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Biology Department

Oceanic biology is extraordinarily complex because of the diversity of organisms that inhabit the seas, the wide range of environments they inhabit, and the varied and complex ways in which they interact with and contribute to essential global processes. Research in the Biology Department at WHOI encompasses a diversity of organisms, levels of biological organization, and approaches. WHOI biologists study organisms from the smallest scale (marine viruses, bacteria, and archaea) to the largest (whales). Department members address questions ranging from molecular and cellular processes to population structure and ecosystem function. Aspects of oceanic life are investigated using powerful techniques of molecular biology, biochemistry, cell biology, genomics, proteomics, sophisticated acoustic and optical methods, behavior, ocean informatics, and mathematical modeling of molecular processes and population dynamics.

WHOI biologists perform laboratory-based investigations as well as field studies in local Massachusetts and coastal New England waters and at sites around the globe (Polar Regions, Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans; coastal, open water, and deep sea). Special strengths in the department include the ecology and physiology of microbes; bio-optical studies of phytoplankton; advanced optical and acoustic techniques for zooplankton distribution and behavior; the ecology, behavior, development, and genetic history of invertebrates; the behavior and distribution of marine larvae; fish ecology; mathematical analysis and computer modeling of life history, population dynamics and physical-biological interactions; toxicological and molecular biological research on pollution effects and adaptations; and acoustical, anatomical and behavioral studies of marine mammals.

For more information see the 2013 Annaul Report2012 Annual Report, and the 2011 Annual Report.

The Biology Department Features Blogs!

Oceanographic Conditions of Bowhead Whale Habitat 2014

August 1  to September 1, 2014
Annual Observations of the Biological and Physical Marine Environment in the Chukchi and near-shore Beaufort Seas near Barrow, AK.
In collaboration with the PolarTREC.

Southern Ocean 2013

Follow Stephanie Jenouvrier and Mike Polito in the field and learn more about penguins, other seabirds, and science!

Charismatic Microfauna

August 2012
Krill are a vital part of the marine food chain. Follow a group of scientists in the Northwest Atlantic as they study krill and the animals that rely on krill to survive.

Terre Adelie, Antarctica 2011

October 12 2011 - January 2012
Stephanie Jenouvier studies emperor penguins and continuies a long-term survey of other seabirds.

The Arctic Winter Cruise

November 7 to December 20, 2011
Carin Ashjian leads the first winter voyage to the Chukchi and Bering Seas to study life under the ice.

Sensory Ecology

October 20 - November 16, 2011
Examing the bioacoustic behavior of Hawaii's false killer and melon headed whales.

Tropical Marine Ecology Field Course

January 2011
MIT-WHOI Joint Program field course at the Liquid Jungle Lab, located on a small remote island off the Pacific coast of Panama. Note: It is anticipated that the course will be held again in 2013.  More information to come Fall 2012!

The Biology Department Features PodCasts!


The North Atlantic Right Whale

Dr. Michael Moore talks about the North Atlantic Right Whale and what the future may hold for this endangered charismatic species.
» iPod compatible
» MP3 (audio)


Where once was Rose Garden, now lies Rosebud.

Dr. Timothy Shank talks about his expedition to the original discovery site of hydrothermal vents and what they found, or didn't find.
» iPod compatible
» MP3 (audio)

View Video (Media Player)

View Video (Quicktime)


Deep-sea Corals

When most people think of corals they think of the kind off the Great Barrier Reef or the Florida Keys. Rhian Waller of WHOI talks about the kind of corals most people don't get to see, deep sea corals.
» iPod compatible
» MP3 (audio)

View Video (Quicktime)

View Video (Media Player)

Community Outreach

Holiday Party

The Biology Department has been raising funds each year at it's Holiday Party that are donated to the Falmouth Service Center.