About WHOI

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Alvin submersible
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Built as the world's first deep-ocean submersible, Alvin has made more than 4,200 dives and can reach 63 percent of the global ocean floor (reaching depths of 14,764 feet/4,500 meters). (Mark Spear, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

WHOI engineer in basket over ice
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WHOI senior engineering assistant John Kemp is lowered in a basket to recover a buoy from the ice during a summer 2004 expedition to study the upper layers of the Arctic Ocean. (Richard Krishfield, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

hree research ships at the WHOI dock
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It is a rare occasion when all three WHOI-operated, ocean-going research vessels are at home in their Woods Hole port. R/V Knorr is in the foreground, with R/V Oceanus and R/V Atlantis on the opposite side of the pier. (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Established in 1930, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is an independent marine research, engineering, and higher education organization. The Institution provides international leadership in advancing and communicating a basic understanding of the oceans and their decisive role in addressing global questions.

WHOI is distinguished by its singular focus on ocean science and the independence with which its scientists and engineers pursue that science. The Institution brings together a unique complement of assets including world-class scientists; innovative engineers who invent and implement leading-edge ocean instruments and technology; research vessels and state-of-the-art deep-submergence vehicles that give it exceptional access to the sea; and graduate students who learn from the best in the field and, in turn, become leaders in oceanography.

Research at the Institution is broadly divided into five academic departments: Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering; Biology; Geology and Geophysics; Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry; and Physical Oceanography. The Institution also operates four interdisciplinary institutes—Ocean and Climate Change, Coastal Ocean, Ocean Life, and Deep Ocean Exploration—a Marine Policy Center, the Woods Hole Center for Oceans and Human Health, and a Cooperative Institute for Climate and Ocean Research (with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Because of its location in a vibrant ocean science community, WHOI also benefits from opportunities to collaborate with other research and education institutions in the area—such as the Marine Biological Laboratory and the Woods Hole Research Center—and with local branches of the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Access to Tools, Talent, and the Sea

WHOI's capabilities in technology development and seafaring have put the Institution at the vanguard of ocean science for more than 75 years. WHOI operates four research ships, the world-famous deep-ocean submersible Alvin, a fleet of remotely operated and autonomous vehicles, several small surface craft, and a suite of oceanographic instruments. The Institution also hosts the U.S. National Deep Submergence Facility. Scientists from WHOI and many other research laboratories use these vessels, vehicles, and instruments for exploration and research in all marine disciplines.

WHOI's shore-based laboratories, instrumentation, and national facilities include the National Ocean Sciences Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility, the Northeast National Ion Microprobe Facility, a dedicated computed tomography (CT) scanning facility for marine mammal research, and an extensive deep-sea sediment core repository, to name a few. WHOI also has extensive on-site capability for the design, fabrication, and testing of oceanographic instrumentation and moorings.

WHOI has attracted students from hundreds of U.S. and international universities to participate in ocean research since 1930. In 1968, the Institution's education role at the graduate level was formalized in an agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a Joint Program leading to master's, doctoral, and engineering degrees.

Staffing and Budget

Paid staff members at WHOI number nearly 900, including more than 500 scientists, engineers, and technical staff supported by more than 100 marine personnel and nearly 300 other support staff. In addition, more than 100 graduate students are enrolled in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program and contribute to WHOI research. Nearly 300 additional graduate and undergraduate students, postdoctoral scholars and fellows, visiting scholars, and guest investigators enhance WHOI's scientific and educational work.

In 2006, WHOI had total operating revenues of $140 million, of which $114 million (81%) came from sponsored research grants and contracts. Nearly 90% of that research funding, or $102 million, came from the U.S. federal government. Funding from private and philanthropic sources accounted for $12 million in 2006, with endowment funds contributing the remaining $14 million.

WHOI's endowment generates critical income for staff salaries, graduate student aid, postdoctoral fellows, seed money and matching funds for new research initiatives, and support for the Institution's development and communications efforts. As of December 31, 2006, the endowment totaled $350 million.

In 2007, operating revenues are budgeted at approximately $136 million, with $109 million expected to come from sponsored research.


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Last updated October 12, 2007
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