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News Releases


Century-Long Drought Linked to Collapse of Mayan Civilization

New analysis of sediment samples from the southern Caribbean indicate that severe droughts occurred at the same time as the known collapse of the Mayan civilization. In a study in the March 14 issue of the journal Science, lead author Gerald Haug of Geoforschungszentrum (GFZ) in Potsdam, Germany, together with Konrad Hughen of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and colleagues report that sediments from the Cariaco Basin in northern Venezuela clearly show a dry spell that the Caribbean region starting in the seventh century and lasting for more than 200 years.

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Fossil Records Show Methane in Seafloor Sediments Released During Periods of Rapid Climate Warming

Scientists have found new evidence indicating that during periods of rapid climate warming methane gas has been released periodically from the seafloor in intense eruptions. In a study published in the current issue of the journal Science, Kai-Uwe Hinrichs and colleagues Laura Hmelo and Sean Sylva of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) provide a direct link between methane reservoirs in coastal marine sediments and the global carbon cycle, an indicator of global warming and cooling.

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WHOI Elects Trustees at Fall Meeting of the Corporation

Three new Trustees were elected at the recent Joint Meeting of the Board of Trustees and Corporation at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Peter Aron of New York, Joseph McNay of Chestnut Hill, MA, and Joseph Patton of Boston, currently serving as Members of the Institution’s Corporation, were elected Trustees during the fall meetings in October in Woods Hole.

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Oil Found in Marsh Sediments 30 Years After Spill

Thirty years after approximately 175,000 gallons of No. 2 fuel oil spilled from the barge FLORIDA in Buzzards Bay near West Falmouth, MA, residues of the oil can still be found in salt marsh sediments, according to a report to be released November 15 by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and colleagues at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Their findings, to appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology published by the American Chemical Society, provide further evidence that oil persists in the marine environment for a long period of time even though the surface sediments recover quickly and appear visually healthy.

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European Seal Plague May Threaten Population Survival

Scientists from G??teborg University in Sweden and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) report in an upcoming issue of the journal Ecology Letters that the 2002 outbreak of phocine distemper virus, or PDV, in European harbor seals may reduce the population by more than half and that future outbreaks with similar characteristics would significantly increase the risk of population declines. Their findings are the first epidemiological data reported on the 2002 outbreak, which is still underway, and may help predict the recurrence of the outbreaks and the impact on the long-term growth and survival of the European harbor seal population.

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New Generation Deep Ocean Vehicle Begins Science Operations for U.S. Researchers

A new generation of remotely operated vehicle (ROV) capable of routine operation to depths of 6,500 meters (21,320 feet) and communicating its data back to shore via the Internet has been developed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The vehicle, JASON II, recently completed its first science cruise off the coast of Washington and Oregon and is currently at sea in the Pacific working off the coast of Hawaii.

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WHOI Scientist Honored by Russian Academy of Sciences

A local scientist has been honored by the Russian Academy of Sciences. Assistant Scientist Steve Jayne of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution was presented the 2002 Zeldovich Award by the Committee on Space Research and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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Offshore Air-Sea Interaction Tower Expands Research Capabilities of the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and their colleagues will gain critical environmental information from the Air-Sea Interaction Tower (ASIT) being built off the south shore of Martha’s Vineyard. Construction of the tripod-shaped tower began in August and is expected to be completed in late September. The tower will be linked to the Institution’s Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO), which was built and installed several years ago off South Beach near the Katama Airfield.

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WHOI to Host U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy July 22

Abrupt climate change, ships and ocean observatories, coastal management, biodiversity and genetics, hydrothermal vents and the deep biosphere will be among the topics discussed by Woods Hole scientists with members of the presidentially-appointed U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy during a July 22 visit to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

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WHOI Establishes Award for Excellence in Ocean Science Journalism

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has established a major journalism award to recognize an outstanding record of achievement in communicating ocean science to the public. The award, The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Award for Excellence in Ocean Science Journalism, will be given for a body of work that enhances public awareness of, interest in, and understanding of the ocean sciences and was published or broadcast within the last five years. The $5,000 cash prize and award will be presented in Woods Hole for the first time in the fall of 2003, with the recipient presenting a lecture or seminar on an appropriate science journalism topic at that time.

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US/Canada Joint Ice Working Group Meets in Woods Hole, Honors Contributions of Former WHOI Director Edward “Iceberg” Smith

The sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic in April 1912 had many connections to Woods Hole, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the US Coast Guard, the first the creation of the International Ice Patrol just two years after the sinking. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution gained international attention when it found the wreck of the sunken luxury liner in 1985 and explored it again in detail the following year. Many other connections exist as well, among them the major role of a former WHOI Director in ice research.

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WHOI Elects Trustees/Corporation Members

Fourteen new Trustees and Corporation Members were elected at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s recent spring meetings in Woods Hole. Officers of the Corporation and one Honorary Member were also elected, and 17 Trustees and Members were re-elected.

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WHOI Director, Scientist Elected Fellows of American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Director and President Robert Gagosian and Senior Scientist John Whitehead of the Physical Oceanography Department were recently elected Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the oldest learned societies in the nation. Drs. Gagosian and Whitehead are among the 177 Fellows and 30 Foreign Honorary Members elected to the 2002 Class, which includes a United States Senator and a Representative, four college presidents, three Nobel Prize winners, six Pulitzer Prize winners, three MacArthur Fellows and six Guggenheim Fellows.

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WHOI Scientist Receives Honored by Russian Academy of Natural Sciences

A local scientist has been honored by the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences with its highest honors. Scientist Emeritus John Hunt of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution was awarded the Gold Medal of Honor of Albert Einstein by the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, United States section, for “outstanding contributions in the field of geology.” The medal is the highest award conferred by the Academy.

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New Vice President and CFO Appointed at WHOI

After a long and extensive search process, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has appointed Carolyn A. Bunker of Falmouth Vice President for Finance and Administration and Chief Financial Officer. The appointment, announced today by WHOI Director and President Robert Gagosian, is effective immediately.

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WHOI and Massachusetts Firm Sign Contract to Build New Coastal Vessel

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, Duclos Corporation of Somerset, MA, signed a contract today to build a 60-foot vessel to replace the Institution’s aging 46-foot coastal vessel Asterias. Construction of the new vessel is estimated at a cost of $1.6 million, with delivery expected in March 2004.

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WHOI To Present Mary Sears Woman Pioneer in Oceanography Award to California Scientist March 28

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will present one of its highest honors, the Mary Sears Woman Pioneer in Oceanography Award, to California Biologist Mary Wilcox Silver. A Professor of Ocean Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Dr. Silver is being honored for providing “significant scientific leadership in understanding our marine environment” and recognized for providing “the inspiration and/or opportunity for other women in marine sciences.” Colleagues note that she has “led the way for people with strong family commitments to go to sea, showing that scientists could combine challenging, field-based careers with family life.”

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Louisiana Biologist to Receive WHOI’s Ketchum Award January 16

Farming practices in the Mississippi River drainage area are affecting coastal ocean waters off Louisiana and the coastal water quality in the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Nancy Rabalais of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, a leading researcher in this field, will share some of her findings when she receives the 12th Bostwick H. Ketchum Award January 16 at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

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