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2023 Potential Projects

Below is a list of potential projects and advisors in the WHOI departments and the USGS Coastal and Marine Science Center for Summer 2023. 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

Julien Bonnel
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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.

Julien Bonnel's profile
Oceanus article: Warping Sound in the Ocean

AI and ML guided behaviors for underwater robots

Yogesh Girdhar

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WARPLab does research related to developing novel AI and ML guided behaviors for underwater robots. Current ongoing projects in the lab relate to enabling robust operations of robots in coral-reef like environments that are geometrically and visually complex. We are developing capabilities to enable robots to automatically visually characterize habitat types, avoid obstacles, and follow marine animals. Students with a background in EE, CS, or MechE, and interest in robotics are encouraged to apply.


Oceanus article: A curious robot is poised to rapidly expand coral reef research

Applied Aquaculture

Scott Lindell

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The Applied Aquaculture Research Program (Lindell Lab) is researching and developing marine aquaculture for sustainably providing food, feed and fuel. We strive to develop methods that provide positive ecosystem services and economic development opportunities and minimal negative social and environmental impacts. This demands a multi-disciplinary approach encompassing various subsets of biology (e.g. genetics, physiology, ecology), and engineering. A major research focus is on selective breeding and improving hatchery/nursery processes for ocean farming sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima).

We have three potential student projects for this summer:

1) analyze data from 4 years of kelp farming trials to relate kelp traits such as growth and sugar content to individual kelp genotypes. Students will gain skills working with large amounts of phenotypic and genetic data (experience with databases and bioinformatics is helpful but not essential), and have the opportunity to help take measurements of kelp harvested in the 2023 field season.

2) screen and select heat-tolerant kelp varieties that are resilient to changing ocean farm conditions. Students will gain experience with experimental design, microscopy skills, and taking algae physiology measurements.

3) quantify several key metrics of kelp reproductive potential and success: spore production from selected farmed and wild kelp, settlement rate of spores, development and growth rate of kelp gametophytes, and optimal seeding density on string used for planting onto ocean farms.  Students will gain laboratory skills including microscopy, cell counting, and image analysis, as well as specialized skills such as preparation of kelp tissue for spore release and identifying different life stages of kelp. All projects will equip students with data collection and analysis skills, and experience working in a kelp hatchery.

Scott Lindell's profile

Sea Ice Physics and Ice-Ocean-Climate Interactions

Ted Maksym

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Deploying an autonomous underwater vehicle under the sea ice to map its thickness

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.

The annual advance and retreat of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice is among the greatest seasonal events on earth. It is also one of Earth’s most rapidly changing environments. Our research focuses on fundamental sea ice physics and ice-ocean-climate interactions at both poles to better understand the drivers of sea ice variability and long-term change. This is accomplished through a combination of in situ observations (particularly using autonomous platforms and robotic vehicles), satellite data analysis, and modeling.

Potential projects in my lab fall into three main areas. We have several projects that use data from ICESat-2, a satellite altimeter which can detect sea ice elevation with a precision of 2 cm. We are using these data for a range of projects including monitoring the evolution of snow depth on sea ice in the Antarctic, the connection between ice thickness and spring phytoplankton blooms in the coastal Arctic, and quantifying ice growth and melt in coastal Antarctica. For those with a preference for working with in situ observations, another project could include analysis of ice growth and melt data from drifting buoy platforms from the Arctic or Antarctic. Or, a prospective student could be involved in laboratory experiments to understand the mechanisms controlling the growth and development of snow-covered sea ice.

Students should have some familiarity with programming environments such as Matlab or Python. An interest in working with satellite imagery, or experience with laboratory of field instrumentation would be an asset. The student can expect to learn how to analyze different types of satellite data and imagery, work with large climate date sets, and gain experience working with instrumentation and electronics.

Ted Maksym's profile

Development of In situ Chemical Sensors

Anna Michel

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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.

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.

Anna Michel's website

Upper-ocean and coastal processes in the Arctic

Maddie Smith

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Our research focuses on understanding small-scale interactions of the ocean with Arctic sea ice, and the implications for large-scale changes. Generally, this includes analysis of field measurements of sea ice and the upper ocean and satellite observations of sea ice to describe processes that can be represented in climate-scale models. Specific projects could use in situ observations, satellite observations, or climate model runs, depending on student interests. Example project include understanding short-term changes in sea ice energy budgets using observational data from the MOSAiC expedition (link:, exploring coastal erosion in the Alaskan Arctic using ICESat-2 satellite data, or studying the sensitivity of sea ice models to initialization parameters.

There will likely be opportunities for contributing to hands-on laboratory or field work (non-polar), if desired. Students should have some background in physics or earth science, and an interest in polar regions. Some familiarity with coding in Python or Matlab would be beneficial, but improved coding and analysis skills can be expected as part of the fellowship regardless of the starting level. Students can expect to gain insight into physics of our rapidly changing Arctic, and methods used to understand them.

Maddie Smith's profile page

Autonomous Surface Vessel Development

Peter Traykovski

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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 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 continue 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.

Peter Traykovski's profile
Projects website

Antarctic ice-ocean interactions and polar coastal oceanography

Catherine Walker

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Remote sensing satellites like ICESat-2 help to understand how the changing ocean interacts with towering ice shelves and glaciers around Antarctica.

Research on ice-ocean interactions is quite broad. The main focus of research, both on Earth (Antarctica! Greenland! Alaska!) and in space (Jupiter’s moon Europa! Saturn’s moon Enceladus!), will be to understand how ice-ocean systems change over time. Example projects in this topic could focus on either remote sensing or modeling. Using remote sensing techniques that involve laser altimetry and satellite imagery, we can focus on how ice is changing on Earth due to interactions with the ocean, particularly in how it will change with the climate.

One sample project focus would be to focus on coastal glaciers in Antarctica and how they interact with changes in the surrounding ocean waters. We can also monitor iceberg breakup and sea ice changes and its effects on ice shelf stability. Understanding how coastal topography changes with shifts in ocean properties is also of interest. Another research focus is the development of instrumentation to observe these systems. Alternatively, 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 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.

At this time, none of the projects require hands-on lab work, though that can be discussed as a possibility.

Catherine Walker's profile

NASA Highlight webpage

Ocean Observatories Initiative instrumentation and data

Sheri White

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The Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) is a science-driven ocean observing network that delivers real-time data from more than 800 instruments to address critical science questions regarding the world’s oceans.  The Coastal and Global Scale Nodes (CGSN) Team at WHOI is responsible for operating and maintaining the Global Irminger Sea Array in the north Atlantic, the Global Station Papa Array in the Gulf of Alaska, and the Coastal Pioneer Array off the east coast of the United States.  The CGSN Instrument and Data Teams are responsible for maintaining instruments throughout their lifecycle and ensuring quality data is being delivered to the public and science community.

Projects can include working with oxygen instrumentation or datasets.  Instrumentation projects may involve testing out new in-house oxygen calibration processes to ensure that OOI can calibrate Aanderaa oxygen optodes to within their stated accuracy and resolution as compared to an independent method. This project will involve further development and refinement of an existing method to improve its accuracy and reproducibility, as well as to integrate Winkler titrations into the process. Additional project ideas may include investigating the impact on optode drift from the use of UV-light biofouling mitigation and the impact of fractional wetting of the optode foil on the use of air-readings to get in-situ calibrations.  Data science projects may involve working with collected datasets such as in situ oxygen data, or water sampling data to evaluate data quality.
Students should have interests or skills in: Instrumentation; chemistry; engineering; data science; python, R, Matlab.
Students can expect new skills and training in: Operation of oceanographic instrumentation; data analysis methods.


Ocean Currents and Biological Impacts

Weifeng (Gordon) Zhang

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My research focuses on ever-changing ocean currents in different parts of the ocean and their impact on biology, such as phytoplankton distribution and fish behavior. As part of the Northeast U.S. Shelf Long-Term Ecological Research (NES-LTER) program, we have been analyzing observations on the continental shelf south of Woods Hole. The goal is to use observed physical environment to reveal causes of changes in the ecosystem. There are a range of possible summer projects related to this for motivated undergraduates. For instance, students could analyze observational data from Ocean Observing Initiative moorings and satellites to understand changes in temperatures and flows, and then use them to investigate causes of unexpected sudden phytoplankton blooms or daily vertical migration of fishes. There are also opportunities to participate in cruises and computer modeling.

Weifeng (Gordon) Zhang profile

Northeast U.S. Shelf Long-Term Ecological Research (NES-LTER)


Biology Dept.

Interactive effects of multiple stressors on early life stages of vertebrates; Developmental neurotoxicity of environmental contaminants

Neel Aluru

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Two potential projects:

  1. Interactive effects of multiple stressors on early life stages of vertebrates: The aim of this project is to understand the role of climate change stressors such as elevated carbon dioxide and hypoxia on early life stages of ecologically important fish species (e.g., Atlantic silverside). We have previously demonstrated that exposure of Atlantic silverside embryos to combined stressors (carbon dioxide and hypoxia) delayed development (time to hatch) and growth. We are currently investigating the biochemical and molecular changes underlying these phenotypes. Students will have the opportunity to participate in these studies. They will get hands on experience in conducting wet lab experiments as well as learn skills in biochemical, molecular and bioinformatic approaches.
  2. Developmental neurotoxicity of environmental contaminants: The overall objective of this project is to understand the effect of exposure environmental chemicals on developing nervous system. Using zebrafish as a model system, students will have an opportunity to conduct developmental exposure experiments, use confocal imaging for quantifying changes in the nervous system and conducting gene expression analysis.

Aluru Lab website

Neel Aluru's profile page

Marine Predators

Camrin Braun

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Capt. Willy Hatch and scientist Camrin Braun deploying electronic satellite tags on an adult blue shark offshore from Cape Cod. (T. Sinclair-Taylor)

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?

To answer these questions we leverage a highly interdisciplinary ocean ecology toolkit that includes, for example, using and developing electronic tags, analyzing remote sensing data from satellites, and exploring data from all kinds of in situ ocean sensors carried by ships, robots, moorings and even the predators themselves!

Potential projects for Summer Student Fellows might include: [1] designing your own analysis of predator tag data from our existing database of nearly 2,000 tagged animals (e.g. explore deep diving behavior by tagged mako sharks, migratory cues of tagged albacore tuna, etc); [2] building species distribution models and investigating dynamic ocean management approaches for managing highly migratory predator species (e.g. how does a fishery closure protect important shark habitat); [3] conducting lab experiments to test new approaches for less invasive animal tagging methods (e.g. do state of the art suction cups provide the necessary strength and duration of attachment for tagging sharks, tunas and billfish species). It is helpful to have skills coding in R or Python, but these are not required and some fluency with one coding language will be gained over the course of the summer regardless. Fellows can expect to also gain experience in the field tagging predators and collecting any number of ocean measurements.

Marine Predators Group website

Phytoplankton and Zooplankton

Rebecca Gast and Ann Tarrant
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The 2023 summer student would be jointly mentored and will have the opportunity to conduct lab experiments and participate in at least one cruise in the Gulf of Maine.

The overarching goal of our project is to characterize the role of mixotrophic algae in mitigating deficiencies in phytoplankton food quality with respect to copepod reproduction. Laboratory feeding experiments of copepods will be conducted that include different species of actively mixotrophic prey. The project further explores effects of nutritional plasticity by contrasting the nutritional quality of heterotrophs reared on bacteria vs. phytoplankton. Analysis of the nutrient and fatty acid composition of different mixotrophic algae will potentially illustrate a continuum of prey ‘quality’ that could inform zooplankton model predictions. In the Gulf of Maine, the presence and identity of active mixotrophs will be assessed by conducting labeled-prey ingestion experiments, followed by amplicon sequencing of labeled grazer DNA and environmental water samples. The work will also identify the in situ grazing preferences of copepods over a growing season using gut content analyses, whether this varies with their life stage and how it impacts egg production, potentially helping to understand observed changes to the mesozooplankton community. The work will contribute to our knowledge of the ability mixotrophic nutrition to supplement/support copepod reproduction which can coincide with poor phototrophic food availability.

Rebecca Gast profile

Ann Tarrant's lab website

Chemical defense in diatoms

Matt Johnson
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Oxylipins are oxygenated lipids with diverse intracellular functions in regulating cell physiology, inflammation and immunity in multicellular organisms. In protists, or unicellular eukaryotes, their functions are less well known, but have been linked to cell-cell communication and defense in some diatom species. In diatoms, a major group of marine phytoplankton, the production of oxylipins has been linked to both nutrient stress (limitation) and exposure to copepod or protist grazers. Increased production of oxylipins has been shown to interrupt copepod reproduction and to deter and inhibit protist grazers. We aim to better understand which oxylipins affect protist grazers, which grazers are affected, and how oxylipins inhibit grazing activity. We will evaluate changes in behavior, predator feeding and growth rates, and evaluate stress markers for grazers exposed to oxylipins. Results from these experiments will help us to better understand the role of oxylipin production by diatoms, and their potential impacts on trophic structure in marine food webs.

Matt Johnson's lab website

Zooplankton communities in a large Marine Protected Area in the tropical Pacific

Kirstin Meyer-Kaiser
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Zooplankton communities serve important ecological roles in the ocean. Some species (holoplankton) remain in the water column their whole life-cycle and form important links between primary producers and higher trophic levels. Other species (meroplankton) are only in the water column for part of their life-cycle and disperse in ocean currents before settling on the seafloor. The Meyer-Kaiser lab is collaborating with the Palau International Coral Reef Center (Koror, Palau) to characterize zooplankton communities in Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS). The Summer Student Fellow will join this collaborative team. Using morphological and genetic taxonomic methods, the SSF will identify zooplankton species in samples collected in 2022 in PNMS. They will also build a database of genetic barcodes to enable future species identifications. This baseline, exploratory research is critical for understanding Palau’s ecosystem and effectively managing one of the world’s largest marine protected areas.

Meyer-Kaiser lab website/
More about Palau National Marine Sanctuary

Sensory biology and bioacoustics

Aran Mooney
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In the Sensory Ecology and Bioacoustics lab we study how marine animals use detect and respond to the cues around them, as well as the patterns of cues, signals and noise available to the animal. Our work focuses on cephalopod hearing and use of sound, cephalopod eco-physiology (physiology and behaviors in response to local environmental conditions such as oxygen and pH), marine mammal bioacoustics, and the bioacoustics of coral reefs. We often address how stressors such as low pH or ocean noise impacts behavior and physiology.  Potential projects for the SSF include: (1) studies on coral reef soundscapes and larval responses to sound, (2) impacts of noise on cephalopods, and (3) using the ITAG to quantify the behavior and physiology of marine invertebrates.

Mooney Lab

Diversity and Resilience of Seafloor Communities

Lauren Mullineaux
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The Mullineaux Benthic Ecology Lab studies the dispersal of larvae of seafloor invertebrates through the ocean, their settlement back to the seafloor, and the influence of these processes on community resilience to disturbance - both natural and human. We use field observations, laboratory experiments, and mathematical models to understand how larvae respond to environmental cues and connect geographically separated communities. Our research helps solve problems in aquaculture and fisheries management, and informs policy on deep-sea mining.

Students will have an opportunity to gain skills investigating larval behavior in turbulent flow (live animal experimentation and image analysis), recolonization of disturbed deep-sea vents (specimen identification and data analysis), or trophic interactions in a newly discovered deep-sea community on sulfide mounds (characterization of community composition; image and data analysis). Our lab group thrives on diversity and is committed to the highest standards of professionalism, including research integrity, collaboration, and respect for colleagues at all levels.

Mullineaux Lab

Mathematical Ecology

Michael Neubert
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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 various forms of fisheries management in the face of environmental uncertainty, (2) how best to manage the spread of an invasive species, (3) phytoplankton population dynamics, (4) the population dynamic consequences of transgenerational or maternal effects, or (5) zombies.

Michael Neubert's profile page

Northeast U.S. Shelf Long-Term Ecological Research (NES-LTER)

Population phenology in nearshore ecosystems

Jesús Pineda
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Research in the Benthic Ecology and Nearshore Oceanography lab addresses the factors that determine the distribution and abundance of bottom dwelling organisms. We conduct our research in temperate and tropical environments, and our research interests include investigating the consequences of environmental heterogeneity, particularly hydrodynamic phenomena, on larval behavior, larval transport, larval dispersal, settlement, recruitment, and population dynamics. Our lab is also interested in using fundamental knowledge to address societally relevant problems such as the processes most relevant to biofouling in aquaculture.

This summer, students in the lab will have the opportunity to research fundamental questions in larval behavior and ocean ecology and relate their findings and understanding to problems faced by oyster farms in New England. Depending on the student's interests, specific research questions may focus on topics such as latitudinal differences in larval settlement and biofouling, native versus invasive barnacles as biofoulers, and the relationships between biofouling intensity and local environmental conditions. Depending on the question, the student may participate in weekly and monthly visits to field sites, and analysis of metadata, including survey data of oyster farmers in New England.

Pineda Lab

Explore zooplankton-fish interactions by analyzing acoustic and net sample data collected from the Northeast US Shelf

Mei Sato and Rubao Ji
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Research Interests: Fish ecology; Zooplankton ecology; Active acoustic sensing; Biological-physical interactions.

More at:
Sato Lab
Ji Lab

Project: Explore zooplankton-fish interactions by analyzing acoustic and net sample data collected from the Northeast US Shelf (NES).  The student will learn to retrieve, organize and analyze data collected from acoustic and net sample surveys in the NES regions. The data will be used to examine the zooplankton-fish interactions and their responses to oceanographic processes (e.g., shelf break front, eddies and upwelling) and disturbances (e.g., heatwave and hypoxia). The student can potentially participate in a 6-day research cruise (depending on space and timing), which is a part of the NES Long-Term Ecological Research (NES-LTER) project.

The student will have the opportunity to interact with a large team of multi-disciplinary researchers involved in the NES-LTER project, in which Sato and Ji are co-PIs. The student will gain skills to visualize and analyze complex 3-dimensional acoustic data and oceanographic data. For students interested in this project, quantitative skills (e.g., computer programming and/or applied statistics) are desired but not required.

Northeast U.S. Shelf Long-Term Ecological Research (NES-LTER)

Marine Mammal Behavior and Communication

Laela Sayigh
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My research interests focus on behavior and communication in cetaceans (whales and dolphins), and how humans impact these aspects of cetacean societies. Student projects in 2023 will focus on computer-based analyses of acoustic data and will not have a field component. Research areas will likely focus on analysis of acoustic data from bottlenose dolphins, aimed at studying how communicative signals are used. Students will learn to use the acoustic analysis software program Raven, and may also analyze tag data using Matlab based software, although no prior experience with either of these programs is needed.

Laela Sayigh's profile page

Phytoplankton Ecology

Heidi Sosik
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graphics-Flow_Cytobot-_DSC3746_sm_408473My research is focused on quantitative plankton ecology and in my lab there are a range of possible summer projects for motivated undergraduates. Most on-going projects are related to coastal ecosystems and time series observations of plankton at scales from single cells up to large areas that can be monitored with satellite remote sensing. We have on-going field work as part of the Northeast U.S. Shelf Long-Term Ecological Research (NES-LTER) program and at the Martha's Vineyard Coastal Observatory, which is a facility on the continental shelf near WHOI that is connected to shore by power and fiber optic cables. We have developed some exciting new submersible flow cytometer technologies that rapidly measure microscopic particles (mostly phytoplankton, but also protozoa), including video imaging at the micron scale. These instruments are deployed at MVCO and produce lots of data (e.g., >10000 images per hour for months to years), so projects involving these time series can span from computer science (image analysis, computer vision, and machine learning) to modeling of populations and bloom dynamics. There are also opportunities for projects involving coastal field work, laboratory experiments with plankton cultures, and instrument development.

Heidi Sosik's website

Imaging Flow Cytobot data

Northeast U.S. Shelf Long Term Ecological Research (NES-LTER)

Marine Molecular Ecology

Carolyn Tepolt
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European green crab, named one of the IUCN’s “World’s 100 Worst Invasive Species”.

Our lab studies how – and how quickly – marine animals can adapt to new environments. We mostly study invasive species, which are extremely good at surviving and thriving in new waters. We use a range of approaches, including genomics, ecophysiology, ecology, and parasitology. Current research projects include adaptation to temperature in the highly invasive European green crab (pictured here) as it rapidly spreads on the west coast, adaptation to an invasive body-snatching parasite by a native mud crab, and the distribution and adaptations of marine microparasites using public genetic data. Our lab culture emphasizes professionalism, collegiality, and baked goods.

This summer, we’re particularly interested in a student fellow to participate in our work on green crab adaptation. This could include either 1) extensive physiological experiments with live crabs, or 2) genetics and genomics research investigating their West Coast spread. Depending on the student’s expertise and interests, they could also work on 3) genetic screening for a fungal microparasite in deep-sea animals, or 4) analyzing patterns of zooplankton diversity in the Gulf of Maine.

Tepolt Lab

Geology and Geophysics Dept.

Simulating Icebergs in the Laboratory

Alan Condron, Claudia Cenedese, Olivier Marchal and Jack Whitehead
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Much of the floor of the northern North Atlantic Ocean is covered by thick deposits of ice-rafted debris (IRD) that stretch all the way from Canada to the coast of Portugal, ~3,000 km to the east. These sediments were deposited throughout the last glacial period during Heinrich events, when icebergs were released from the major ice sheets fringing the North Atlantic Ocean. The alignment of these periods of ice-rafting with dramatic and large-scale changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation has often prompted the suggestion that the input of freshwater from melting icebergs played a critical role in altering glacial climate. Precisely how much ice and freshwater were involved in the formation of these ice-rafted sediment deposits is, however, largely unknown due to a very limited understanding of how much sediment is transported by icebergs. As such, the overall sensitivity of large-scale ocean circulation to freshwater forcing remains difficult to quantify.

The goal of this exciting Summer Student Fellowship project is to simulate the transport of sediment by icebergs in the laboratory. The experiments will involve placing small ‘synthetic’ sediment-laden icebergs (made in a freezer) in a tank filled with saltwater to investigate how and where sediment ‘builds up’ on the tank floor. A creative set of experiments using icebergs with, for example, different sediment-loading patterns and drift speeds will be performed. The results from these experiments will then be used to improve simulations of Heinrich events made using the iceberg component of a numerical circulation model developed at MIT (MITberg).

The ideal student should have some prior knowledge of fluid dynamics, physical oceanography, numerical modeling, and/or, paleoclimatology, although the most important quality is that the student is motivated! This exciting cross-departmental project will be co-supervised by WHOI scientists Alan Condron, Claudia Cenedese, Olivier Marchal, and Jack Whitehead.

Alan Condron's profile
Claudia Cenedese's profile
Olivier Marchal's profile
Jack Whitehead's profile

Geochemical Paleoceanography

Kassandra Costa
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Past changes in the ocean’s carbon cycle can provide data to check and improve models that help us predict future changes. These data can also help us ‘balance’ Earth’s carbon budget by showing where and how much carbon was stored in the ocean at times when the Earth has been much colder (glacial periods) or warmer (interglacial periods). In the Costa lab we study carbon storage in the deep ocean on long time scales (10,000s to 100,000s of years) to better understand the processes controlling atmospheric CO2 variability in the natural climate system. We primarily use the geochemical composition of marine sediment and microfossils in order to document changes in climatically relevant processes like dissolved carbon in seawater, burial of solid organic and inorganic carbon phases in sediment, and the effects oxygen concentrations in the deep ocean. We also study processes at the surface that pump carbon into the deep ocean, like biological productivity and deep water formation.

The student will investigate the amount of carbon stored in the deep Pacific, its distribution in different water masses, and its impact on seafloor sediment chemistry on glacial-interglacial time periods. Potential SSF projects may include:

  1. Quantifying calcium carbonate burial in different sediment phases over time
  2. Reconstructing organic carbon production in the surface ocean and burial on the sea floor
  3. Investigating how carbon storage affects oxygen concentrations in the deep ocean
  4. Examining the foraminiferal assemblage response to changing climate conditions over glacial-interglacial cycles.

The SSF will join ongoing collaborations within our lab, and they will have the opportunity to learn multiple analytical techniques in geochemistry (230Th-normalization, major and trace elemental sediment geochemistry, metal to calcium ratios  in foraminifera (ICP-MS) and micropaleontology (foraminiferal assemblages, d18O, d13C). These projects are lab based, and so students should be prepared to leave their computers behind to work with mud, acids, microscopes, and more. All techniques are accessible to students without prior experience but with the motivation to learn.

Kassandra Costa's website

Projecting Coral and Reef Calcification in a Changing Ocean

Weifu Guo
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Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems on Earth, with enormous cultural, ecological, and economic values. The calcium carbonate skeletons of stony corals are the main building blocks of the reef structure and provide food, shelter, and substrate for a myriad of other organisms. However, corals today face many global and local environmental stressors, such as warming, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and pollution, impeding their ability to calcify and maintain the reef structure.

We are seeking to develop numerical methods (including machine learning techniques) to (a) assess the impact of past environmental changes (especially ocean acidification) on coral calcification and reef environment (e.g., reef water pH) and to (b) project the future coral and reef responses to 21st century climate change. The project(s) will involve (1) compilation and analysis of global coral growth and reef environment parameters, and/or (2) development of predictive statistical and mechanistic models of coral growth and reef environment.

Interested students are strongly encouraged to contact Dr. Weifu Guo ( to discuss more details about the potential projects.

Weifu Guo's profile

Entrainment of glacial meltwater by the North Atlantic Current: A numerical study

Olivier Marchal and Alan Condron
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High-resolution numerical simulation of the coastal current produced by the discharge of glacial meltwater from the Laurentian Channel during a glacial period of low sea level. Shown is the distribution of surface horizontal velocity after 150 days of sustained discharge. The maximum speed of the current is 1.3 m/s. The current has developed eddies all along the continental slope. This project will be concerned with the analysis of a similar simulation but for a larger domain including the oceanic region east of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland (GB) (O. Marchal and A. Condron, unpublished)

Paleoclimate records suggest that the last glacial period was punctuated by a series of rapid climatic changes. Although these changes were first documented in the circum North Atlantic, subsequent studies indicated that they may have been at least hemispheric in extent. The estimated magnitude of these changes is truly impressive. For example, ice core records from Central Greenland suggest that local air temperature increased repeatedly by 8-16oC in only about a century. With such a discovery, the once-traditional view that climatic changes are slow, with time scales far exceeding a human lifespan, has been overthrown, and understanding the processes leading to these changes has emerged as a most pressing question in climate research.

A popular idea to explain rapid past climate changes involves the recurrent release of glacial melt water from the Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS) – the ice cap that covered northern North America during the last glaciation. The introduction of glacial water into the ocean would have lowered the salinity of surface waters, particularly at high latitudes in the North Atlantic, thereby leading to enhanced vertical density stratification, reduced deep water formation, and ultimately, abated meridional overturning circulation and northward heat transport. The abated northward heat transport would have produced a rapid climate change, with cooling in parts of the northern hemisphere, such as in the northern North Atlantic.

The goal of this project is to analyze detailed simulations of the transport of glacial meltwater in the North Atlantic which will be produced from a high-resolution numerical model of ocean circulation. In contrast to previous studies, our simulations will represent oceanic eddies with scales of 10-100 km, thereby allowing a detailed calculation of the pathway of the glacial water in the North Atlantic. Emphasis will be put on the entrainment of glacial water emanating from the LIS with the North Atlantic Current – the northeastern extension of the Gulf Stream east of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland – and on the transport of the glacial water to critical regions of deepwater formation.

The student working on this project will be exposed to concepts emanating from various disciplines, including physical oceanography, the numerical modeling of ocean circulation, and paleoclimatology. Although prior exposure to branches such as physics and calculus would be desirable, the most important quality the student working on this project should have is motivation!

This project will be co-supervised by WHOI scientists Olivier Marchal and Alan Condron.

Olivier Marchal's profile

Alan Condron's profile

The history of O2 in ancient oceans

Sune Nielsen
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The availability of molecular oxygen (O2) is a first-order control on the distribution of life in Earth’s oceans today – and the same was likely true in Earth’s past. Many ongoing projects in our research group are geared toward reconstructing the history of O2 in Earth’s ancient oceans. At what times in Earth’s past did oceanic O2 levels dramatically change? What role, if any, did biology play in driving these O2 fluctuations? What was the biological response?

We use novel heavy metal stable isotope ratios in ancient marine sediments to reconstruct the history of O2 in Earth’s oceans. We then compare our metal isotope results with the known fossil record to examine the interdependence of life and O2 over Earth history. Most of our current projects leverage the thallium (Tl) and vanadium (V) isotope systems, applying them to the ancient shale record. We study the Archean-Proterozoic transition (~2.7 to ~2.0 billion years ago), when production of O2 by cyanobacteria first started to leave behind significant imprints in the geologic record, and the Proterozoic-Phanerozoic transition (~900 to ~300 million years ago), during the rise and evolution of early animals. However, we also have interests in other timeframes of Earth history.

We seek collaborations with motivated students that find the evolution of life and O2 over Earth history particularly interesting. Students are welcome to propose a particular timeframe or event in Earth’s past, but we also have focused studies available for students with no heavy metal isotope experience but a willingness to learn.

Sune Nielsen's homepage


Groundwater fluxes using the "heat as a tracer" method

Robert Sohn
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National Park Service scientist Petra Zuniga deploys a temperature profiler at the Herring River restoration site in Wellfleet, MA.

Understanding the interaction between surface water and groundwater is a fundamental aspect of ecosystem and biogeochemical cycling studies in aquatic environments. Surface water penetrating into sediments (infiltration), groundwater discharging into the water column (discharge), and surface water that flows through shallow sediments before returning to the water column (hydrodynamic exchange), all play an important role in modulating solute and nutrient fluxes, but these fluxes are very difficult to measure, and they often exhibit considerable spatial and temporal variability. The simplest way to constrain fluxes is by measuring the sediment thermal gradient because fluid flux modulates both the steady state gradient and the downward diffusion of surface water temperature changes into the sediment. Heat is thus a tracer that can be used to constrain flux rates, and in contrast to other methods, temperature sensors are robust, inexpensive, and essentially maintenance-free.

This project involves using newly developed, state-of-the-art, thermal instrumentation to measure groundwater fluxes in natural environments around Cape Cod, and to conduct controlled experiments in a newly built test tank in the AVAST facility. The ideal student will have a background in physics and some experience using Matlab software, though neither is strictly speaking necessary if there is a willingness to learn.

Rob Sohn's profile

Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Dept.

Volatile History and Chemical Evolution of Earth

Peter Barry
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Students (Clarah Kimani -middle and Karim Mtili -right) calibrating a quadrupole mass spectrometer with Lab Technician (Darren Hillegonds - left) before bringing the instrument on a field expedition.

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.

Video: Biology Meets Subduction

Barry Lab website

Instruments and Facilities

People in the lab

Understanding Marine Snow Particles

Ken Buessler
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In Café Thorium’s lab we have been estimating carbon fluxes in the ocean since the late 80’s. Thorium is just one of many radioactive elements we measure. We analyze samples for both natural and manmade radionuclides. By knowing their source term, geochemistry, and radioactive decay properties, we use radionuclides as in situ tracers of a wide variety of chemical, biological and physical processes. Our techniques also include sediment traps, underwater cameras (UVP type), and particle incubations. Physical and biological processes occurring in the surface ocean generate a vast diversity of particles. These particles represent potential vehicles to export organic carbon to the deep ocean, where a small fraction can eventually be sequestered in the sediments. This process, known as the “biological pump”, influences the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide and thus the global climate system. Because of the complexity of this mechanism and its spatial and temporal variability, our predictions of the efficiency of the biological pump in varying conditions remain poorly constrained. A better understanding of particle properties is needed to reduce uncertainties. “Gel traps” allow for the collection of intact natural particles as they sink in the water column, and thus give a direct “picture” of the sinking flux at the depth of trap deployment. Image analysis of particles embedded in gels can provide particle statistics, and conversion from area to volume and from volume to carbon content, using empirical relationships, allows for estimation of the carbon flux and the relative importance of each category of particle.

In this summer project a total of 15 gel samples from 2 different cruises in the North Atlantic will be visually examined by microscopy to quantify the flux and identity of individually sinking organisms. Cruises were carried out as part of WHOI's Ocean Twilight Zone (OTZ) project. Sinking particles and organisms that settle into the gel layer remained distinctly separated, preserving original characteristics of size and quantity and constituents. The images well serve us to 1) group marine snow in different visual categories, 2) estimate particle sinking fluxes in the ocean, 3) assess oceanic carbon export by particle type by using allometric relationships, 4) link particle visual properties to particle carbon content and particle sinking rates, and 5) compare images from gel samples with existing images from particle collected with Niskin bottles as a proof of concept.

If you have basic knowledge of microscopy and marine taxonomy and an interest in learning about particle imaging techniques and their use to study the ocean, we encourage you to check out our group. You will be responsible of 1) taking images of gel sediment trap samples under the microscope for several magnifications, 2) running the existing python-based image processing scripts to analyze gel trap images by recognizing particles in an image, and then counting and measuring them, 3) estimating particle sinking fluxes from gel samples images, 4) comparing estimated fluxes to fluxes measurements available from other techniques used in the lab (e.g., sediment trap, Thorium-234 an, and UVP images), and 5) elaborating a synthesis report of activities carried out and main results. As a summer student in Café Thorium, you will learn about the many techniques we use to estimate carbon fluxes in the ocean and experience the dynamic environment that life at WHOI offers.

Café Thorium website:

OTZ project 

Ken Buessler profile

Ocean circulation and climate

Sophie Hines
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Ocean circulation has a huge impact on global climate via direct heat transport from the equator to the poles and by the deep ocean’s capacity to store carbon for 1,000s of years. Our group seeks to understand the ocean’s role in past major climate changes by reconstructing deep ocean circulation using a variety of geochemical proxies within several deep ocean climate archives (primarily marine sediments and deep-sea corals). By understanding the range of natural variability in the ocean over major climate transitions in the past—such as glacial-interglacial cycles—we will be able to better understand how the ocean and climate may change in the future.

Potential Summer Student Fellow projects include using isotopes and/or trace element ratios (e.g. radiocarbon, Nd isotopes, Mg/Ca, Cd/Ca, Mg/Li) to investigate deep ocean circulation and chemistry over glacial-interglacial climate changes in the past. Students will learn how to process samples in WHOI’s trace-metal clean lab facilities, where HEPA-filtered air prevents samples from being contaminated, and measure them in the WHOI Plasma Lab, which houses a Neptune MC-ICP-MS for high-precision isotope ratio measurements, and a quadrupole ICP-MS for trace element ratio measurements. Depending on the project, students could also take advantage of WHOI’s world-renowned NOSAMS radiocarbon facility.

Hines Lab website
WHOI Plasma Lab
NOSAMS Radiocarbon Lab

Isotope Biogeochemistry

Tristan Horner
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Ben Geyman (2016 SSF), Tristan Horner, and Maureen Auro inspecting a trace-metal sample in the clean room. (Tom Kleindinst, WHOI)

Micronutrients are low-abundance–high-impact tracers of marine processes. Elements such as barium, cadmium, iodine, and iron serve many important roles ranging from active agents in biogeochemical transformations through to passive tracers of ocean circulation. We are fascinated by these processes and our research focuses on three questions: What is the distribution of micronutrients in the marine environment? What processes sustain this distribution? How are these distributions recorded by marine sediments? Possible projects for summer 2023 are based around these same themes: determining the distribution of key micronutrient elements in the ocean, either through new measurements or modeling; quantifying the rates and dependencies of processes that cycle micronutrients using laboratory-analogue experiments; and, examining marine sediments to reconstruct Earth’s biogeochemical evolution.

We are interested in motivated students who are keen to learn and apply new techniques to study marine biogeochemistry. Depending on the project, Summer Student Fellows in the NIRVANA Lab can expect to learn how to process samples for multi-element and isotopic analysis in our state-of-the-art clean room (pictured) or how to apply machine learning to predict the distributions of micronutrients in the ocean. No prior experience is required; you will gain the relevant skills by working closely with current lab members. We welcome applicants who wish to develop their project into a Senior Thesis and encourage Fellows to present their results at regional and national scientific symposia.

Tristan Horner's profile

NIRVANA research group

Biogeochemical Modeling

Hyewon 'Heather' Kim
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Our Biogeochemical Modeling Laboratory at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
aims to understand the impact and feedback of marine biogeochemical dynamics on
the Earth’s climate system. We develop and utilize mechanistic biogeochemical models
of differing complexity in conjunction with the analysis of observations and data-driven

We are looking for Summer Student Fellows who are interested in any of the topics below:
• Ocean Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR)
• Microbial control on the biological carbon pump
• Biophysical interactions in polar oceans

Hyewon 'Heather' Kim's profile

Biogeochemical Modeling Laboratory

Characterization of Sub-seafloor Hydrothermal Processes Relevant to the Deep Biosphere (and Possibly the Emergence of Life)

Frieder Klein
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Serpentinized rock that formed during the breakup of Pangaea . It contains fossilized microbes within hydrothermal veins. Raman spectroscopy revealed intact lipids and amino acids of ancient microbes that thrived below the seafloor >100 million years ago.

The Klein lab investigates hydrothermal processes during the breakup of (super-)continents, seafloor spreading, and subduction, as well as on Ocean Worlds beyond Earth. The overarching goal of our work is to gain a mechanistic understanding of chemical interactions between rocks and aqueous fluids, and how they affect geological, (bio-)geochemical, and biological processes. Our approach is to integrate deep-sea exploration and field observations with (hydrothermal) laboratory experiments, chemical analyses, and theoretical models.

For this summer, we are looking for a student who is interested in learning about the alteration of rocks from Earth’s mantle, a process referred to as serpentinization. This process is widespread in oceanic environments and has been taking place throughout Earth’s geologic history. It has been suggested that the formation of hydrogen via serpentinization played a key role in the abiotic synthesis of prebiotic compounds relevant to the emergence of life. The formation of hydrogen also supports chemolithoautotrophic organisms of the deep biosphere (on Earth and possibly elsewhere in the solar system) with chemical energy.

The student would either design their own project relevant to the alteration of mantle rocks or participate in the characterization of primary and secondary minerals in partially altered mantle rocks from the East Pacific Rise, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and/or the Zambales ophiolite (Philippines) using confocal Raman spectroscopy, hyperspectral Raman imaging, scanning electron microscopy, and/or thermogravimetric analysis. Analysis of rocks and minerals can be complemented with theoretical modeling of alteration processes using software codes such as SUPCRT92, Geochemist’s Workbench, or EQ3/6. It is also possible to perform laboratory experiments relevant to the alteration of mantle rocks. This project does not require prior analytical or modeling experience. Training in project design, analysis, data interpretation, and presentation of research results will be provided.

Frieder Klein's profile

Marine Chemistry, Instrumentation and Engineering

Matthew Long
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Long_photo1_508575My research explores the ways that natural and anthropogenic processes influence the structure and function of marine ecosystems through unique engineering solutions, advanced instrumentation, and technology development. Studies of biogeochemical cycling, physical transport processes, and bio-physical interactions are principle components of my research into carbon and nutrient cycling in coastal environments. These topics are significant because the long-term effects of human activities, which are rapidly altering climatic conditions and nutrient cycling, are not well understood.

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 Long_logo_508573used 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.

Matthew Long's profile

Ocean Observing and Modeling to Understand Biogeochemical Cycles and Carbon Fluxes

David (Roo) Nicholson
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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.

BOOMLAB website

Global Ocean Biogeochemistry Array


Calcium Carbonate Cycling

Adam Subhas
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The Subhas Lab studies the cycling of carbon and alkalinity in the ocean, through a combination of laboratory experiments, field observations, and novel instrumentation.  We are looking for a summer student who is interested in the global carbon cycle and how the ocean absorbs and neutralizes carbon dioxide. There are several ongoing projects in the lab, from investigating the role of enzymes on the uptake of carbon dioxide by phytoplankton, to experiments on the interaction between solid calcium carbonates and seawater, to probing the effects (and effectiveness) of ocean alkalinity enhancement as a carbon dioxide removal strategy.

Please visit the Subhas Lab website for more information about our lab and the kinds of things we work on:

CO2 Chemistry, Ocean Acidification and Sensor Development

Zhaohui Aleck Wang
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Deployment of a Channelized Optical System (CHANOS) II DIC sensor on ROV Global Explorer

In Wang’s CO2 chemistry lab, we study seawater carbonate chemistry, coastal carbon cycle, ocean acidification (OA), and the blue carbon systems (e.g., salt marshes). We are also specialized to develop in situ sensors to measure seawater CO2 parameters and other chemical species. Potential summer projects include:

(1) New-generation in situ carbon and pH sensors. The goal of this work is to develop low-cost in situ sensor system for high-frequency measurements of seawater CO2 parameters, i.e., pH, pCO2, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), and alkalinity (Alk). We will leverage this development and our on-going collaborations with the fishing community, NOAA fishery, and citizen scientists for large-scale deployments of these sensors to establish a cost-effective, wireless connected, openly accessible coastal carbon observing network. The student can join the sensor development team to learn engineering skills (electronics, optics, mechanics, and software) as well as seawater carbonate chemistry to develop various in situ sensors to seawater CO2 parameters.

(2) Climate change impacts on fisheries. The project goal is to investigate 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 in the US northeast coast. We will develop a high-resolution carbonate chemistry model and a stock assessment model to assess the impacts of climate change on Atlantic sea scallop biomass and landings in the region. We will also deploy a new DIC sensor (see photo) to collect more in situ data to help the model development. The student can learn computer coding skills to implement models as well as data analysis of seawater carbonate chemistry.

Zhaohui 'Aleck' Wang's profile

Sunlight-driven degradation of organic carbon in the surface ocean

Collin Ward
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The Ward Lab studies how and how fast sunlight and microbes alter the physical and chemical properties of different types of organic carbon in aquatic ecosystems.  We work on a wide range of organic carbon types, including natural organic matter and pollutants, such as crude oil and plastics. We also develop technologies to make it easier for folks to study how organic carbon cycles in surface waters.

There are three potential projects this summer: 1) identifying the rates and controls of plastic degradation by sunlight in the ocean, 2) understanding the impact of sunlight on the properties of crude oil spilled at sea, and 3) developing and validating LED-based technologies for aquatic photochemistry studies.  All projects will involve some form of experimentation at the bench scale. Experience or interest in analytical and organic chemistry would be beneficial for all projects.

For more information about ongoing research in the Ward Lab, I encourage you to visit our website:

Marine Policy Center

Studies of Coupled Nature-Human Systems

Yaqin Liu, Michael Weir, Di Jin and Hauke Kite-Powell

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This figure depicts the economic geography of global sea cucumber exploitation from work undertaken by 2017 SSF Kate Rawson from Mount Holyoke College. Temporal isoclines show fisheries expanding as those more proximate to the main Asian market become overexploited and fail to meet demand. Colored lines represent the global distribution of sea cucumber fisheries within a given decade; specific starting years of some fisheries are labeled over the general location of the largest city (by population) within the participating country.

Marine Policy Center

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.


Yaqin Liu

1. Seafood Trade and Nutrition Access
Seafood is a major contributor to food security, providing critical nutrition to hundreds of millions of people around the world.  Seafood is also the most widely traded food commodity in the world, with a substantial net flow in dollar value from low-income countries to high-income countries.  In particular, low-income countries tend to export high-value seafood and import low-value seafood.  This imbalance raises questions of whether low-value seafood is less nutritionally dense and whether low-income countries exacerbate nutritional deficits by trading away healthy seafood. In this project, we will construct a data set to link seafood trade data with seafood nutrition data and apply statistic tests to analyze nutrition implications for low-income countries in global seafood trade. You will learn and practice downloading, merging, cleaning data (R or Stata), conducting statistical analysis to answer important societal questions. Any inquiries – please shoot me an email -

2. Climate change and migration in coastal regions
Understanding what drives people to migrate in and out of Coastal regions that are prone to climate change in the near future is key for designing climate adaptation measures and policies. We know that past experience with migration, local economy, flood insurance policy, regional adaptation plan, etc. all play a role. The pertaining question is what would make a tipping-point for retreat from the coastal zones. A focused study region and methodology will be jointly selected with the student. If you are interested in this topic, let’s talk!

Michael Weir

Measuring Ocean Literacy and Willingness to Pay for Ocean Twilight Zone Conservation
Species that live in the ocean twilight zone, or OTZ, play a fundamental role in global climate by transporting significant amounts of carbon from the upper ocean into the deep sea. In addition, species populations in the OTZ are estimated to be larger than total catches of all other fisheries in the world today. There is a growing interest in harvesting fish from the OTZ, but little is known about public perceptions of OTZ conservation which is essential for developing effective fishery management policies. For this project, we will use economic survey methods to measure the public’s ocean literacy and willingness to pay for OTZ biodiversity conservation. You will learn about the methods economists use to value natural resources, how to develop an effective survey, and analyze survey data to investigate the monetary value of OTZ conservation. Learn more about my other projects here!


Di Jin

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 under climate change, marine spatial planning for multiple ocean uses (fishing and offshore wind), potential harvest of marine resources from the ocean twilight zone, and impacts of Harmful algal blooms (HABs).

Physical Oceanography Dept.

Accessibility of heat in the Arctic Ocean

Sylvia Cole and John Toole
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The Arctic Ocean is one component of the Arctic air-ice-ocean system, with interactions between the ocean, ice, and atmosphere taking place on scales from synoptic storms to decadal variability. Year-round observations of the Arctic Ocean have been collected using Ice-Tethered Profilers since 2004, a platform that drifts with the floating sea ice or open water across the entire Arctic basin. ITPs collect profiles of temperature and salinity, and show how the changing Arctic sea ice cover and ocean interact.

A student project focuses on the ocean heat that is trapped at depth by lighter and fresher water above it. There is enough heat in these trapped waters to melt all of the sea ice in the Arctic, making it important to understand how difficult it is to bring this water upwards towards the sea ice. By using ITP observations, relationships between subsurface heat, freshwater, and the changing ice cover will be explored. Interannual variability will have implications for a future Arctic Ocean and sea ice cover. The summer student fellow will gain experience working with ocean observations in a complex and changing environment.

Ice-Tethered Profilers

Sylvia Cole's profile

John Toole's profile

Simulating Icebergs in the Laboratory

Alan Condron, Claudia Cenedese, Olivier Marchal and Jack Whitehead
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Much of the floor of the northern North Atlantic Ocean is covered by thick deposits of ice-rafted debris (IRD) that stretch all the way from Canada to the coast of Portugal, ~3,000 km to the east. These sediments were deposited throughout the last glacial period during Heinrich events, when icebergs were released from the major ice sheets fringing the North Atlantic Ocean. The alignment of these periods of ice-rafting with dramatic and large-scale changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation has often prompted the suggestion that the input of freshwater from melting icebergs played a critical role in altering glacial climate. Precisely how much ice and freshwater were involved in the formation of these ice-rafted sediment deposits is, however, largely unknown due to a very limited understanding of how much sediment is transported by icebergs. As such, the overall sensitivity of large-scale ocean circulation to freshwater forcing remains difficult to quantify.

The goal of this exciting Summer Student Fellowship project is to simulate the transport of sediment by icebergs in the laboratory. The experiments will involve placing small ‘synthetic’ sediment-laden icebergs (made in a freezer) in a tank filled with saltwater to investigate how and where sediment ‘builds up’ on the tank floor. A creative set of experiments using icebergs with, for example, different sediment-loading patterns and drift speeds will be performed. The results from these experiments will then be used to improve simulations of Heinrich events made using the iceberg component of a numerical circulation model developed at MIT (MITberg).

The ideal student should have some prior knowledge of fluid dynamics, physical oceanography, numerical modeling, and/or, paleoclimatology, although the most important quality is that the student is motivated! This exciting cross-departmental project will be co-supervised by WHOI scientists Alan Condron, Claudia Cenedese, Olivier Marchal, and Jack Whitehead.

Alan Condron's profile
Claudia Cenedese's profile
Olivier Marchal's profile
Jack Whitehead's profile

Tracking meltwater from Greenland and the Arctic

Nicholas Foukal
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We study where meltwater from the Greenland Ice Sheet and Arctic pack ice goes after it melts. Does it stay on the continental shelf or can it cross dynamic boundaries to enter the basin interior? How long does the meltwater take to get to the boundary currents and sites of deep ocean convection? Will this freshwater stratify the subpolar North Atlantic and slow the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)? These are the types of questions that we ask and we use a multitude of data products to answer them including direct observations, satellites, reanalysis products, and numerical models.

A recent focus of the lab has been the dynamics of the Labrador Coastal Current, a major conduit of fresh water from the Arctic and Greenland Ice Sheet to the subpolar North Atlantic. A potential project could be to determine how much of the coastal current comes from the Arctic versus the Greenland Ice Sheet. This is critical to know because we anticipate the Arctic will release pulses of freshwater whereas the Greenland Ice Sheet will melt more monotonically, so constraining their relative roles in the Labrador Coastal Current is important for anticipating future pathways of meltwater. This project could involve analysis of surface drifters, ocean reanalysis products and output from high-resolution numerical models of the region. Thus, the student should have some experience with Matlab or Python or similar data analysis software.

Nick Foukal's Lab Site

Arctic salinity and ocean-atmosphere-ice interaction near the ice edge

Viviane Menezes and Lisan Yu
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Figure: The shipboard atmospheric system installed at R/V Woodstad for SASSIE

Viviane Menezes’ research group focuses on ocean circulation, air-sea interaction and salinity variability. She was an Instrument PI for the NASA Arctic salinity field campaign on Salinity and Stratification at the Sea Ice Edge (SASSIE) and boarded the month-long scientific research cruise in the Bering Sea in September 2022 to collect air-sea measurements along transects through the sea ice.

Lisan Yu’s research group develops state-of-the-art observational air-sea flux datasets ( to gain quantitative understanding of the ocean-surface energy/freshwater budgets and the role of the ocean in climate based on the OAFlux.

We are looking for a summer student fellow to conduct research on the salinity changes and effects on air-sea-ice interaction in the Arctic Ocean using both satellite datasets and the SASSIE field observations near the ice edge. The student will have the opportunity to analyze the surface heat budget changes during the transition from summer melt to fall freeze-up and to gain insight into the effects of the salinity dominated upper ocean stratification in shaping the Arctic ocean-atmosphere feedback processes.  Experience with Python and/or Matlab for data analysis would be desirable.

Viviane Menezes profile

Lisan Yu profile

Surface waves, air-sea fluxes, and extreme storm events in the North Atlantic Ocean

Hyodae Seo
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I am a climate scientist interested in the role of oceans in extreme weather and short-term climate events. This potential project will examine the response and impacts of surface waves and sea state on air-sea fluxes and extratropical cyclones in the North Atlantic Ocean. Through this project, the student will 1) investigate the response of the surface waves under extratropical storms, 2) learn how the surface wave is currently parameterized in coupled climate models, and 3) gain experience with running/analyzing the coupled model simulations of the ocean, atmosphere, or waves.

Figure caption: A snapshot of 850 hPa air temperature (color shading) during the passage of a “super-bomb cyclone” in January 2018 over the Gulf Stream (black contours) in the North Atlantic Ocean, as simulated by a high-resolution coupled climate model.


Hyodae Seo's profile

Climate Science

Caroline Ummenhofer
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Understanding climate variability and extreme events by synthesizing information from observations and climate models

Ummenhofer’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 and how that information could be useful for tackling problems of societal relevance. 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, variability over past centuries, as well as future changes in a warming world.

Potential projects could address variability and change in various climate modes, use ocean properties to predict rainfall or agricultural yield on land, combine weather information from historical documents, such as whaling ship logbooks, to track changing wind and pressure patterns around the world; or explore impacts of extreme events such as droughts, storm events, or marine heat waves on human or natural systems.

Figure caption: Schematic illustrating the salinity-Sahel precipitation mechanism that can be exploited to predict summertime Sahel rainfall from springtime North Atlantic salinity. Top: Winds evaporate water from the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean, leaving behind high levels of salinity during the spring. The exported moisture makes its way to the African Sahel, where it soaks the arid land and gradually builds up soil moisture over the course of three months. Bottom: The soil moisture couples with convection in the atmosphere to create a feedback loop that draws in additional moisture from the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. This increases precipitation during the summer African monsoon season. (Illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Caroline Ummenhofer's lab


US Geological Survey - Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Coastal Wetland Science

Meagan Eagle
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USGS interns prepare sediment sample for radioisotope analysis.

Lab Research Theme: Coastal wetlands occur at the nexus of population growth and dynamic environmental change, including rising sea level and temperature, enhanced nutrient loads, and landscape conversion. Salt marshes are coastal ecosystems that provide a wealth of services, including bird and fish habitat, storm surge protection and carbon burial. This last ecosystem service is of interest due to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels primarily driven by the burning of fossil fuels and land use changes. My research at USGS focuses on the nexus of environmental biogeochemistry and ecosystem models to predict how these critical habitats respond to environmental stressors, such as sea-level rise, and management decisions, including managing hydrologic flow. We have a range of analytical capabilities, from field collections of sediment and water, to greenhouse gas measurements, to laboratory carbon and radionuclide analyses, as well as expertise in integrating models and data. We work collaboratively with scientists and land managers from WHOI, the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and local management officials. We seek interns who are interested in coastal wetlands, with potential projects ranging from sediment coring and analysis, greenhouse gas measurements across wetland management gradients, dissolved carbon transport, and data-model integration.

Potential Project Details: Soil carbon response to rewetting an impounded wetland: A local field site is currently impounded, or restricted from daily tides, but a 2021 breach of the barrier sand dune resulted in flooding and rewetting, with salt marsh vegetation succession observed in 2022. Using field experiments, this project would investigate the impacts on soil carbon of seawater flooding into previously impounded wetland environments using a variety of analytical techniques. National synthesis of soil carbon consequences of coastal wetland impoundment: This project would assess the impact of hydrologic disconnection between wetland and sea, on carbon stocks and burial at the scale of the continental U.S. This project would involve assessing mapped products, local ground-truthing at select New England sites, as well as synthesizing literature on carbon burial and land subsidence associated with anthropogenic ditching. Statistical models to scale impacts to whole US would be developed. Vegetative control on porewater flushing in coastal wetlands: Movement of water through coastal wetlands is critical to ecosystem resilience and is the main conduit for exchange between coastal wetlands, hotspots of biogeochemical interactions, and adjacent coastal regions. Phragmites is an invasive plant found in many coastal wetlands. The root structure differs considerably from native grasses and likely alters water movement, and thus reaction rates and fluxes. This project would use radioisotope tracers of water movement to look at both magnitude of flux and assess spatial structure of water movement and resulting impact on chemical reactions.

New skills and training: Depending on research focus, intern will gain field skills in greenhouse gas flux measurements; learn how to collect soil cores; perform a variety of laboratory methods; gain experience in wetland carbon cycle research; learn data analysis in R; and learn methods data presentation. Such activities are excellent preparation for geoscience careers. In addition, the candidate will have the opportunity to prepare and present the research results at a USGS Center meeting at the culmination of their internship.

Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center - Wetland Geochemistry and Coastal Resilience

Meagan Eagle staff profile

Gas Hydrates

Steve Phillips
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Example of a sand containing multiple mineral grains and rock fragments.

Lab research theme: Gas hydrates are ice-like solids composed of water and gas, most commonly methane, that are found within sediments in the cold temperatures and high pressures of deep marine and permafrost environments. Gas hydrates are of great interest as a potential energy source, a major component of the global carbon cycle, and a potential seafloor slope stability hazard. The USGS Gas Hydrates Project aims to advance the understanding of gas hydrates on continental margin and permafrost settings through US and international field expeditions, laboratory experiments, and numerical modeling. We often carry out this research as part of larger collaborations with other federal agencies and academic institutions. Our laboratory facilities in Woods Hole have capabilities to characterize sediment properties and perform multiple biogeochemical measurements.

Project details: The summer project will focus on better understanding the depositional environments and post-depositional diagenetic history of a permafrost-associated gas hydrate system on the North Slope of Alaska through microscopic description of sand sized grains collected from borehole drill cuttings. These drill cuttings were recovered from permafrost formations and below-permafrost gas hydrate reservoirs. Semi-quantitative percent estimates of these mineral and rock fragment components will help provide new insights on changes in depositional environment, sediment sources, and formation of authigenic minerals after deposition- all factors that provide context on the geological evolution of these gas hydrate systems.

Interest/skill sets: We seek a summer student who is fascinated by sediments and sedimentary rocks and the geological history they reveal. A basic knowledge of mineralogy and petrology would be beneficial.

New skills/training: The summer fellow will learn to use an optical microscope to identify major minerals and rock fragments in the coarse-grained size fraction (sand and gravel sized grains), describe grain textures, and estimate percentages of major constituents. This will include learning to sieve and process sediment samples. The summer student will also learn to plot trends in mineral abundance and ternary diagrams to interpret past changes in depositional environment. These petrographic and stratigraphic skills are valuable for many geoscience career paths.

USGS Gas Hydrates Project

Gas Hydrates Project Physical Properties Lab

Steve Phillips profile

Greenhouse Gas Production in Estuaries

John Pohlman
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Background: Human activity impacts the health of estuaries through habitat alteration and climate change. The USGS Biogeochemistry Lab (part of the USGS Gas Hydrate Project) investigates the carbon cycle in marine, freshwater, and estuarine systems with an emphasis on defining the role of methane as a component of the carbon cycle and an atmospheric greenhouse gas source. We seek to delineate natural and anthropogenic factors regulating the production, transformation, and exchange of carbon between the geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. To that end, we have developed a portfolio of analytical devices that make continuous and automated measurements of dissolved methane and CO2 concentrations and stable isotope ratios by laser absorption spectroscopy. With these data, we quantify gas exchange between aquatic systems and the atmosphere, identify biological and geological gas formation pathways, and determine if the gases have been biologically or chemically altered since formation.


Our most recent development is a device we named ‘Sedecimpus,’ which roughly translates to sixteen swollen feet.  In this case, the sixteen feet are incubation chambers from which methane and CO2 concentrations and their stable carbon isotope ratios (13C/12C) are measured. Each measurement is preceded by a user-determined incubation period, from which a gas production rate is calculated. The chamber is then purged to return the system to its baseline condition, and the process repeats. By applying different conditions (temperature, salinity, or headspace gas type) to the incubation vials, the effect that changing environmental conditions have on the microbial consortium and their activity is documented.

Project Details: We seek a Summer Student Fellow who will design and conduct experiments to measure rates of methane and CO2 production and their stable isotopic composition during incubations with sediment and dissolved organic matter collected from the Chesapeake Bay estuary in July 2022. The experimental variables will reflect conditions habitat alteration and climate change have imposed on estuaries globally (e.g., eutrophication and sea-level rise). The student will learn fundamentals of estuarine sediment biogeochemistry, principles of experimental design and how to operate our collection of analytical devices – practical skills applicable to a wide range of geoscience careers.

USGS Gas Hydrates Biogeochemistry Lab website

John Pohlman profile

Marine Geohazards

Uri ten Brink and Jason Chaytor
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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.

Uri ten Brink's profile

Jason Chaytor's profile