Meet the Director


Timothy Shank

The Deep Ocean Exploration Institute (DOEI) at WHOI has played a key role in supporting scientists, engineers and students working on these research questions, fostering innovative cross-disciplinary research and developing unique technologies to explore, map and sample in the deep ocean and beneath the seafloor in earth’s crust and mantle.

In order to better serve the broad WHOI scientific and engineering/technical staff, it was decided in 2014 to transition DOEI into the Ocean Exploration Institute (OEI) so that interdisciplinary science linking geological, chemical and biological processes could be considered for the full depth spectrum of the global ocean - from shallow to deep.

The geological history of our planet is best revealed by studying the global ocean seafloor.  Understanding the geological, chemical and biological processes that form and alter the ocean crust, all of which influence the chemical composition of the ocean, are crucial goals of 21st century oceanographic science.  The technological and scientific challenges involved in unraveling these processes and their linkages in space and time are significant.

DOEI supported WHOI staff and students through Institute themes and the Ocean Ridge Initiative (ORI), which encompasses a broad agenda of research focused on Earth's most continuous volcanic and tectonic lineament—the global mid-ocean ridge, the 50,000 mile-long undersea mountain chain where oceanic crust is generated.

Initially the ORI funded research on microbial and dynamic geological/geochemical processes and the nature of deep-sea fauna at oceanic spreading centers.  Technology and instrument development that facilitates such studies are an integral part of the ORI.

DOEI's research themes expanded the breadth of the ORI by providing opportunities for high-risk/high-reward science that can lead to breakthroughs in our understanding of coupled dynamic processes in deep seafloor environments, from trenches to mid-ocean ridges to continental slopes.  DOEI funding has focused on detailed geochemical studies pertaining to the role of the deep earth and ocean in global elemental cycles—especially the role of volatile elements in magmatic and volcanic systems, carbon sequestration in ocean floor strata and investigating what is perhaps the largest unknown ecosystem on this planet, the deep biosphere within the oceanic crust and the deep ocean.

Tim Shank is a deep-sea biologist and a tenured associate scientist in the Biology Department.  He is known for his research on the ecology and evolution of fauna in deep-ocean hydrothermal, seamount, canyon and deepest trenchsystems.  He is internationally recognized for his research into the ecological and evolutionary factors that affect the evolution of diverse deep-sea species.  He has conducted more than 55 scientific expeditions in the Arctic, Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and has completed more than 50 dives in Alvin, and more than 100 dives with autonomous underwater and remotely-operated vehicles, including the first use of a hybrid ROV (Nereus) in the oceans deepest trenches.  He is the author or co-author of more than 100 scientific papers.  He was recently appointed Chief Scientist of NOAA’s Ocean Exploration and Research Program and has served on numerous scientific panels and national and international committees, leading to research, conservation and management guidelines for seamount and chemosynthetic ecosystems, oil spill response efforts, international initiatives, and setting international priorities for deep-ocean exploration and research.