Advancing the frontiers of ocean knowledge

Our hard-won experience at sea, innovative technology, and commitment to research and education make us a reliable source of valuable knowledge about the ocean for scientists, decision-makers, and the public.

Our Work

The ocean is a vast and challenging place to work, but knowledge about the ocean is crucial to life on a changing planet.

WHOI scientists and engineers travel the globe from land and the coasts to the deepest depths to tackle questions ranging from climate change to oil spills to ocean acidification.

If there is no tool to do what needs to be done, we invent one; if there is no experimental method, we devise it. Because now more than ever, the ocean matters to us all.

WHOI operates two large research vessels—R/V Atlantis and R/V Neil Armstrong (above)—staffed with highly experienced crew on behalf of the U.S. ocean science community to carry researchers where they need to go. (Bay Aerial, ©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
Whales like these humpbacks feeding in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary are a little safer from ship strikes thanks to technology developed by WHOI engineers that monitors shipping lanes and reports data to shore in real-time. (Acquired under National Marine Fisheries Service Permit 17355-01 and NOAA Class G Notification 2015-ESA-4-NOAA flight authorization, Michael Moore, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
Marine snails, or pteropods, provide food for fish and whales, but their thin, fragile shells are increasingly vulnerable to ocean acidification, a subject of intense interest to many WHOI researchers. (Photo by Nancy Copley, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
Graduate students in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program learn from many of the best minds in ocean science and engineering to push the boundaries of knowledge and eventually become leaders in research, industry, and public policy. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
WHOI hosts the National Deep Submergence Facility, which includes the submersible Alvin, autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry, and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason (above), to help scientists explore previously unseen regions of the seafloor. (Image courtesy of S. Adam Soule and Daniel Fornari, WHOI, and Rebecca Carey, Univ. of Tasmania/NSF/WHOI-MISO Facility, ©2015 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
As recently as the late 1970s, biologists thought photosynthesis was the basis for all life on Earth—until WHOI scientists discovered hydrothermal vents on the Pacific seafloor surrounded by organisms such as these tubeworms that survive thanks to a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that obtain energy from chemicals in the seawater. (©2015 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
One of the biggest unanswered questions in climate science is how fast sea level will rise as ice in Greenland and Antarctica melts—a question that can only be answered by researchers such as this team led by WHOI physical oceanographer Fiamma Straneo, who get up close to the calving edge of a glacier to study the hidden processes that have far-reaching consequences. (Photo by Fiamma Straneo, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
WHOI chemist Jeff Seewald developed the Isobaric Gas-Tight sampler (IGT) to sample fluids flowing from hydrothermal vents—technology that found unexpected application when it was used to collect the only unaltered sample of oil and gas pouring into the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. (Photo by Chris German and the Jason Group, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Our Approach

We study the ocean in a way that few others do—or can. Our researchers immerse themselves in the unknown to discover new knowledge about our planet.


Our scientists, engineers, and technicians work together to assemble a comprehensive view of the ocean, from the wave tops to the deepest reaches and from the molecular to the planetary.



Our experience at sea and in the lab combined with access to specialized robots, tools, and instruments has built of legacy of ocean discoveries that continues to grow.



We have trained generations of leaders to answer difficult questions by providing unparalleled resources and the opportunity to learn from some of the best minds in ocean science.


Where We Work

We travel the globe to learn how the ocean works, how it affects society, and how it is changing. Click on the links below to get an inside look at a few of the thousands of places our scientists work and the challenges they overcome.

Communicating our Results

We offer our discoveries to anyone eager to learn more about the world around them and about the importance of the ocean on our complex, rapidly changing planet.

Seminars & Events Media & Press Oceanus Magazine Blogs & Expeditions