Staff members in the Biology Department contribute extensively to the broader scientific community nationally and internationally. The staff provides leadership and other service to federal agencies, scientific journals, universities, the National Research Council and other national and international committees. Staff members also fill lead roles in the WHOI Ocean Institutes, the Woods Hole Center for Oceans and Human Health, the NOAA Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic Region, and the vital fleet committee of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System. Particularly noteworthy during 2010 was the celebration of a decade of research on the Census of Marine Life, held at the Royal Society of London. Staff members Nancy Copley, Tim Shank and Peter Wiebe, in addition to guest investigators Ann Bucklin, Paul Snelgrove and Michele DuRand, attended the celebration that culminated a 10-year exploration involving 2,700 scientists from 80 countries, a truly international effort.
In its research endeavors, the Biology Department strives to improve its understanding of the ecology and evolutionary biology of living organisms in the sea. Our scientists use a variety of tools to observe, experiment and model interactions among species and between species and their environments. In 2010, members of the WHOI Biology Department continued their worldwide investigations of life in bodies of water from oceans to lagoons. Their subjects ranged in size from microscopic to massive marine mammals; their interests from genes to entire ecosystems. Among the expeditions undertaken by Biology staff in 2010 were research cruises to the Bering Sea for the multi-disciplinary Bering Ecosystem Study; to the South East Pacific on a transect from Easter Island to Arica, Chile, examining nutrient gradients as part of the C-MORE (Center for Microbial Ecology: Research and Education) Program; to Indonesia as part of the INDEX program characterizing the marine biodiversity of Indonesian waters; and to the Gulf of Mexico to examine the effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. In studies of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Cabell Davis and MIT-WHOI Joint Program graduate student Nick Loomis deployed a holographic plankton camera on a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from the M/V Jack Fritz in the water column near the site of the spill to characterize the distribution and size of oil droplets in the water column. Tim Shank and colleagues have examined the effects of the oil spill on the deep coral communities of the Gulf of Mexico, specifically addressing whether or not the oil has impacted the viability of deep coral communities. Because the group has surveyed the area before and after the spill they may be able to characterize subtle impacts on the coral community.
Two new Assistant Scientists joined the staff of the Biology Department in 2010, adding new expertise in a variety of sub-disciplines and contributing to the intellectual energy of the department.
T. Aran Mooney is a sensory physiologist with expertise in hearing in marine mammals and cephalopods. He is engaged in important and emerging areas of research, combining expertise in sensory biology and acoustics, and will strengthen not only the marine mammal group, but also the study of other large pelagic organisms.
Stéphanie Jenouvrier is a sea bird ecologist with expertise in field ecology of Antarctic populations and mathematical ecology. She combines interests in demographic models, population ecology and climate science and will contribute not only to the study of seabird ecology, but also conservation biology and the effects of climate change on living systems.
Biology staff received numerous honors and awards during the past year, including the U.S. Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Award to Carin Ashjian, the NASA New Investigator Program Award to Sam Laney, the Alfreid-Krupp Kolleg Greifswald Fellowship in Germany to Stefan Sievert, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Award in Germany to Hal Caswell, and the Sir Allan Sewell Visiting Fellowship" from Griffith University in Australia to Sonya Dyhrman.—Judy Mcdowell, Department Chair