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Message from the President and Director

Susan K. Avery, PhD

Simply stated, our mission is to understand the ocean.

While this may seem straightforward, it is in fact a very difficult thing to do. The ocean is a vast, complex, and often hostile place to work, where physics, chemistry, and biology interact in surprising ways. It is also intricately connected to the rest of the planet—including human society—through countless systems and processes that stretch far inland, high into the atmosphere, and deep beneath the seafloor.

It also reaches into the life of everyone on the planet in fundamental ways every day.

The ocean is responsible for half the oxygen we breathe and a large portion of our food, it regulates our climate and waters our crops, it provides inexpensive transportation for our goods, and is the source of new materials and pharmaceuticals that improve quality of life around the world. As a result, its continued health and our good stewardship of it are vital to the welfare and sustainability of human society. Yet we know less about the ocean than almost any other feature on the face of the planet.

That is why WHOI has some of the best minds in marine science and engineering working together on some of the most complex challenges and critical questions of our day. Advances in our knowledge of the ocean have revolutionized global communications, improved disaster response, extended weather forecasts, and, in the form of marine reserves, begun to establish a form of natural insurance for future generations.

WHOI researchers also help train the next generation of ocean science leaders, provide the basis for informed decision-making and public policy, and expand public awareness about the ocean and its vital resources.

But it is the marriage between science and engineering that is our hallmark and the key to our success. It makes WHOI one of the world’s leading centers worldwide, not just for oceanographic research, but also for the development of new ways to extract information from the environment—and to forecast an increasingly variable future. In short, it makes WHOI the place to turn to if you want to understand the ocean.

Last updated: August 28, 2013