News Releases


Sudden Draining of Glacial Lakes Explained

In 2008 scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of Washington documented for the first time how the icy bottoms of lakes atop the Greenland Ice Sheet can crack open suddenly—draining the lakes completely within hours and sending torrents of water to the base of the ice sheet thousands of feet below. Now they have found a surprising mechanism that triggers the cracks.

Scientists had theorized that the sheer weight of the water in these supraglacial lakes applied pressure that eventually cracked the ice, but they could not explain why some lake bottoms cracked while others did not.

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Revealing the Ocean’s Hidden Fertilizer

A new study by a research team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Columbia University reveals for the first time a marine phosphorus cycle that is much more complex than previously thought. The work also highlights the important but previously hidden role that some microbial communities play in using and breaking down forms of this essential element.

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Study Reveals How Rivers Regulate Global Carbon Cycle

Humans concerned about climate change are working to find ways of capturing excess carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and sequestering it in the Earth. But Nature has its own methods for the removal and long-term storage of carbon, including the world’s river systems, which transport decaying organic material and eroded rock from land to the ocean.

While river transport of carbon to the ocean is not on a scale that will bail humans out of our CO2 problem, we don’t actually know how much carbon the world’s rivers routinely flush into the ocean – an important piece of the global carbon cycle.

But in a study published May 14 in the journal Nature, scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) calculated the first direct estimate of how much and in what form organic carbon is exported to the ocean by rivers. The estimate will help modelers predict how the carbon export from global rivers may shift as Earth’s climate changes.

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Gulf of Maine Red Tide Bloom Expected to Be Similar to Past Three Years

New England’s spring and summer red tides will be similar in extent to those of the past three years, according to the 2015 Gulf of Maine red tide seasonal forecast. The forecast is the eighth seasonal Gulf of Maine red tide forecast funded by NOAA and issued by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and North Carolina State University.

The forecast is part of a larger NOAA effort to deliver ecological forecasts that support human health and well-being, coastal economies, and coastal and marine stewardship.

Red tide, a type of harmful algal bloom (HAB) caused by the alga Alexandrium fundyense, produces a toxin that can lead to paralytic shellfish poisoning, which can result in serious or even fatal illness in humans who eat contaminated shellfish. In 2005, an unusually large red tide event caused $23 million in lost shellfish sales in Massachusetts and Maine.

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Securing the Supply of Sea Scallops for Today and Tomorrow

Good management has brought the $559 million United States sea scallop fishery back from the brink of collapse over the past 20 years.  However, its current fishery management plan does not account for longer-term environmental change like ocean warming and acidification that may affect the fishery in the future. A group of researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, and Ocean Conservancy hope to change that. 

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Ocean Bacteria Get ‘Pumped Up’

In a new study published April 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and their colleague from Rutgers University discovered a surprising new short-circuit to the biological pump. They found that sinking particles of stressed and dying phytoplankton release chemicals that have a jolting, steroid-like effect on marine bacteria feeding on the particles. The chemicals juice up the bacteria’s metabolism causing them to more rapidly convert organic carbon in the particles back into CO2 before they can sink to the deep ocean.

 

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Coexisting in a Sea of Competition

Diversity of life abounds on Earth, and there’s no need to look any farther than the ocean’s surface for proof. There are over 200,000 species of phytoplankton alone, and all of those species of microscopic marine plants that form the base of the marine food web need the same basic resources to grow—light and nutrients.

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Trace Amounts of Fukushima Radioactivity Detected Along Shoreline of British Columbia

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have for the first time detected the presence of small amounts of radioactivity from the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in a seawater sample from the shoreline of North America. The sample, which was collected on February 19 in Ucluelet, British Columbia, with the assistance of the Ucluelet Aquarium, contained trace amounts of cesium (Cs) -134 and -137, well below internationally established levels of concern to humans and marine life.

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WHOI Receives $150,000 Grant from Tower Foundation

The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation has awarded the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) a $150,000 grant that will help fund a three-year collaborative project with Cape Abilities—a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding good jobs for Cape Cod residents with disabilities.

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Chandler Elected Co-Chair of International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange

Cyndy Chandler, an Information Systems Specialist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), has been elected to serve a two-year term as co-chair of the “International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange” (IODE). Established in 1961, the IODE is part of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO.

IODE’s purpose is “to enhance marine research, exploitation and development, by facilitating the exchange of oceanographic data and information between participating Member States, and by meeting the needs of users for data and information products.” Chandler’s co-chair is Yutaka Michida (Japan). In its announcement, IODE recognized the new co-chairs “bring with them an extensive career and experience in oceanography and data management.”

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Research Submersible Alvin Completes Depth Certification to 4500 Meters

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) announces that the Human Occupied Vehicle (HOV) Alvin has achieved certification from the U. S. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) for operations to its rated depth of 4,500 meters (approx. 2.8 miles).   Two dives were conducted in the waters off Arica, Chile, on January 26-27 from the research vessel Atlantis, demonstrating vehicle performance in accordance with the specified metrics required for certification.  NAVSEA representatives were on hand to monitor the process and participate in the dives. 

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New Museum Program Focuses on Impacts of Fukushima on the Ocean

Four years after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant accident, Japan is still recovering and rebuilding from the disaster. In March 2011 one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded shook Japan, creating a devastating tsunami and damaging the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The accident resulted in the largest unintentional release of radioactivity into the ocean in history.

On the fourth anniversary of the disaster, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Long Beach, CA-based Aquarium of the Pacific will debut a new program about ocean radioactivity motivated by the Fukushima nuclear accident. The program will be projected daily in the Aquarium’s Ocean Science Center on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Science on a Sphere® and will be made available to more than 100 institutions around the world through NOAA’s SOS Network with a capacity to reach over 50 million combined visitors.

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Monster hurricanes reached U.S. during prehistoric periods of ocean warming

Intense hurricanes, possibly more powerful than any storms New England has experienced in recorded history, frequently pounded the region during the first millennium, from the peak of the Roman Empire into the height of the Middle Ages, according to a new study. The findings could have implications for the intensity and frequency of hurricanes the U.S. could experience as ocean temperatures increase as a result of climate change, according to the study’s authors.

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Study Finds Deep Ocean is Source of Dissolved Iron in Central Pacific

A new study led by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) points to the deep ocean as a major source of dissolved iron in the central Pacific Ocean. This finding highlights the vital role ocean mixing plays in determining whether deep sources of iron reach the surface-dwelling life that need it to survive.

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Study Supplies Insight into Behavior of African Monsoon

Think of the Sahara and you will conjure images of a vast desert landscape, with nothing but sand as far as the eye can see.  But for a period of about 10,000 years, the Sahara was characterized by lush, green vegetation and a network of lakes, rivers and deltas.

This “green Sahara” occurred between 14,800 and 5,500 years ago during what is known as the “African Humid Period.” Why and how it ended is the subject of scientific study that holds important information for predicting the region’s response to future climate change.

In a study published this week in Nature Geoscience, a team of researchers provides new insight into the behavior of the African monsoon at the end of the African Humid Period and the factors that caused it to collapse.

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Researchers Produce Two Biofuels from a Single Algae

A common algae commercially grown to make fish food holds promise as a source for both biodiesel and jet fuel, according to a new study published in the journal Energy & Fuels.

The researchers, led by Greg O’Neil of Western Washington University and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, exploited an unusual and untapped class of chemical compounds in the algae to synthesize two different fuel products, in parallel, a from a single algae.

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Commonwealth Awards $5 M R&D Grant for Center for Marine Robotics

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has awarded the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) a $5 million grant toward the construction of new facilities for the testing and research into innovative marine robotics such autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). The five-year grant award is being made as part of the Collaborative Research and Development Matching Grant Program, managed by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech). The grant to WHOI’s Center for Marine Robotics will help accelerate the deployment of new and existing marine robotics technologies in Massachusetts

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Study Pumps Up the Volume on Understanding of Marine Invertebrate Hearing

A new study by researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and their colleagues examined behavioral responses to sound by cuttlefish, a type of shell-less mollusk related to squid and octopi.  The study is the first to identify the acoustic range and minimum sound sensitivity in these animals. Their findings, published in the Journal for Experimental Biology, can help decision makers and environmental managers better understand the impacts of noise in the ocean.

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