Biology Research Overview


Members of the Biology Department at WHOI seek to understand life in the oceans and the interactions of marine organisms with their environments.  WHOI biologists study a variety of marine organisms, including prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea), viruses, protists, phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish, seabirds, and whales. We conduct research at all levels of biological organization, from molecules and cells to communities and ecosystems.  We use both traditional oceanographic methods and modern innovative approaches, the latter including molecular biology, genomics and proteomics, acoustics, and advanced optical imaging technologies.  The research often involves collaborations with other WHOI scientists to understand the interactions of marine life with its chemical, physical, and geological surroundings. WHOI Biologists also collaborate with WHOI engineers in the development of novel instrumentation to enable improved sampling of marine organisms and gathering of data in situ and remotely.  Data collected may be analyzed using sophisticated mathematical models that describe the spatial and temporal changes in marine populations. WHOI Biologists also employ molecular and genomic methods to understand the molecular and genetic foundation of evolutionary adaptations to changing marine environments.

Areas of strength in the Biology Department include:

  • Zooplankton ecology
  • Phytoplankton ecology (including harmful algae)
  • Benthic and larval ecology
  • Marine microbial ecology and biogeochemistry
  • Modeling and mathematical ecology
  • Environmental toxicology and adaptation
  • Marine mammal biology
  • Fish ecology
  • Conservation biology

Geographic areas of focus include:

  • Coastal environments
  • Deep sea (including vents and seamounts)
  • Polar areas
  • Open ocean and mid-water
  • Coral reefs

2013 Annual Report

More than fifty years after it was established as one of the original science departments at WHOI, and more than eighty years after the first WHOI biologists began to study life in the oceans, the Biology Department continues to be a home for cutting-edge research on marine organisms and their interactions with the environment.  View the Biology Department's 2013 Annual Report for more information on recently accomplished work.

For further information about biology research at WHOI, please consult the web pages for working groups and labs as well as those of individual members of the scientific and senior technical staff.

- Mark E. Hahn, Biology Department Chair