Below is a list of potential projects and advisors in the WHOI departments and the USGS Coastal and Marine Science Center for Summer 2021. This list is not comprehensive; other Scientific and Senior Technical Staff are eligible to advise Summer Student Fellows. See also: WHOI Areas of Research and Departments, Centers and Labs.
Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Dept.
Ocean Acoustics and Signal Processing
My research focuses on the development and use of acoustical techniques and data analysis methods to study the ocean. My activity is interdisciplinary and collaborative, and my lab is open to interns, students and post-docs with various interests, covering signal processing, acoustics, oceanography and marine biology. My personal playground is in between signal processing and ocean acoustics. However, I do enjoy working with students and post-doc that have diverse backgrounds. Current projects in the lab includes crustacean bioacoustics, marine mammal localization in the Arctic, polar soundscape analysis, estimation of seabed geoacoustic parameters, and fundamental signal processing adapted to dispersive propagation. Potential projects on other topics are usually welcome, particularly if they are at the intersection of acoustical oceanography and signal processing.
Steve Elgar and Britt Raubenheimer
Our lab (https://pv-lab.org) is studying the physical processes that affect the coast, especially during major hurricanes and nor'easters, including the interactions between ocean surge, waves, and infiltration-exfiltation, the groundwater, and the sediments (pore pressures, porosity, grain size, dune and beach morphology) that contribute to erosion, flooding, and coastal evolution. We use our backgrounds in physics, math, engineering, and computer programming to compare field observations that we collect on the beach and in the surf with numerical model simulations to evaluate the relative importance of processes, such as waves, winds, and precipitation.
Summer projects could focus on: (1) wave generation in shallow water, (2) breaching and closing of an ocean inlet, (3) alongshore variability of waves and dune erosion, (4) the role of groundwater and precipitation in coastal flooding and dune erosion on a barrier island, (5) eddies and flow patterns in the surf or swash zones, or (6) instrumentation development and testing for coastal observations.
For example, we have observations of waves on a tidal flat that could be compare with analytical formulas for wind-generation of waves in shallow water, which is important to the erosion of marsh edges.
The Applied Aquaculture Research Program (Lindell Lab) is directed at researching and developing marine aquaculture for sustainably providing food and fuel. We strive to develop methods
that have positive economic and ecosystem services and minimal negative social and environmental impacts. This demands a multi-disciplinary approach encompassing various subsets of biology (e.g. genetics, physiology, ecology), and oceanographic engineering (e.g. sensing, structural, systems). Marine aquaculture faces considerable engineering challenges, particularly in the open ocean where there are opportunities for making significant economic contributions. Marine farms need design and management to reach commercial scales that lower risk, attract investment and enhance revenue. Our program currently works with farmers (see GreenWave) and engineers (see www.whoi.edu/news-release/seaweed-fuel) to research and test novel systems that support multiple commercial-scale growing structures or longlines for shellfish and seaweed.
We will have completed 3 yearly cycles of breeding and genetic selection applied to aquaculture species, sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima) by summer 2021. The goal of the project is to develop new strains of kelp that are better as food or animal feed sources, and that ultimately fit the production cost profile of feedstocks for biofuels. We will have a trove of data on the genotypes and phenotypes of hundreds of families of sugar kelp, as well as environmental data from each farm. A large portion of this data has yet to be analyzed. A remote learning project will be developed using the database and existing industry resources, with hopes of identifying and answering overlooked but important questions. Translating results into graphical resources that can help educate industry stakeholders and the public could be important outcomes. There will be opportunities for research and mentorship in the both field (farms) and in the lab if the fellowship can be conducted on-site.
Sea Ice Physics and Ice-Ocean-Climate Interactions
The Maksym lab works on sea ice physics and ice-ocean-climate interactions at both poles. The lab's broad goals are to understand fundamental ice-ocean interactions that drive seasonal ice growth and decay to better understand drivers of sea ice variability and long-term change. This is accomplished through a combination of (1) in situ observations, in particular use of autonomous drifting platforms deployed in the ice and robotic vehicles under the ice, (2) satellite remote sensing of sea ice and climate data analysis, and (3) process modelling.
One of the biggest uncertainties in future sea level rise is the contribution of the Antarctic ice sheet through rapid ice loss at the ice sheet margins. Here, floating ice shelves buttress the ice sheet from the ocean, but increased delivery of ocean heat to the underside of ice shelves in the western Antarctic has accelerated ice shelf thinning and ice loss to the ocean. These ice-ocean interactions are the subject of much current research, but very little attention has been paid to the impact of sea ice variability and change in modulating ocean properties and dynamics in the vicinity of, and under ice shelves. In this project, you would be involved in estimating the sea ice state (ice distribution, thickness, and/or motion) over the course of several years using a combination of satellite data products to examine how climate variability may have impacted sea ice changes in this critical region. This project makes particular use of data from the newly launched ICESat-2, a satellite instrument which can detect sea ice elevation with a precision of 2 cm through detecting the reflection of individual laser photons from the ice surface. The project is largely based in satellite and climate data analysis, so is well suited to remote work if that is required. This project is closely connected to two related projects using ICESat-2 data to monitor the evolution of snow depth on sea ice in the Antarctic, and the connection between ice thickness and spring phytoplankton blooms in the coastal Arctic, so there is potential to shape your project around your particular interests. If onsite presence is possible this summer, there should be occasional opportunities to assist in testing of robotic vehicles locally at WHOI.
The project will involve analysis of large datasets in a programming environment such as Matlab or Python. The prospective student will ideally have an interest in climate variability and polar regions. An interest in working with satellite imagery a plus. The student will have the opportunity to learn how to analyze different types of satellite data and imagery, work with large climate date sets, and further develop their skills with matlab and/or Python. Depending on the student's interests, there may be opportunities to apply machine-learning techniques to satellite data analysis. Provided that in-person presence at WHOI is possible this summer, there will be opportunities to be involved in testing of one or more robotic vehicles being tested for future field programs.
Development of In situ Chemical Sensors
Our interdisciplinary (engineering and chemistry) research focus is on advancing environmental observation through the development and deployment of novel sensors for measurement of key chemical species. In my lab, we design, build, and deploy advanced laser-based chemical sensors for environments ranging from the deep sea to Arctic environments. We are especially interested in bringing new technologies to the field for measurement of the greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide. An additional focus of our lab is on bringing adaptive sampling to ocean and earth science. More recently, we have been developing approaches for detecting microplastics in the ocean.
Potential projects for 2021, if we are fully remote, include analyzing environmental data sets (possibly with machine learning approaches), designing components for ocean instrumentation used CAD, or if possible, working on a hands-on sensor project or a plastics project. Examples of remote hands-on projects could include testing sensors outside and under different conditions or working with plastic samples to investigate how they weather in the environment. If we are in person for summer 2021, projects can include developing and testing small gas sensors, investigating microplastics in ocean environments, advancing small platforms (including underwater remotely operated vehicles, surface vehicles, or drones) for making environmental measurements, and using machine learning approaches for data analysis. Our group includes members with interests in environmental chemistry, engineering, computer science, and physics, but we welcome anyone with interests related to our research. Students can expect an interdisciplinary research experience.
Autonomous Surface Vessel Development
WHOI Engineers and scientists have recently developed the Jetyak Autonomous Surface Vessel (ASV), which has enabled interesting measurements in environments ranging from the Arctic to Coastal Estuaries. See http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/feature/the-jetyak. However for many applications a smaller ASV that could be launched and recovered by one person would be more suitable. In very rough conditions (e.g. the surf zone) the gas engine of the jetyak is problematic. Summer Student Fellow Projects that aid in the development of a smaller electric motor and battery powered ASV are possible that cover topics ranging from mechanical design to adaptive robotic control in the surfzone. Sensor integration such as bathymetric sonars or camera systems could also be part of a project These projects would involve significant amounts of hands on engineering and field testing.
One project focus in particular would be to focus on measuring ice cliff heights to determine stability envelopes against ice sheet collapse. We can also monitor iceberg breakup and sea ice changes and its effects on ice shelf stability. In addition, modeling studies of ice fracture and subsurface water in planetary bodies (“Ocean Worlds”) are of interest as well, to determine how and when these bodies were active. Specifically, we can help to determine where the best place to land a spacecraft might be! A specific project might be using remote observations and modeling to determine how the soon-to-launch Ganymede (moon of Jupiter) Laser Altimeter will perform over bumpy ice surfaces. Desired skills include Matlab or Python or other coding experience, and interest in learning about ice dynamics, planetary science, and/or climate change.
Projects are fully flexible in terms of being completed in person or remotely. At this time, none require hands-on lab work, though that can be discussed as a possibility if in-person stays are possible by the summer term.
Marine Animal Remote Sensing
My lab works at the intersection between physics, engineering and ecology. We are especially interested in understanding the impacts of global change on the Southern Ocean’s ecosystem, where remote sensing methods enable us to study sparse top predator populations (especially penguin and whale populations). Combining methods from statistical physics, computer vision and movement ecology, we strive to advance methods and technologies across the spectrum from detecting presence and animal counting to remote sensing of behavior and life history.
Possible Summer Student Fellowship projects include software and hardware development in the areas of robotics (navigation and AI image classification), radio detection and tracking of tagged animals and image processing and model development to understand collective behavior in large animal groups.
Students should have some familiarity with python programming in a linux environment or some electrical or mechanical experience (e.g. mechanical or electrical prototyping) or proficiency with VHF radio systems. The students can expect to learn how to apply such skills to the study of ecosystems in challenging environments.
All available projects are flexible in terms of being completely remotely or in person and can be done either entirely in software or with small hardware components that will be provided. If in-person stays become possible during the summer projects can be tuned/extended to include more experimental work.
Eukaryotic Plankton in a Changing Ocean
Single celled eukaryotes, or protists, play a critical part in all ecosystems found on the planet. Our lab employs a combination of culture, molecular, and computational approaches to better understand the biogeochemical functioning and physiological ecology of eukaryotic plankton and their role in a changing ocean. Summer student fellows joining the lab could work on one of several different projects depending on their interests. Students interested in bioinformatics and computational biology may work on a project focused on leveraging large-scale metagenomic data to understand the diversity and functioning of specific key metabolic genes across the global ocean. Students interested in plankton physiology or host-microbiome interactions may carry out culture-based experiments looking at the impact of microbe-host pairings on growth rate and photosynthetic efficiency.
Alexander Lab Website: https://alexanderlabwhoi.github.io
In the Marine Predator Group, we use computational, lab and field-based approaches to study how predators interact with their environment and what that can tell us about how the ocean works. In our completely unbiased opinions, we have the best jobs in the world! We get to spend our time asking questions like: How does temperature affect when and where sharks migrate? How does the highly dynamic nature of ocean physics, with all its interacting currents, drive the formation of biological ocean “hotspots”? Why do many predators dive below the ocean’s surface to the seemingly inhospitable ocean twilight zone where its dark and cold?
Seabird Ecology and Demography
Today a major challenge in ecology is to understand the consequences of climate change and human activities on wildlife populations for predicting their fate in the future. This requires an interdisciplinary approach to understand past and present population responses to climate change in order to obtain suitable models to predict future ecological consequences. Seabirds are long-lived upper trophic-level predators in marine ecosystems and are key indicator species of climate and ocean change. Their presence, absence or abundance reflects the impact of environmental variability over large spatial and temporal scales in the global ocean.
In my laboratory, we characterize the effect of global change on individual and population of a community of seabirds breeding in the Southern Ocean using quantitative statistical and mathematical modeling approaches. Specific area of interests includes how climate changes and human activities affect the behaviors (e.g. foraging) and vital rates of individuals (e.g. survival and breeding success); the timing of key life cycle events (e.g. breeding phenology); and the population growth.
This summer, we are particularly interested in a student fellow to work on an interdisciplinary project to assess the sensitivity of seabird’s population growth rate and fecundity to climate drivers at different spatial and temporal scales. Another potential project for students interested in developing mathematical models, is to develop an eco-evolutionary model to understand and predict the impact of climate change of Black-browed albatross by including their behavioral responses. In the context of the pandemic, both of these projects can be implemented remotely for students with a strong quantitative background, as it will require coding skills.
Sensory Biology and Bioacoustics
Marine microbial omics
The microbiaki lab focuses on: 1) the study of the identity, function and activity of dark ocean microorganisms (Bacteria and Archaea) and their effects on ecological and ecosystem processes, 2) the investigation of microbial partnerships important to biogeochemical cycling at the ecosystem and single cell scales, and 3) the identification and characterization of uncultivated marine phyla using s genomic approaches. We use a combination of omic techniques, computational approaches and field experiments. Potential projects include the global survey of the microbial inhabitants (and their metabolic patheways) of oxygen minimum zones, the construction of a genome database of polar Bacteria and Archaea, the comparative analysis of metagenomic and metatranscriptomic datasets from hydrothermal vents, and the biogeography of uncultivated marine phyla. Prospective students should have the desire to work with big data in a collaborative environment. We, in the microbiaki lab, value diversity, equity and inclusion, and we strive to ensure a safe and productive environment for all members of our team.
Changing Nearshore Temperatures and Benthic Community Response
Our lab studies how variability in currents, temperature, and seafloor features influence the transport of small and large marine animals, particularly small invertebrate larvae. The ultimate goal is a mechanistic understanding of the processes that determine population fluctuations and organism distribution, including the spatial and the temporal scales of the dominant mechanisms. The reproduction and early development of many nearshore species is closely tied to local temperature conditions, and this coming summer we are looking to work with a student to better characterize how water column temperatures are evolving over time and space as oceans warm.
We are looking for a student with an interest in interactions between climate and biological communities, plus some prior coding experience. By the end of the summer, the student can expect to gain skills (1) analyzing and visualizing complex oceanographic data, (2) a more in-depth knowledge about the implications that changing conditions hold for biological communities, and (3) the different mechanisms by which ocean warming affects coastal organisms in temperate settings. Additionally, if the SSF program is on-site this summer, there will be opportunities to participate in local field work and/or laboratory processing of field samples for other projects exploring the effects of ocean warming on nearshore species.
Marine Mammal Behavior and Communication
Deep-Sea Faunal Biodiversity, Connectivity, and Management
The Shank lab is focused on understanding the ecological and evolutionary processes that structure deep-sea benthic biodiversity, including larval dispersal, colonization, habitat utilization, genetic connectivity, and the evolutionary relationships of invertebrate fauna. These studies include seamount and chemosynthetic ecosystems intimately tied to planetary processes significant to the evolution of life on earth. This research strives to provide fundamental insights into the rates and manner in which dynamic physical, biological, and geological processes structure biodiversity, and ecosystem response to disturbance and climate-related oceanographic/seafloor conditions. This coming summer, available projects include: 1) determining the composition deep-coral canyon ecosystems and their management in US territorial waters; 2) searching for novel genes and genomic composition of species in canyon, hydrothermal vent, and trench ecosystems, 3) conducting climate-related baseline characterizations of shallow hydrocarbon seep ecosystems in the Arctic; and 4) determining seamount coral community structure. Students will learn ecological approaches in the deep sea, fundamentals of DNA barcoding, and the implementation of comparative genomics. Students will also either participate on a research cruise utilizing deep remotely-operated vehicles or experience real-time at sea discoveries and interact with shipboard science teams via live telepresence broadcasts from sea.
Geology and Geophysics Dept.
Microbiology and early diagenesis of stromatolites, Earth’s earliest extensive life
Joan M. Bernhard
Stromatolites are Earth’s earliest evidence of extensive life. To better understand the impact of eukaryotic evolution on the Precambrian stromatolite fossil record, we are studying modern forms and their early diagenesis (fossilization). In stromatolites from a meromictic (permanently stratified) lake, the SSF would analyze microbial distributions on a sub-millimeter scale using Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy (CLSM) and epifluorescence microscopy to determine eukaryotic and prokaryotic distributions with respect to chemocline geochemistry. Additionally, data from microCT scans of the microbialites will be analyzed to assess impact of early diagenesis resulting from a high pressure experiment. The field work for this project is finished, but possibilities to join field collections exist. The student should enjoy microscopy and be adept at 3-D visualizations. The SSF will be instructed on how to perform all required types of microscopy and software analyses. A dataset of the microscopic images will be compiled and quantified by the student. Additional lab activities abound that the SSF will be invited to join if interested. If the SSF is 100% virtual due to the Covid pandemic, the student would be provided, on loan, a laptop computer with appropriate software for 3D analyses; microscopy would not be possible.
Climate Change and Coral Reefs
We invite SSF applications to conduct research on topics in coral reef science. Students will have opportunity to participate in a variety of projects including ocean acidification impacts on coral growth, the bio-fluidics of coral larval metamorphosis and settlement and using laser ablation to reconstruct water temperatures on coral reefs during past warm periods such as last interglacial.
Time-Dependent Model of the Oceanic Benthic Nepheloid Layer
Optical instruments lowered throughout the oceanic water column have long revealed the presence of a particle-rich layer overlying the seafloor – the benthic nepheloid layer or BNL – in many parts of the world ocean. The BNL is generally characterized by two sublayers: (i) a lower sublayer that is in direct contact with the seafloor, shows maximum particle concentrations, has a thickness of the order of 100 m, and often coincides with the bottom mixed layer as identified from uniform potential temperature; and (ii) an upper sublayer that overlies the lower sublayer, has a thickness of the order of 1000 m, and in which particle concentration decreases about exponentially with height above the bottom up to a clear water minimum at mid-depth. Both sublayers are thought to be produced by the resuspension of fine sediments from the seabed followed by their vertical/lateral transport by transient eddies. For example, intense BNLs have been observed to form in the western North Atlantic during so called “benthic storms”, which are episodes of strong near-bottom currents and are the abyssal analogues of synoptic disturbances in the mid-latitude atmosphere (“weather”). Interest in BNLs was renewed recently by observations indicating that these layers may be sites of enhanced removal of particle-reactive metals from the water column, including protactinium-231 and thorium-230, two naturally-occurring radioisotopes that have found various applications in chemical oceanography and paleoceanography. However, in spite of decades of observations, the significance of BNLs for ocean biogeochemical cycles and the time scales associated with the appearance and disappearance of BNLs are still poorly understood.
The goal of this project is to develop a mathematical model describing the formation, maintenance, and destruction of the oceanic BNL. Emphasis will be placed on two adjustment problems: (i) given a sudden and sustained impulse of sediment particles from the seafloor, how long does it take for a BNL to develop?; and (ii) given a sudden reduction in sediment supply to the water column, how long does it take for the BNL to clear out? Processes to be considered in this model include the vertical motion of particles by turbulent dispersion, the gravitational settling of particles, the aggregation of small (slowly settling) particles into large (rapidly setting) particles, and the disaggregation of large particles into small particles. Model results will be compared to observations from the western North Atlantic that have been gathered from optical instruments and in situ large volume filtration. This project is part of a larger project funded by the US National Science Foundation and concerned with the effects of Gulf Stream meanders, rings, and eddies, on the movement of fine sediments at abyssal depths in the western North Atlantic.
The student working on this project will be exposed to concepts emanating from various disciplines, including physical oceanography, chemical oceanography, marine sedimentology, and, more generally, the mathematical modeling of oceanographic phenomena. The most important quality the student working on this project should have is motivation! Although prior exposure to calculus or advanced calculus would be desirable, the student will be introduced gradually to the problem during short lectures and will be asked to complete a small number of exercises in order to best prepare her/him to the main goal of the project. This project could be completed remotely and will be supervised by Senior Scientist Olivier Marchal (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Dept.
Volatile History and Chemical Evolution of Earth
The goal of the Barry Lab is to understand the volatile
history and chemical evolution of Earth. Specifically, we use stable and noble gas isotope systematics to understand the dynamic processes of subduction, mantle convection and surface volcanism, which control the redistribution of chemical constituents between the crust and mantle reservoirs. We are also interested in addressing a diverse array of geochemical questions, pertaining to both igneous and crustal systems as well as groundwater systems.
We have thousands of volcanic samples in our collection here at WHOI that need to be organized (i.e., mineral picking) and analyzed for their geochemical signatures using state of the art mass spectrometry. COVID permitting, there will be ample opportunities to choose which samples we want to investigate and analyze in the Barry Lab.
Gas geochemistry lab work requires diligence and attention to detail, but little experience. If students can be on-site this summer, you will learn the ins and outs of using a mass spectrometer and all about vacuum extraction systems. There are also opportunities to develop new and improved methods of data processing.
Marine sediments are valuable historical archives that document the evolution of the Earth System. However, relating the geochemistry of certain sedimentary deposits back to the environment in which they formed is not necessarily straightforward, since the information recorded can be ‘blurred’ by additional processes taking place during and after deposition (e.g., biological effects artifacts, overprinting, unidentified processes). Thus, it is imperative to conduct studies in diverse modern environments to fully appreciate how the chemistry of the geological record is written.
As a Summer Student Fellow in the NIRVANA Labs, you will learn how to apply multi-element geochemical and/or stable-isotopic techniques (e.g., Ba-, Cd-, Fe-, Mo-, Tl-, V-, and Zn-isotopic analyses) to probe the language of the geological record. These techniques will be honed in our state-of-the-art metal-free clean lab (pictured). Potential project areas include development and/or application of geochemical tracers for primary productivity, ocean redox, and nutrient (re)cycling.
Julie is an oceanographer by training and is broadly interested in how basic earth processes- rocks forming, fluids moving, sediments accumulating- interact to create and maintain life in the oceans. Her research addresses some of the most central questions about the nature and extent of life on Earth in one of its least explored corners, the subseafloor habitat beneath the ocean floor. Potential projects include cultivation of microbes from deep-sea hydrothermal vents, using advanced molecular tools, including DNA and RNA sequencing, to examine microbes living beneath the seafloor, and other related microbial biogeochemistry projects.
Quantifying the biogeochemical role of microbial communities in the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean
We invite the Summer Student Fellowship candidates who are interested in quantifying the biogeochemical role of microbial communities at the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) site in the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean. BATS is one of the longest, ongoing multi-decadal ocean time-series programs, which has improved our understanding of the microbial, ecosystem, and biogeochemical responses to changing climates. Our lab is currently developing a numerical model to predict the future changes of the climate-microbial interactions at BATS. In doing so, it is important to understand the natural variability of the microbial communities shaped by large-scale climate variability and local-scale physical forcing using the BATS data sets.
The candidates will work directly with Dr. Hyewon Kim in the Department of Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry. The candidates will learn how to quantify the microbial system dynamics by conducting time-series analysis and learning the model simulations. We prefer the candidates experienced with statistical data analysis in programming languages (e.g., MATLAB, Python) and strong interests in marine microbial ecology and biogeochemistry. The candidates will gain strong skill sets in statistical and computational data analysis, written communication of scientific results, and the ability to present their findings to scientific communities.
Marine Chemistry, Instrumentation and Engineering
Opportunities in my lab include the development of low-cost sensors through electro-mechanical engineering, development of advanced sensors and control systems, and field application and testing of sensing platforms. Advanced sensing systems collect high-frequency data (e.g. water chemistry, turbulence) which is used to calculate chemical fluxes through boundary layer exchange techniques allowing for opportunities for experience in time-series analysis, fluid mechanics, and biogeochemistry. Fellows with combined experience in engineering or biogeochemistry, and interests in electro-mechanical engineering, fluid mechanics, or ecosystem science will are encouraged to join the Machine Lab gain experience in interdisciplinary scientific research.
Ocean Observing and Modeling to Understand Biogeochemical Cycles and Carbon Fluxes
David (Roo) Nicholson
In the Nicholson biogeochemical ocean observing and modeling lab (BOOMLAB) we use biogeochemical sensor observations on platforms such as floats, gliders and autonomous surface vehicles to better understand ocean carbon uptake, oxygen cycling and primary productivity. BOOMLAB is helping to build a new sensor network for the global ocean called the Global Ocean Biogeochemical Array (or GO-BGC) and will deploy biogeochemical Argo floats to provide the observations needed to answer questions such as (1) Will the ocean continue to take up ~25% of carbon emitted by human activity? (2) How will future warming impact the productivity and rates of photosynthesis in the ocean? and (3) What are the patterns and trends in the size of oxygen deficient zones and ocean acidification? SSF projects could involve analysis of chemical and optical sensor data from these systems to better understand ocean productivity and carbon fluxes. Another project we are involved in is EXport Processes in the Ocean RemoTe Sensing (EXPORTS). EXPORTS is a large-scale NASA-led field campaign that will provide critical information for quantifying the export and fate of upper ocean net primary production (NPP) using satellite observations and state of the art ocean technologies. For EXPORTS, BOOMLAB members are comparing sensor-based observations from gliders and floats to ship and satellite measurements to develop improved algorithms for estimating carbon fluxes in the ocean.
If you have a strong quantitative background and an interest in ocean technology and computational approaches to studying biogeochemistry we encourage you to check out our group. As a summer student in the BOOMLAB you will learn about large scale biogeochemical cycles, ocean sensors, and build programming skills to interpret in situ, model and remotely sensed datasets.
Human impacts to our coastal resources
My research focuses on in human interactions with the environment – in particular, how anthropogenic stressors influence and change our nearshore and coastal ecosystems and natural resources, and in turn, how coastal communities may need to respond to those changes. This includes investigations of the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on natural resources from fisheries and aquaculture to more local, place-based issues such as nutrient pollution, eutrophication, and coastal water quality. These challenges are studied using multipronged approaches that include modeling, data assimilation and analysis, and observational field studies typically focusing on the US Northeast coast from the continental shelf to our coastal estuaries.
Potential projects include opportunities for both in-person and remote fellowships. Potential remote projects include analyses of newly developed databases of long-term water quality monitoring data collected across Cape Cod in partnership with local and regional non-profit organizations and the County of Barnstable/Cape Cod Commission. In person projects could contribute to a study investigating the effects of coastal water quality and ocean acidification on shellfish growth and survival. This project would include local field work, water sampling, maintenance and monitoring of water quality instrumentation and aquaculture gear, and biological sampling of clams and oysters at grow-out locations. Proficiency in computer programming and data analysis is helpful but not necessary – we’ll provide you with all the tools and training you’d need!
Calcium Carbonate Cycling
CO2 Chemistry, Ocean Acidification and Sensor Development
Zhaohui Aleck Wang
In Wang’s CO2 chemistry lab, we study seawater carbonate chemistry, coastal carbon cycle, ocean acidification (OA), and the marsh carbon cycle. We are also specialized to develop in situ sensors to measure seawater CO2 parameters and other chemical species. Potential summer projects include:
(1) Impact of climate variability on bottom water carbonate chemistry in the context of demersal fisheries of the Northwest Atlantic shelf. Project goals: Using historical data, ocean reanalysis products, and machine learning tools, we will develop high-resolution historical bottom water carbonate chemistry fields for the U.S. Northeast region. This will allow us to develop downscaled historical and future projections from the global model ensemble, comparing a business-as-usual to a climate policy scenario.
(2) Investigating links between environmental conditions and scallop to predict the regional vulnerability of fishing stocks of the US Northeast coast under future climate change. The project will investigate the impacts of ocean acidification and warming on the Atlantic sea scallop fishery by using both historical and new observations in the US northeast coast. We will develop a high-resolution map (dataset) of the present-day carbonate chemistry and thermal environment of the Atlantic sea scallop fishing grounds, and examine the links between environmental conditions and meat condition on the northeast shelf. The new dataset will be used to be incorporated into a model to assess the impacts of climate change on Atlantic sea scallop biomass and landings in the region.
Marine Policy Center
Studies of Coupled Nature-Human Systems
Di Jin, Yaqin Liu, Mike Neubert and Hauke Kite-Powell
Researchers at the WHOI Marine Policy Center (MPC) conduct social scientific research that integrates economics, policy analysis, and law with WHOI’s basic research in ocean sciences. While MPC’s research is based in rigorous academic disciplines, such as economics, much of it is applied in nature and motivated by current issues in coastal and marine resource management. Areas of recent research include: human responses to shoreline change; the economic effects of harmful algal blooms; the consequences of channel deepening in major estuaries; ecosystem-based fisheries management; aquaculture development and fisheries management in developing countries; and coastal and marine spatial planning. Students are offered the opportunity to choose project topics from a list of current projects or to develop their own projects. Many MPC student projects involve exploring the impacts of human activities on the coastal or marine environments by linking economic models to models of natural systems.
Marine Resource Management under Changing Social and Ecological Conditions
Sustainable marine resource management must adapt to short- and long-term changes in social and ecological conditions. The project will explore long-term trends in fisheries and aquaculture production and trade, as well as relevant changes in resource conditions and management policies. The analysis will use historical data from NOAA Fisheries and FAO and ecosystem parameters from the marine scientific literature. Selection of a specific study area, species, and policy issue will be jointly determined with the student. Examples of research topics include, but is not limited to, US seafood production and dependence on imports, impacts of Harmful algal blooms (HABs) on commercial and recreational fisheries, potential harvest of marine resources from the ocean twilight zone, and sustainable management of glass eel resources. This research may be conducted 100% remotely.
Drivers of renewable energy technology innovation
The rapid development of alternative energy technologies is critical to reducing carbon emissions and addressing the challenges of climate change. We will use econometric techniques to analyze the major drivers of renewable energy technological innovations via patent data. This work involves data collecting and preliminary analysis.
Maine lobster fishery management
The American lobster fishery is, along with scallops, on the of the most important pillars of New England seafood production. We will investigate the degree to which the Maine lobster fishery is managed for biological and economic sustainability, and whether it is at risk of economic over-exploitation. This work involves information collection, literature review, and preliminary analysis using bio-economic fishery management models.
Mathematical models of marine populations and communities
In my laboratory, we formulate and analyze mathematical models to address scientific questions that arise in the study of marine populations or communities. Many (but not all) of these questions have to do with how best to conserve or manage populations in the face of some form of stress (e.g., invasive pests, habitat disturbance, harvesting, or climate change). The project a summer student might work on in my lab will depend upon a combination of the student’s mathematical and computational training and biological interests. Examples include developing models to study (1) the efficacy of marine protected areas, (2) how best to manage the spread of an invasive species or epidemic, (3) how species persist in dynamic environments around hydrothermal vents, (4) phytoplankton population dynamics, or (5) zombies.
Large-scale seaweed farming systems
Researchers at the WHOI Marine Policy Center (MPC) are working with scientists and engineers at WHOI and at other institutions to develop technologies for potential future large-scale ocean farming of seaweeds, including kelp and tropical species, as a feedstock for biofuel. One major challenge is to bring the cost of large-scale ocean farming down so that marine feedstocks can be competitive with land-based production. Farm location, layout, gear design, and operating paradigms all affect both the capital and operating costs of the farm, and the biological yield from the seaweed crop. This project involves the use of spreadsheet models to identify the key parameters in farm design, operations, and siting that will determine economic viability. Additional project information
Entanglement risk modeling
Researchers at the WHOI Marine Policy Center (MPC) are working with members of the protected species programs at NOAA and the New England Aquarium on ways to estimate the risk posed to North Atlantic Right Whales and other protected species by new types of ocean activities such as aquaculture. Entanglement in fishing gear is a major source of injury and mortality for marine mammals. As interest grows in farming shellfish, seaweeds, and finfish in waters off New England, understanding and managing these risks becomes critically important. The project involves working with GIS data on species abundance and spreadsheet models of entanglement risk to estimate risk from various types of aquaculture gear in locations off New England. Additional project information
Value of investments in ocean science
Researchers at the WHOI Marine Policy Center (MPC) are working with NOAA and other agencies to better understand the economic value generated by the resources the United States allocates each year to ocean science and ocean research. Understanding the value chain from investments in ocean science to the ultimate economic effects is important for several reasons: it helps government gauge the appropriate overall amount that should be spent on ocean science, and it helps allocate effort appropriately within the overall ocean science and research enterprise. Projects may involve looking at this question in the areas of weather and climate forecasts, ocean acidification, tsunami warnings, and fisheries management.
US seafood supply chain security
Researchers at the WHOI Marine Policy Center (MPC) are working with the US seafood industry to identify vulnerabilities in the US seafood supply chain, which relies extensively on overseas trade and seafood production in other nations. We will assemble and analyze seafood trade data, and a characterize risks that may affect overseas supply and trade flows in the future; and we will identify steps the US can take to increase the resilience of its seafood supply. Projects may involve data assembly and analysis, and applying simple modeling techniques to seafood trade flows to identify supply chain vulnerabilities.
Physical Oceanography Dept.
Mesoscale Eddies and Tracer Transport
I use ocean observations to understand how tracers such as heat and salt are transported, stirred, and mixed in the ocean. This includes a wide range of processes from small-scale turbulence to large-scale currents, and the interactions between processes at different space and time scales. This project focuses on the role of mesoscale eddies in transporting energy and heat in the horizontal. Mesoscale eddies have horizontal scales of 10s to 100s of kilometers and must be parameterized in global climate models, making it crucial to understand their influence on ocean circulation and heat distributions. The project will contribute to the observational component of the Eddy Energy Climate Process Team (https://ocean-eddy-cpt.github.io), which has the ultimate goal of improving the representation of eddies in global climate models.
A number of specific avenues are possible depending on the interests of the student. Long-term in situ and/or satellite-based observations of temperature, salinity, and velocity will be used from areas with high and low eddy activity. Potential areas of emphasis are how eddy properties, such as kinetic energy or heat flux, are partitioned with depth, between large and small eddies, or seasonally or interannually. Insights into how eddies transport or dissipate heat and energy at different scales, depths or times are expected.
Coastal Ocean Dynamics and Observations
Isabela Le Bras
Ocean currents play a central role in climate system, moving heat, salt, nutrients, and carbon around the earth surface. I study the circulation in the North Atlantic and Arctic: significant regions that are sensitive to our changing climate. Over the summer in my lab, you would investigate ocean mixing around the southern tip of Greenland. The southern tip of Greenland is the meeting point of the warm, salty Atlantic waters and the cold, fresh Arctic waters. Here, they flow alongside each other within the ocean’s overturning circulation, which stabilizes the earth’s climate. You would be analyzing the temperature, salinity, and velocity of the currents to better understand how the water masses in this critical section of the circulation system interact with the seafloor. This is a particularly exciting project as you will be working with data from an area where there have been very few past observations! Through this project you will learn about ocean observations, ocean physics, and the analysis of data using computer programming.
You can learn more about my lab on my website: ilebras.github.io.
Deep Ocean Circulation
Viviane Meneses and Alison Macdonald
We are observational physical oceanographers experienced in handling a wide variety of data sets. Our observational focus means that while we employ model output and theory, our research always returns to the observations. We are all interested ocean circulation and water properties and how they may be changing in space and time. Alison has worked in all the major ocean basins, while Viviane’s particular focus lies in the complexities of the Indian Ocean, and Heather has used her expertise in Lagrangian instruments (those that move with the water, e.g. Argo and RAFOS floats) to improve our understanding of North Atlantic and Arabian Sea circulation.
The deep ocean (> 3000 m) plays a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s climate on long timescales. But our knowledge of the deep ocean, a place difficult to observe and model, is still at an early stage. For example, twenty years ago the bottom waters of the Madagascar Basin in the southwest Indian Ocean were undisturbed by human influence, but a recent expedition found significant quantities of human-made chemical compounds in this deep sea. These inert compounds, injected into the atmosphere, entered the ocean at the sea surface providing a “tag” marking the date they were at the surface. These waters sank into the abyss and the compounds (the tag) now act as a tracer for the circulation. The presence of such compounds in the abyss of the Madagascar Basin after only 20 years counters our understanding of deep circulation because the abyssal currents are believed to be weak and the Madagascar Basin is far from where the water first sank. To solve this enigma, the Deep Madagascar Basin (DMB) Experiment (see Figure below) includes a 2021 field campaign, where for the first time, the abyssal currents in the region will be directly measured using floats. Numerical model simulations will be used to answer some questions that are beyond the scope of the in-situ observations alone. One challenge is to determine the primary sources of DMB abyssal water. To help determine the source of the deep water (thought to be Cape Darnley, Antarctica (65°E-69°E)) that feeds the Madagascar Basin, we are seeking a student interested in running and analyzing particle tracking simulations. We foresee two possible aspects in which a student could be entrained: a) examining the large-scale pathways of ocean waters from Antarctica to the DMB; or b) simulating the deployment of DMB Experiment floats to better understand the regional circulation. If the student has the time and interest, there is the opportunity to participate in the 1-month research cruise that will depart from Mauritius in the spring of 2021.
Model Simulations and Tracer Study
Irina Rypina, Alison Macdonald and Sachiko Yoshida
We are looking to better understand the pathways, timing and dynamics of the spread of radionuclides into the subsurface western Pacific Ocean from the Japanese Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP). Irina Rypina’s expertise is in the Lagrangian approach to studying transport and exchange processes using numerical modeling, observations and theory. Alison Macdonald is an observational physical oceanographer interested in the transport and variability of ocean waters and their properties. Sachiko Yoshida has worked with a variety of observations including those with regional and full basin focus, hurricanes and the Argo float program.
In the spring of 2011, a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami damaged the FDNPP causing explosive expulsion of contaminants into the atmosphere. Shortly thereafter, the contaminated coolant waters from the reactors began to leak into the coastal waters surrounding the FDNPP, quickly reaching a region of the ocean known for its energetic late winter/early spring mixing. Water samples collected in the North Pacific between 2011 and 2019 tell us part of the story of how these contaminants have spread into the basin over time both horizontally and vertically due to ocean currents and mixing processes. To better understand the dynamics that have produced the specific patterns we see, we are presently setting up particle simulations using data from high resolution numerical circulation models. We would like to entrain a summer student in the running of these simulations to investigate three-dimensional pathways that could explain particular radionuclide observations. The student would also be invited to participate in the physical and statistical analyses of the results.
We will be working in the Matlab software environment. Some programming experience in any language would be useful, but is not required. Our student can expect to: partake in a non-judgmental collaborative investigation (i.e., brainstorming); use/learn analysis skills including some statistics; use/learn software design and development skills; use or acquire-the-ability-to develop and present sound scientific results both orally and through writing; and if time permits, the results support and the student desires – participate in manuscript development.
Understanding Indian Ocean climate variability by synthesizing information from climate and ocean models, observations, and paleoclimate recordsUmmenhofer’s group focuses on ocean-atmosphere interactions, variability and change across different components of the climate system, and the resulting regional impacts. We aim to develop an understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the ocean’s role in regional climate. We address rainfall variability and extreme events, such as droughts, floods, and storms, across a range of scales: from individual synoptic events to interannual, decadal variability and beyond. Research involves both present-day climate conditions, past variability over the last millennium, as well as future changes in a warming world.
Potential projects will address how regional climate is influenced by the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean represents a dynamic environment with complex interactions across scales; it appears particularly vulnerable to climate change, yet is understudied compared to other ocean basins. Furthermore, impacts of extreme events such as droughts, tropical cyclones, or marine heat waves on human or natural systems could also be explored. Insights about the mechanisms gained from numerical model output are often compared with paleo proxies, such as stalagmites, corals, or tree-ring records, to understand long-term changes in hydroclimate and bio-physical interactions.
US Geological Survey - Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Estuarine and Wetland Processes
Remote Sensing and Modeling Coastal Change
The US Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Science Center, located on the WHOI campus, conducts research to assess natural hazards to coastal regions. Our recent projects have used imagery from unoccupied aerial systems (drones) or occupied planes combined with multi-view photogrammetry (also known as structure from motion) to make super-high resolution maps of beaches, dunes, and wetlands. In turn, these maps are used to evaluate changes caused by storms and as input to numerical models of morphological evolution, including coastal erosion.
Summer students can choose from several topics using data from local beaches and wetlands or larger-scale projects on the US east coast. These include analysis of images using structure from motion, classification of landscapes using machine learning, analysis of oceanographic data (waves, currents, water levels) and their relation to coastal changes, or running and evaluation of numerical models for waves, sediment movement, and morphological change. Fieldwork on beaches or marshes may be an option. Enthusiasm for image processing, map making, and coding (Matlab, Python) is necessary, but extensive experience with specific tools is not. Students will gain proficiency in one or more of: coastal oceanography and morphology, image processing, geographic information systems, coding in Matlab or Python, structure-from-motion analysis, and machine learning.
Uri ten Brink and Jason Chaytor
Marine geohazard assessments require accurate maps and measurements. For example, to assess the hazard associated with offshore faults and their potential to generate large earthquakes, it is important to not only measure the length of the faults but also be able to see displacement and sense of movement. The tools that marine geologists have at their disposal for mapping and understanding the geology of the seabed differ significantly from those of continental field geologists. In field geology, a geologist’s own sense of sight and touch, plus natural light are the most important tools; all of these are difficult to apply to work in the deep sea. Exploration programs and multi-disciplinary investigations of seafloor environments containing evidence of marine geohazards using Remotely Operated vehicles (ROV) have resulted in the increasing availability of high-resolution seafloor imagery.
We are looking for a student to analyze a dataset of underwater videos taken by an ROV at depths of 200-3000 meters over faults and submarine landslides in the vicinity of Puerto Rico. The student will use an advanced Structure-from-Motion (SfM) photogrammetry technique to mosaic the high-definition seafloor imagery into coherent images of the various geological features. This technique will allow the student to identify seafloor features at outcrop scale with wider context than direct video or image interpretation alone and to analyze them quantitatively, thus matching the resolution and quality of field collected data from terrestrial outcrops.