Chris Linder grew up about as far from the ocean as you can get—the cornfields of southeastern Wisconsin. But while he plied the waters of the local lakes fishing with his dad, he dreamed of deeper waters and a future as an oceanographer. 

In 1990, with only a toothbrush and a one-way plane ticket, he found the ocean at last, launching his fledgling oceanography career at the United States Naval Academy. He was drawn to fieldwork, which culminated in a Trident Scholar research project using side-scan sonar to map oyster beds in the Severn River, which flows into Chesapeake Bay. His studies continued after graduation with a Navy scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Masters Program in Ocean Engineering, where he studied the physics of the shelfbreak front south of New England.

Chris then served as a meteorology and oceanography officer in the United States Navy. The highlight of his naval career was a three-year tour in Spain, where, on a crowded street in Madrid, he met his wife, Cape Cod native Meghan Delaney. During their time living in southern Spain, they traveled extensively and Chris developed a strong interest in photography, shooting horse races, colorful festivals, and mountain landscapes.

He then returned to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as a research associate in the Physical Oceanography Department, where his passions for oceanography and photography came together. When not using the left half of his brain to analyze the coastal waters off Cape Cod and Taiwan, he uses the right half of his brain to create artful, storytelling images of scientists at work and play.

Since 2002, Chris has focused on communicating the stories of scientists working in the Arctic and Antarctic. His education and training as an oceanographer give him a special insight into photographing marine science. He has documented 18 scientific expeditions.

His most recent project, titled “Live from the Poles,” connected researchers with the public during the International Polar Year (2007-2009) using daily online photo essays ( and lectures “from the ice” to museum audiences nationwide via satellite phone. This project, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, took him from the Greenland Ice Sheet to penguin colonies on Antarctica’s Ross Island.

When not riding the waves for WHOI, he runs a private photography business specializing in adventure, landscape, and documentary photography. His stories and images have appeared in national magazines such as Wired, Outdoor Photographer, and GEO. A solo exhibition of his photographs, titled “Exploring the Arctic Seafloor” is currently touring natural history and science museums. He is currently working on a book titled Science on Ice for the University of Chicago Press, which will be published in Fall 2011. He is a member of the International League of Conservation Photographers. Find out more:

Chris lives in Seattle, Wash., with his wife and their daughter.