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Going Virtual in Marine Biology Education

March 8, 2007

Whyvillians have a problem: harmful algae are threatening their beaches and coastal ecosystem. In order to investigate, understand, and mitigate the problem, citizens are turning to the Whyville Oceanographic Institution (WhOI), with its boats, its underwater laboratories, and other resources for exploring the ocean. This interactive experience is part of a new partnership between the developers of, a leading educational Web site for youth, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). To learn more about how nutrients can fuel plankton blooms, Whyvillians must collect samples from the virtual ocean, use the laboratory to identify the species and nutrient at the root of the problem, trace the nutrient to its source, and stem the nutrient flow by restoring a virtual wetland. “One of our biggest challenges as a research institution is conveying our work to the public,” said WHOI Associate Scientist Sonya Dyhrman, who helped create the new feature. “ is an excellent tool for communicating information about the oceans, and their significance to our everyday lives, in a unique and entertaining format.”