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Geology & Geophysics

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WHOI geologist Adam Soule

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Summer Student Fellow Garrett Mitchell (right), of the University of Maryland at College Park, spent his summer working with WHOI geologist Adam Soule. The two used seafloor imagery collected by Autonomous Benthic Explorer (ABE) to map lava flows, hydrothermal vents, and biologic communities on the Southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge (5˚S). The image behind them is a mosaic, where each of the several thousand seafloor photographs is pieced together like a puzzle based on the location and attitude (pitch, roll, yaw) of the vehicle.
(Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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In 2009, the total G&G Department staff numbered approximately 77, plus 36 Postdoctoral investigators, scholars, Fellows and WHOI/MIT Joint Program (JP) graduate students.

The Department of Geology & Geophysics (G&G) carries out research that ranges from the coastline to the deep ocean and from the ice sheets of Greenland to islands in the tropics. In 2009, the total G&G Department staff numbered approximately 77, plus 36 Postdoctoral investigators, scholars, Fellows and WHOI/MIT Joint Program (JP) graduate students.

It was an active year for promotions in the G&G Department with a total of nine promotions, including tenure for Associate Scientists Glenn Gaetani, Olivier Marchal, Jeff McGuire and Jeff Donnelly. Three scientists were promoted to Associate Scientist: Sarah Das, Alison Shaw and Adam Soule. On the Technical Staff, Virginia Edgcomb was promoted to Research Specialist and Kathryn Rose to Research Associate II. Tim Kane was promoted to Engineering Assistant III in the Ocean Bottom Seismology (OBS) group and Skye Moret-Ferguson to Research Assistant II in the Coastal Systems Group.

The two new additions to the Scientific Staff in 2009 were Kris Karnauskas, a climate dynamics researcher, and Yajing Liu, a theoretical geophysicist working on subduction earthquakes; they joined the department as Assistant Scientists. Bob Detrick and Debbie Smith continued their assignments at NSF, Bob as Director of the Earth Science Division (EAR) and Debbie as Program Manager in Ocean Drilling Program (OCE). Departures included Ken Sims who went to University of Wyoming and Ilya Buynevich, who went to Temple University. Among those receiving notable awards and recognition in 2009 was Senior Scientist Jian Lin, who was honored at the end of 2008 as a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and who also received a WHOI Senior Scientist Chair in 2009. Associate Scientist Sarah Das received the 2009 Penn State University Alumni Achievement Award that recognizes alumni 35 years and younger for their extraordinary professional accomplishments.

As always, members of the G&G Department traveled to all corners of the world over the course of the year to carry out their research. Staff participated in research cruises in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea on board US, Dutch and Japanese research vessels. Land-based fieldwork and lab work was conducted around the US and in Belize, Bermuda, Greenland, Guam, Northern Canada, Oman, Pakistan, Romania and Tahiti.

The year began with the first full science missions for the Long Core facility on the Research Vessel Knorr, the culmination of several years of development and testing. This facility is capable of taking giant piston cores up to 46 meters (150 feet) in length, using a specially modified winch and handling system installed on R/V Knorr. Jim Broda, Bill Curry, Al Gagnon and Kathryn Rose of the G&G Department participated in these cruises, with Jim as head of operations. The cruises were a success despite suffering from a serious problem during one cruise, which required reengineering the brake on the main cable spool. Kudos go to Jim and Al for their stellar efforts in getting the equipment back on line. The Knorr has a fully booked schedule coming up in 2010 with the Long Core facility.

Springtime brought an international InterRidge meeting to Woods Hole, along with a Morss public colloquium, “Deep-Sea Mining of Seafloor Massive Sulfides: A Reality for Science and Society in the 21st Century.” The workshop brought 98 researchers, policy makers, conservation organizations and industry representatives from more than 20 nations, including Nii Odunton, the Secretary General of the International Seabed Authority (ISA). The ISA is the United Nations body tasked with regulating the seafloor resources of the sea beyond national jurisdictions. Early in 2008 the ISA issued draft regulations for authorizing the leasing of large tracts of the open ocean seafloor for commercial exploration for metal minerals (see the Web site, The InterRidge workshop was convened to bring various stakeholders together and to discuss this potential development and to provide ISA with input on their regulations.

Jeff Donnelly and the Coastal Systems Group were active this summer with fieldwork, mostly on Martha’s Vineyard, aimed at understanding the evolution of sandy barriers in southern New England. The goal is to understand how the barriers have responded to past changes in storm patterns and rates of sea-level rise. As part of this effort, Andrew Ashton is developing numerical shoreline models and Marine Policy Center colleagues Porter Hoagland, Hauke Kite-Powell and Di Jin are developing behavioral/economic models, which together should be able to simulate future barrier changes under a variety of predicted climate change scenarios.

Liviu Giosan participated in the first scientific cruise to the Indus delta shelf on the Pakistan coastline, using the Dutch Research Vessel Pelagia to collect over 1,000 km of chirp-sonar and multichannel seismic data along with sediment cores. These data are expected to shed new light on sediment transfer from the continents to the oceans and on monsoon development during the Holocene and its impact on continental margin development. Liviu also did additional fieldwork on the Himalayan Indus tributaries in Pakistan to understand the interaction between the Indus civilization and the river within the dynamic environment of the Indus floodplain.

In September, a second Morss colloquium, “Where the land meets the sea: Managing Shoreline Change Over the Next 100 Years,” was convened by Bill Thompson. The colloquium followed a very successful Geodynamics Seminar course on Climate Change earlier in the year. Finally, in November, Anne Cohen and Dan McCorkle along with other WHOI and MBL researchers hosted a popular and timely short course on Ocean Acidification, with 35 participants from 14 countries.

Maurice Tivey, Department Chair

Last updated: November 18, 2013

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