and rocks interact: a process known as chemosynthesis. Since 2000, it has become apparent that saltwater oceans also exist in abundance (much more than on Earth) throughout the solar system. Now, WHOI researchers are preparing to collaborate with NASA scientists and engineers to search for life beyond Earth. Their targets are not the oceans of exoplanets yet to be found orbiting distant stars, but right here in our own solar system—within the reach of robots that can be launched in the next decade.
Scott Lindell, research specialist, WHOI Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering
In the future, our homes and vehicles could be powered by fuel made from seaweed grown at large-scale offshore farms. Currently in the U.S., macroaglage (seaweed) is primarily used in food and food processing for humans and animals, and a majority are from imported farmed product or wild harvests. Seaweed farming avoids the increasing competition for fertile land, energy-intensive fertilizers, and freshwater resources associated with traditional agriculture. Learn how WHOI scientists and engineers in the MARINER (Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources) projects are addressing the global issues of food and energy demand with innovative solutions.
August 21 - Why are Cape Cod Estuaries Impaired and What Can Be Done About It?
Learn how researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are studying how the unique geology of Cape Cod and a housing boom led to nutrient over-enrichment of our estuaries and the unique alternative solutions that towns in the region are considering to address the problem.
August 28 - Fifty Years at WHOI: Studying Extremes of Life in the Cold and Hot Deep Sea
The world’s oceans have an average depth of 3,500 meters, and the deep sea is the largest biosphere on Earth both by area and by volume. Learn how research on how microbes have adapted to living under the cold temperatures, high pressures, and low nutrients of the deep sea was sparked by the accidental sinking and subsequent recovery of the submersible Alvin in 1968 and 1969. On the flip side, when deep-sea hydrothermal vents were discovered some 40 years ago, researchers branched into studying these rich oases of life. Vent sites are home to many previously unknown microbes and animals. They rely on energy from the inner earth to supply the chemicals for growth, rather than photosynthetically supplied food that sparsely rains down to nourish the majority of the deep sea. In these extreme vent environments, life at the highest temperature known to exist on our planet has been found—121° C (or 250°F). Years of research using both ships and submersibles such as Alvin have helped us gain insight into their growth and survival and also taught us that the deep sea is not a wise choice as a site for waste disposal or seafloor mining.