Meet the Director

Simon Thorrold


As a biologist, I spend my research time studying the secret lives of fish. In the coral reefs of Papua New Guinea or on the shores of mid-Atlantic, that means tracing how fish larvae travel through their environments to locate safe places to develop and grow. In the Red Sea, it means swimming alongside the world’s largest fish—the whale shark—to tag them with a transmitter that helps us understand their movements.

However, understanding how fish move answers only a fraction of the questions that truly matter. To help me answer the whens and the whys, I often must call on my colleagues across all of the Oceanographic’s departments and centers. This interdisciplinary approach to ocean science is at the heart of the Ocean Institutes. At the Ocean Life Institute (OLI), we support groundbreaking basic research related to conservation science and biodiversity in marine ecosystems in collaboration with scientists, engineers and students from throughout the Institution.

I’m proud of the cutting-edge science we conduct, and grateful to the many people who support the mission of OLI.

Born in New Zealand, Simon Thorrold received his B.S. from the University of Auckland, and Ph.D. from James Cook University, North Queensland, Australia. He came to WHOI in 2001. Using geochemical markers, he traces dispersal, migration, and population dynamics of marine invertebrates and fish. He has developed methods of correlating the chemical composition of fish ear bones with the water fish live in and travel through. With much of his work in the South Pacific and Caribbean, Simon has been on many cruises, logging 1,000 hours of scuba diving.