Ocean Exploration Institute


Deadline for proposal submission: Friday, June 3, 2016 (Please contact your individual department staff regarding their internal policy and deadlines.)

Award Start Date: July 15, 2016
Award Duration: Two years
(with all funds allocated in the first year)
Amount Available: Approximately $275,000.
Director: Tim Shank, x3392, tshank@whoi.edu

 The Ocean Exploration Institute (OEI) promotes exploration and research of our ocean to extend the limits of our knowledge, develop new lines of scientific inquiry, and catalyze discoveries that advance our understanding of the global ocean.  OEI is soliciting proposals that address one or more of the themes as detailed below.  Proposals with an interdisciplinary focus are especially encouraged.

1. Ocean Exploration and Research

Exploration of our ocean advances discoveries that can ignite and enhance existing research, promote and develop new lines of scientific inquiry, and impact policy and management decisions in one of the most dynamic environments on Earth.  Exploration of key geographic regions, oceanic and seafloor features, water column, and atmospheric processes can lead to fundamental leaps in understanding.  Areas of interest are numerous, and certainly are not limited to: changing conditions in polar regions (e.g., Arctic sea ice dynamics and productivity), changing ocean chemistry (e.g., acidification and pH-related changes), biodiversity (e.g., assessments of pelagic and benthic biodiversity, habitats and natural resources), as well as new ocean resources (e.g., living and renewable).  Exploratory approaches include conducting interdisciplinary characterizations of unknown or poorly-known ocean areas, determining the breadth of resources and impact of resource extraction, increasing the scope and efficiency of exploration and research via improving exploration capabilities; and engaging and educating audiences in ocean exploration.  The institute seeks to support exploration of unknown or poorly known ocean regions, environments, and processes.

2. Ocean Technology

The exploration of spatial and temporal aspects of unknown and little-known ocean phenomena require advanced technology.  The development of these technologies is critical for the advancement of ocean exploration throughout the broad spectrum of geotectonic and biogeographic settings, utilizing telepresence and education, and understanding the process-driven phenomena in these various settings.  OEI is committed to inspiring and supporting the development and improvement of the operational capabilities of the next generation of ocean vehicles, sensors and instruments that can explore, sample and measure biological, chemical and geological processes in situ in remote and challenging conditions.  WHOI scientists and engineers have consistently pioneered submergence technologies, including the development of a fleet of vehicles and advanced sensors for underwater exploration and research.  From state-of-the art Human-Occupied Vehicles (HOVs), Remotely-Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), WHOI is world-renowned for playing key roles in some of the most iconic discoveries and oceanographic studies throughout history.  The Institute seeks to drive new technologies that enable access to under-explored regions, environments, and processes of the global ocean, and that enable in situ measurements of chemical, physical, and biological parameters and processes.

3. Dynamic Ocean Processes

OEI researchers work at the cutting edge of numerous interrelated fields associated with investigating fundamental planetary forces and phenomena.  These fields include: earthquake generation, volcano dynamics and hazards, tsunami formation and propagation, magmatic processes in the Earth’s mantle, seafloor volcanism, and hydrothermal processes and biogeochemical interactions. Many of these processes impact the transfer of heat and chemical elements between the overlying ocean and the lithosphere and influence circulation.  Similarly, OEI researchers seek to understand the relationships among changing ocean conditions and fundamental biological, chemical, geological, and physical processes.  For example, with the rapid reduction in year round sea ice coverage, it is reasonable to infer dramatic changes in photosynthesis and productivity, as well as in temperature and salinity, which impact ecosystem composition and function.  The Institute encourages exploration that enables discoveries of these and other dynamic ocean relationships and processes.

4. Role of the Deep Earth and Ocean in Elemental Cycles

Understanding the myriad of geological, chemical and biological processes involved in formation and evolution of the ocean floor, all of which influence the chemical composition of the global ocean, are crucially important research topics that are at the forefront of 21st century oceanographic science.  A significant portion of the total biomass on Earth resides in the subseafloor biosphere, i.e., deep marine sediments and altered igneous basement. Due to its vast size and intimate connection with water cycles, the subseafloor biosphere has enormous potential for influencing global-scale biogeochemical processes, including carbon, energy, climate and nutrient cycles. Similarly, the role of the aphotic zone of the pelagic ocean in global-scale biogeochemical processes is currently poorly understood. The Institute promotes new approaches to address scientific questions concerning processes in the dark ocean, the large-scale exchange of material between the seafloor and the ocean, and the temporal relationship between that exchange and tectonic and volcanic cycles.


Research Projects

The OEI is soliciting proposals for research projects that fall within one or more of the above research themes.  Awards are available to those who satisfy the WHOI eligibility requirements to be a Principal Investigator (see http://www.whoi.edu/DoR/page.do?pid=30035&tid=3622&cid=34968 ).

Please note that an individual may not be a PI or a co-PI on more than one (1) proposal for this combined Ocean Institutes’ Call for Proposals.

A total of approximately $275,000 is available for OEI awards in 2016, with individual proposals in the range of $10K to $75K.  Proposals will be fully funded in 2016 and must be spent over a maximum of two years.

Award Criteria

The OEI will support individual and collaborative research projects relevant to the current themes of the Institute.  The mission of the OEI is to support and enrich deep ocean exploration and research activities of the WHOI community, particularly those that seek to understand multidisciplinary and space/time phenomena involved in earth/ocean processes.

Abstracts of previous OEI awards are available at: http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=97063

The awards may be used for salary support for Principal Investigators, postdocs, support staff, and graduate students, the development or purchase of equipment, sea-going activities, or any other activities normally associated with research projects.  Salary support will not be provided to those receiving substantial Institute or Institution salary support (e.g., Chairs, Fellows, Directors, Education Coordinators, etc.) unless a strong justification is provided.  Proposals should include a brief description of how the proposed work would fit with other existing or planned research projects funded through agency or other means, and/or contribute to longer-term programs and strategic goals of the Institution.

Principal Investigators will be expected to participate in some activities of the OEI and to help communicate the results and implications of their research to donors, the public, and to policy-makers in government.  PIs may also be expected to work with the Institute Director and Institute Advisory Committee in developing future research plans and activities for the Institute.

The following factors will be considered in granting the awards:

1. Quality of proposal (scholarship, innovation, research approach, scientific importance)

2.  Relevance to the Institute’s mission and related initiatives:

  • Interdisciplinary;
  • Interdepartmental (particularly for larger awards);
  • Match to a current Institute theme (see above);
  • Providing a link between basic research and deep ocean exploration and earth processes.
3. Other attributes (optional)
  • Unlikely to be readily or immediately funded by external sources;
  • Launches an important new area of inquiry at WHOI.
  • Likelihood of leveraging additional agency support.

Proposal Submission and Guidelines

The deadline for submission of proposals for these awards is Friday, June 3, 2016.

The start date for most of these awards will be July 15, 2016.

Funds will be awarded for a two-year period of performance with all funds allocated at time of initial award. 

Proposal applications must be received by the stated deadline, and include the following in this order:

Abstract: The abstract should be only 1-2 paragraphs long.  Abstracts of funded proposals will be posted on the webpage and will be part of a report to the donor to describe what was done with the money provided for this program.  Therefore, the abstract should not be too technical.  Please be sure that your abstract does not "give away" any privileged information that you may need to acquire future funds from government or other sources.

Text: The text should describe what you wish to do.  All criteria will be explicitly addressed in a successful proposal.  Since these proposals are reviewed by an interdisciplinary team, care must be taken with the use of jargon and lengthy technical narratives.  Reviewers will be looking for clear descriptions of your questions and methods for achieving the answers.

    • Page limit of 1-2 pages for the text (excluding the abstract) will be strictly enforced. Graphics and references are not included in this limit.
    • Proposals must be readily legible.  Font size should be a minimum of 12, and vertical spacing appropriate for the font size.  Small type size makes it difficult for reviewers to read the proposal; consequently, small or type or cramped line spacing may be cause to return the proposal without review.

Budget: Provide a budget that is prepared in WHOIgrants and that shows your proposed expenditures.  Costs for the first twelve months should be prorated across the first two periods.  A Budget Justification statement is required.

CV: Each PI should provide a current 2-page CV that includes a list of the 10 most recent or relevant publications.

The Ocean Institute Review Process

All Ocean Institute proposals are rigorously reviewed by a panel that will include all OI Directors, the Institute Advisory Committees, and additional scientific and senior technical staff members to ensure representation from all departments on the panel.  The panel will rate the proposals on the basis of the quality and relevance of the proposed research.  The OI Directors will in turn make recommendations to the Director of Research for final approval.  Normal WHOI procedures to avoid conflict of interest will be followed.

Points of Contact

If you have any questions about the appropriateness of your proposal to OEI, or if you wish to discuss your OEI proposal in advance, please contact Tim Shank (tshank@whoi.edu, x3392).  Questions about the submission process may be directed to Andrew Daly (adaly@whoi.edu, x2852).

Final Project Report

A brief report is required at the end of the award period.  This report will be posted on the OEI project web page with your abstract and used to keep the donors of the funds that support the OEI informed of the awards and to express our gratitude by sharing the results of the research.  The donors, while not necessarily trained in your field, are knowledgeable about science in general, and curious about what we do.  We wish to do everything we can to keep them fully informed of our progress.  PIs will be encouraged to work with the Communications group to prepare popular accounts of their OEI funded research.

Detailed Department Instructions for Proposal Preparation and Submission

1. Proposal Screen:

  • Agency: WHOI Internal Awards
  • Agency Division: WHOI –OEI
  • Period of Performance:  07/15/2016 – 07/14/2018
  • Program: - Please leave this blank -

2. Submission Distribution Screen

  • Due Date: 06/03/2016 Required
  • Mail to section: Name: Dr. Tim Shank
  • Mail to section: Email: adaly@whoi.edu


3. Budget Periods: Due to the upcoming change to MTDC on 1/1/2017, the Version budget will have 3 periods:

            1. 07/15/2016-12/31/2016

            2. 01/01/2017-07/14/2017

            3. 07/15/2017-07/14/2018

Please remember that the costs for the first twelve months should be prorated across the first two periods.

4. Documents: The Department will upload a PDF SUBMISSION PACKET containing the following required documents. These will be uploaded via the Submission’s document upload facility found in the upper right-hand corner of the Submission screen.

1)  Scientific Abstract

2)  Proposal Text

3)  WHOI Budget

4)  Budget Justification

5)  CV: 2 pages for each PI


5. Routing: The Department will click ‘To Routing’ when the Submission is ready for departmental signatures. PIs, Department Administrators and Chairs (if required) will approve via the WHOIgrants portal (http://whoigrants.whoi.edu). The approvals area is found under the ‘Applications’ section of the website.

6. When all departmental approvals are completed, the system will send a notification to the Department Admin.

7. The submission will be reviewed and signed-off by the Institute Administrator, Andrew Daly. The Institute Director will also receive a notification to review the submission as well.

8. GCS will check submission records in WHOIgrants for completeness and mark as ‘Sent to Agency’ using the date on which the submission was approved by the Institute Administrator.