Below is a list of potential projects and advisors in the WHOI departments and the USGS Coastal and Marine Science Center for Summer 2019. This list is not comprehensive; all 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.
Nearshore, Field-based Physical Oceanography
Our (Britt Raubenheimer and Steve Elgar and the PVLAB) goal is to understand the physics of waves, currents, and sand movement across the inner continental shelf, through the shoaling region, across the surf and swash zones to the aquifer beneath the beach. We measure waves, currents, and changes to the nearshore morphology (e.g., beach erosion, dune collapse), and use the observations and numerical models to learn about the underlying physical mechanisms. Recent projects include detailed studies of (i) waves in the surfzone observed with lidar, pressure gages, and video, (ii) surf and swash zone hydrodynamics and bathymetric evolution observed during storms, (iii) groundwater fluctuations observed across a barrier island between the ocean and sound, (iv) surf and swash zone currents using remote sensing, (v) the evolution of an ocean inlet that is excavated several times yearly to drain and flush a lake adjacent to the ocean to improve water quality. Although we prefer to be in the field, we spend a lot of time in front of a computer analyzing field data.
Marine Unmanned Robotics and Acoustic Sensing
My lab works on the intersection of marine autonomy, signal processing including machine learning, and acoustic sensing, with an objective of developing marine systems capable of perceiving their environments and collaborating to explore those environments. Possible projects include integration of low-cost payloads with SandShark AUVs, multi-domain autonomy integration between JetYak ASVs and SandShark AUVs, or processing of high-frequency acoustic data sets to develop tools for identification and classification of features.
Autonomous Underwater Exploration Robots
Potential projects could involve development of a stereo vision based collision avoidance system for a small underwater robot; automated analysis of ambient soundscapes; development of deep neural network based techniques for characterizing seafloor imagery. Some experience and/or interest in one or more of the following is highly desirable: computer vision, machine learning, marine robotics, python, ROS.
My research focuses on the development and use of acoustical techniques and platforms to study the physical and biological processes in the ocean. From the perspective of physical oceanography, I am interested in developing acoustic techniques to quantify mixing by internal waves, to characterize warm-core ring intrusions onto the shelf break, the shelf break front, double-diffusive layering, and to acoustically image and quantify shear instability, buoyant plumes, salt-wedge intrusions, and hydraulic jumps. From an acoustics perspective, where there is high stratification, there is typically a strong acoustic signal. From the biological perspective, I am interested in ecosystem acoustics, that is using acoustic techniques to resolve ecosystem processes at relevant spatial-temporal scales, for example to help quantify marine diversity, behavior, patchiness, size, abundance, biogeography, migration. Pelagic ecosystems are comprised of diverse organisms spanning many trophic levels, species, sizes, and shapes. The composition and distribution of different populations are generally heterogeneous and patchy over multiple temporal and spatial scales, and differentially influenced by behavior, predator-prey interactions, physical forcing over a range of spatial scales, and anthropogenic forcing factors (such as ocean acidification or fisheries).
I am particularly motivated by 1) questions that address bio-physical interactions, 2) helping to address questions that have more immediate applications to pressing fisheries management concerns, such as stock assessment and reducing by-catch, and 3) developing new integrated acoustical and optical platforms, including AUVs and deep-towed systems, to address these questions. I have various projects in these areas -- please contact me if you are interested in a summer of acoustical oceanography.
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, epidemiology), 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 – greenwave.org) 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.
Breeding and genetic selection applied to aquaculture species is a relatively recent phenomenon compared to agriculture. We will be coordinating the selection of a founding population of sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima) germplasm, designating crosses and families to be planted out, and evaluating the performance (phenotypes) of each family. Using a novel engineered research farm 10 minutes from our dock, we will be testing hundreds of family plots in Massachusetts, and more in New Hampshire. The project goal 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. There will be opportunities for research and mentorship in the both field (farms) and in the lab.
Development of In situ Chemical Sensors
My interdisciplinary (engineering and chemistry) research focus is on advancing environmental observation through the development and deployment of novel optical 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. Potential projects for 2019 include developing and testing small gas sensors and working on new optical methods for detecting micro plastics.
Our lab (joint with Steve Elgar) is studying the physical processes that affect the coast 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 and flooding. We 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, or (4) the role of groundwater and precipitation in coastal flooding and dune erosion on a barrier island.
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.
Weifeng Gordon Zhang
This particular summer project is i) to compile existing physical (wind, sea ice, temperature, salinity, etc.) and biological observations in a variety of Antarctic coastal polynyas from different sources and ii) to investigate the dynamical connections between the winds, sea ice formation, polynya size/location/persistence, water column stratification, and phytoplankton bloom intensity. The existing observations will include measurements taken by satellites, ships, underwater gliders, tagged seals, etc. The summer student will also be able to interact with WHOI sea ice dynamists to examine the connection between sea ice formation and stratification, and with WHOI biological oceanographers to consider incorporating the physical influences into a phytoplankton dynamical model and an emperor penguin ecological model.
Marine Microbial (Meta)Genomics
Harriet Alexander and Maria Pachiadaki
The Alexander lab focuses on the application of computational approaches to better understand the ecological roles and interactions of eukaryotic microbes (protists) in marine systems. The Pachiadaki lab studies the identity, function and activity of marine microorganisms, with emphasis on prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea).
Together we are interested in characterizing the patterns of nitrogen fixation and organic matter degradation in the oceanic water column, from the well-lit surface waters to the deep mesopelagic. Tara Oceans, a multinational consortium, organized a standardized metagenomic sampling program effort that circumnavigated the world's oceans to study marine plankton (spanning viruses to zooplankton) in their natural environment. This summer, we are recruiting an undergraduate student who would like to hone their computational biology and bioinformatic skills, while working on a project to mine the publicly available Tara Oceans metagenomic data. The goal of this project is to: 1) characterize patterns of functional gene presence and absence across oceanic regions and depths, 2) identify key microbial taxa (bacteria, archaea, and protists) that might mediate the nitrogen fixation and organic matter degradation and the encoded metabolic pathways, and 3) reveal potential cross-domain interactions that may underlie these molecular transformations.
Though not necessary, prospective students will ideally have had a basic introduction to computational biology (i.e., have run a blast search) and have some experience coding in a programming language (e.g., python, R, Matlab).
Mixotrophy in Marine Plankton
Seabird Ecology and Demography
The Jenouvrier Seabirds lab studies the effect of global change on individual and population of a community of seabirds breeding in the Southern Ocean. Specific area of interests include 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 and structure.
This year, the summer student will be participating in the development of a comprehensive analysis of emperor penguin habitat suitability and population trends over the whole Antarctic continent using unique remote sensing imageries. The project is salient and fascinating in the context of climate change and the conservation of polar ecosystems.
The very high resolution (VHR) imagery allows unconstrained access to all emperor penguin colonies – indeed, constraint to certain emperor penguin populations has previously biased total population estimates low and further produced population trends that may have been biased toward colonies associated with certain habitat characteristics. Emperor penguins in particular are ideal for direct, satellite-based investigation of their distribution and numbers: emperor penguins rear chicks in the spring time when satellite images of the coastline are easily acquired, and they also leave a representative guano stain on the fast ice that indicates colony presence. The VHR imagery approach uncouples the observation process from site accessibility and has the potential to provide complete, annual counts across a species’ range. Through observations based on imagery, researchers have already determined a baseline abundance of emperor penguins for 2009 (~595,000 individuals); observed previously unseen behaviors such as breeding on glacial ice in years of poor fast ice conditions and observed apparent moving and/or relocating colony locations altogether.
The student will be in charge of defining training dataset for analysing the satellite images, but also defining the sea-ice scape in those images. This work using very high-resolution satellite imagery, remote sensing techniques, and statistical modelling, will contribute to learn about the effect of environmental conditions on the spatial (habitat suitability) and temporal (population trends) dynamics of this iconic seabird, the emperor penguin.
Biological-physical interaction and modeling
Protistan Ecology and Evolution
Research in my lab is focused on understanding the ecology and evolution of marine protists with an emphasis on their interactions and trophic role. We primarily focus on mixotrophic protists, which survive by simultaneously combining photosynthetic and phagotrophic nutritional modes. These protists can be algae that eat or protozoa that steal chloroplasts from their algal prey. Our research aims at understanding how these organisms function and how they shape microbial communities and the flow of energy and matter through them. One mixotroph that we are particularly fond of is the ciliate Mesodinium rubrum, which not only steals chloroplasts but also a transcriptionally active nucleus from its prey. This unique trophic mode, called karyoklepty, allows them to gain full access to the metabolic potential of their prey and to essentially function as phototrophs. Potential projects in my lab include (1) measuring dynamics of prey selection and plastid sequestration in marine protists, (2) assessing the role of feeding in mixotrophic marine phytoplankton under nutrient limitation, or (3) determining how phytoplankton prey phenotypes and defense mechanisms alter selection by and grazing rates of predatory protists.
Fisheries Oceanography/Larval Fish Ecology
Research in our lab focuses on aspects related to the early life stages of fish (e.g. feeding, growth, mortality, distribution) as well the interactions between zooplanktivorous fishes, their prey, and the physical environment. We have several ongoing projects projects that a Summer Student Fellow could be a part of, including the larval and juvenile ecology of river herring, settlement dynamics of coral reef fish larvae in the Virgin Islands, sand lance feeding dynamics on Stellwagen Bank, and diets and stable isotopes of small pelagic fishes from the NE US continental shelf. The last of these is related to our Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) project, which will be supporting one SSF who could be placed in one of several different labs (interest in this project should be mentioned in your application). Depending on the fellow’s project, there’s the likelihood of participating in research cruises, whether they are for sand lance on Stellwagen Bank and Nantucket Shoals, or plankton and fish on the continental shelf south of Martha’s Vineyard on a 6-day LTER cruise.
Benthic Larval Ecology
Drop any solid object into the ocean, and it will eventually become colonized by something. For example, shipwrecks are home to benthic invertebrate communities in locations where there is not “supposed to” be a hard-bottom habitat. Most benthic invertebrates reproduce via a larval stage that disperses in the water column, but why would a larva that needs to settle on a solid object disperse to an area that is “supposed to” have just sand or mud? Island-like communities may have been founded by only a few individuals that for some reason dispersed farther than others.
I am looking for a Summer Student Fellow to join my lab in 2019 and investigate what factors might cause a larva to disperse farther than other individuals of the same species. Maybe its mother had good energy reserves and added more yolk to her eggs, allowing the larva to swim for longer. Maybe the larva swam up shallower than its conspecifics and got caught in a fast current. The Fellow will collaborate with me to design and carry out an experiment examining intraspecific variation in larval provisioning and behavior, using their choice of model species. Possibilities include an anemone, a tunicate, a limpet, and a bivalve.
The Fellow’s project will begin with field collections of the target species by wading at low tide in shallow rocky habitats around Woods Hole. Females of the target species will be maintained in the laboratory at various levels of nutrition during their reproductive period, and then some will be dissected to measure larval provisioning (yolk mass or larval size). Another set of females will be allowed to spawn, and the behavior of their larvae will be observed in the laboratory using high-speed video recordings. Analysis of the video data will be conducted using the code-based program Matlab. The Fellow will gain experience in experimental design, larval culturing techniques, video analysis, and the interpretation of complex data.
Sensory Biology and Bioacoustics
Larval Ecology, Benthic Community Resilience
Our lab studies the oceanographic and ecological processes that connect geographically separate populations and contribute to their resilience in the face of natural and human disturbance. To do this, we investigate how larvae of benthic invertebrates disperse and recruit into marine communities. We work mostly in patchy habitats, ranging from coastal bays to deep-sea hydrothermal vents, where larval dispersal is the driving process connecting populations. Students in our lab use a variety of approaches, often in collaboration with WHOI scientists in other disciplines, including coupled studies of circulation and larval ecology, manipulative benthic experimentation, laboratory study of larval behavior, and mathematical models. This coming summer, available projects for an undergraduate fellow include: (1) analyze the development of a deep-sea vent community following a catastrophic eruption on the East Pacific Rise; (2) conduct laboratory experiments on larval behavioral responses to environmental cues; or (3) explore the roles of disturbance, dispersal, and species interactions on community persistence in a metacommunity model.
Marine Mammal Behavior and Communication
Marine Mammal Physiology & Energetics
The Shero Lab focuses on identifying critical energy ‘bottlenecks’ in marine mammal life history cycles that would make them particularly vulnerable to environmental and anthropogenic disturbance. The lab’s work also puts an emphasis on marine mammal reproductive physiology and identifying processes that are critical to successfully producing offspring.
Measuring energy dynamics in marine mammals often requires sedating and weighing the animals, which poses great limitations on our sample sizes. More minimally-invasive approaches have been also been developed, including using morphometric measurements and taking photographs of the animals to estimate total body volume and mass. While these techniques have been widely successful, they still necessitate animal disturbance. Thus, we are validating the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs; or drones) to measure energy dynamics in pinnipeds, from the air to ‘weigh whole colonies’ without ever touching or disturbing our study subjects. In combination, we will be acquiring much more information regarding the nutritional and physiologic status of individuals than would ever be possible using traditional ground survey. These methods are being applied to translate organismal-level processes to understanding patterns observed at the level of the population.
A summer intern is needed to help analyze the massive image datasets we are acquiring. The student would learn to use processing software that will stitch all the drone images back together to construct 3-dimensional models of seal colonies, and measure individuals. Potential students could choose to focus more on (1) whole-colony demography, (2) mass and photogrammetry, and/or (3) thermal regulation/IR images across different life history stages in marine mammals.
Marine Invertebrate Physiology
We seek to understand how animals detect and respond to signals and stresses in the marine environment. These include responses to natural environmental signals, such as circadian rhythms or seasonal dormancy, as well as responses to stressors such as chemical pollutants. This summer, we are particularly interested in recruiting a student to conduct enzyme activity assays with migratory copepods (especially Pleuromamma xiphias). We are interested in how the metabolism of these small animals changes over 24-hour periods, in relation to their daily swimming behavior and underlying circadian cycles. Pathways to be studied include glycolysis, the citric acid cycle, anaerobic metabolism and ammonium production - you don’t have to be familiar with the details of the pathways before starting, but you do need to be willing to learn! There will be opportunities to become involved in other ongoing projects in the lab, including thermal acclimation in Nematostella, and metabolic adaptations of Antarctic copepods.
Geology and Geophysics Dept.
Stromatolite Microbiology and Early Diagenesis
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). Two projects are available this summer as part of that larger effort.
1) In stromatolites from a meromictic (permanently stratified) lake, establish microbial distributions on a sub-millimeter scale to determine eukaryotic and prokaryotic distributions with respect to chemocline geochemistry. Laser scanning confocal microscopy will be the main tool for these analyses. An opportunity exists to join field work (collections) for this project.
2) Perform an experiment using meromictic-lake stromatolites that are differentially exposed to foraminiferal protists to assess the impact of pseudopodial activity on stromatolite laminations, similar to the experiment described in Bernhard et al. (2013 PNAS). An opportunity exists to join field work (collections) for this project.
Assessing microfabric attributes of calcium carbonate in foraminiferal shells from Arctic methane seeps
Joan M Bernhard and Veronique Le Roux
Because methane is a greenhouse gas, it is important to understand the history of methane emissions from the seafloor. To do this, we study the biology and fossils of foraminifera from methane seep sites in the Arctic. An important consideration is to determine if the calcite of their shells is solely biogenic or if it also has an overgrowth of carbonate precipitated after death of the foraminifer. Part of our collaborative project is to measure the wall thicknesses and other attributes of individuals from seep and non-seep sites. Individuals have already been scanned via microCT (computerized tomography) and measurements must be made using appropriate software. There will be opportunities to scan additional foraminifera as well as learn about their cell biology.
Climate Dynamics of the Common Era
The term Common Era refers to the last ~2000 years, but it also has a scientific connotation, as this is the era common to paleoclimate reconstructions, observational data, and simulations from state-of-the-art climate models. I leverage these sources of climate information to better understand variability on decadal and longer timescales—things like “megadroughts” over the Southwest and trends in tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures. My work typically involves the development and implementation of novel statistical methods, including machine learning, as well as the use of climate modelling—particularly with the National Center for Atmospheric Research models.
Examples of potential projects include: 1) Using machine learning to better understand the characteristics of heat waves and droughts in both space and time; and 2) Analyzing historical trends in the tropical Pacific ocean, a critical region for global climate with an uncertain response to human-driven climate change.
My research uses numerical models to study the causes of climate change. I am particularly interested in whether melting ice sheets can trigger abrupt periods of climate cooling, both in the past and the future. Current projects of interest including: (1) Assessing the impact of a collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet on global climate, (2) Modeling the impact of iceberg discharges on Heinrich Events and other periods of past abrupt cooling, (3) Determining the role of Arctic sea ice and freshwater on climate.
Climate Variability: Tropical Cyclones, Sea Level and Drought
The goal of my research program is to understand how climate variability changes tropical cyclone activity, alters sea levels, and affects water availability. Storms, sea-level fluctuations, and changing freshwater inputs play key roles in driving changes in many coastal systems, yet we know very little about how these environments respond to the complex interactions of these forcing mechanisms. Gaining a process-based understanding of how and why past environmental changes have occurred provides a framework for projecting future changes. We use sedimentological and stratigraphic proxy records of tropical cyclones, sea level, and drought that extend the instrumental record back millennia. Example projects include: 1) analyzing cores to characterize event deposits and reconstruct the history of tropical cyclone activity back many centuries to millennia , 2) Analyzing historical archives in order to extend the spatial and temporal coverage of records of tropical cyclone occurrence in order to examine how changing climate may have controlled activity, 3) Reconstructing wildfire frequency by analyzing charcoal preserved in sediment cores in order to examine links between fire and changing water availability and tropical cyclone disturbance.
Bioremediation using Oyster Aquaculture and Marine Parasites of Phytoplankton
Isotope Geochemical Clues about the Deep Earth
Volcanic rocks hold clues about the deep Earth and help us understand magma origins and mantle processes. Two opportunities exist to investigate the isotope geochemistry of highly unusual volcanic rocks:
Baffin Island lavas from Earth’s lowermost mantle: Lavas erupted on Baffin Island in arctic Canada are thought to derive from the deepest and most primordial mantle reservoir (and perhaps even contain material from the core!). Samples from this location are extremely important for understanding Earth’s deep interior, so we will be conducting comprehensive geochemical and isotopic analysis of these rocks. Opportunities exist to study the petrology of these samples and to conduct noble gas isotopic measurements by crushing gas-bearing olivine crystals.
Afghanistan carbonatites and the deep carbon cycle: Carbon cycling through and storage in the deep continental lithosphere remain poorly understood aspects of the global carbon cycle. Rare volcanic rocks that contain >50% carbonate minerals (carbonatites) provide insight about these processes. Khanneshin Volcano in southern Afghanistan is one of the youngest and best-preserved carbonatite volcanoes. This study will infer the origins of Khanneshin magmas based on carbon, oxygen, strontium, and boron isotopic results. Students involved will gain experience with laser ablation ICP-MS and secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS).
What feeds Antarctic volcanoes?
Antarctica is a continent covered with ice, but it is also home to many volcanoes. Ross Island is comprised of four coalesced volcanic centers: Mount Bird, Mount Terror, Hut Point Peninsula, and Mount Erebus, the world’s southernmost active volcano and home to a persistently active lava lake. Understanding volcanic hazards at Mount Erebus is particularly important considering that the volcano is located only 25 miles from McMurdo Station, Antarctica’s largest research base and home to ~1000 people during the austral summer. Constraining the depths at which magmas are stored beneath these volcanoes and how much H2O and CO2 they contain prior to ascending and erupting is especially critical to understanding the dynamics of future eruptions. However, the solubility of H2O and CO2 in magmas drops substantially during ascent to the surface, leading to extensive degassing and loss of these volatile components. This makes determining the pre-eruptive H2O and CO2 contents of magmas particularly challenging. Small packets of magma that become trapped within growing olivine crystals (olivine-hosted melt inclusions) are our most important source of information on the H2O and CO2 contents of magmas prior to eruption. The strength of the host olivine protects the included melt from the decompression experienced by the entraining magma, allowing melt inclusions to retain their pre-eruptive volatiles. We are looking for a summer student fellow to determine magma reservoir depths beneath Ross Island and the pre-eruptive concentrations of H2O and CO2 of the magmas using olivine-hosted melt inclusions. The study will combine state of the art microanalytical techniques such as Raman spectroscopy and secondary ion mass spectrometry.
Climate and Landscapes
Discussing around a sediment core containing the story of the Indus civilization collapse 4000 years ago written in mud.My research seeks to uncover the millennia-long story of human interactions with the climate and the landscapes around them as written in ocean and continental sediments. Current projects available to summer visitors include reconstructions for: (1) the monsoon in the Indian Ocean and its effects on civilizations since the Bronze Age; (2) floods along large rivers like the Danube and the Mississippi prior and after the construction of engineered protection structures; (3) hydrological changes associated with of the rapid warming of the Arctic as expressed by sedimentary records along large rivers such as the Mackenzie and Yukon; (4) large delta evolution across the world in natural and anthropogenic conditions to prepare to “design” our deltas to withstand sea level rise.
Paleoceanography: Past Changes in DeepOcean Ventilation
Geophysics of Hot Springs and Volcanoes
Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Dept.
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., biomineralization artifacts, overprinting by diagenesis, misidentified control variable). Thus, it is imperative to conduct studies in diverse modern marine environments to fully appreciate how the chemistry of the geological record is ‘written’.
Student projects in the NIRVANA Lab will use a range of multi-element geochemical (e.g., trace element abundances) 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 with the goal of using these tools to understand the evolution of primary productivity, ocean redox, and nutrient recycling through Earth History.
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.
Paleoclimate from Coral Skeletons
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.
Aquatic Carbon Cycling Sensor Development
CO2 Chemistry, Ocean Acidification and Sensor Development
Zhaohui Aleck Wang
1) Developing In-situ Sensor Technology for Measurements of Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC), pH pCO2 and heavy metals (e.g. As and Cd) in Aquatic Environments.
Development of robust sensors to enhance our capability to study carbon cycling and aquatic biogeochemistry has been widely recognized as a research priority in the research communities in order to improve spatial and temporal coverage of observations. The larger goal of the project is to develop a miniaturized in-situ sensor, CHANOS II, for spectrophotometric measurements of aquatic DIC, pH, pCO2 and dissolved heavy metals with high-frequency up to full water depth. The summer project will involve collaborating with engineers and scientists to test, improve, and deploy the new sensor in various coastal and freshwater environments.
2) The Role and Mechanisms of Nuclei-induced Calcium Carbonate Precipitation in the Coastal Carbon Cycle: A First In-depth Study.
One of the most important and fundamental pathways in the marine carbon cycle is formation of CaCO3 minerals (e.g., calcite and aragonite), which may occur through biological production and abiotic (chemical) precipitation of CaCO3. Understanding and quantifying the production of CaCO3 are essential to characterize the marine carbon cycle and to project responses of marine ecosystems under anthropogenic CO2 perturbations. The goal of this project is to conduct the first comprehensive, in-depth study to evaluate the significance of NICP as an in-situ biogeochemical process. The summer project will include planning and setting-up controlled lab experiments in which the effects of suspended materials (e.g. dust and river-borne particles) on the dissolved CO2 system will be studied. The summer student will also analyze and synthesize the results.
3) Development of low-cost environmental sensors for river monitoring
The impact of environmental change on riverine ecosystem requires sustained observations of the river system. Of all ecosystem impacts, the quality of the water is a serious concern as it provides water security to billions of people. Cleaning and rejuvenating the health of river ecosystems is the focal point of river basin management plans across countries. Currently, the scientific community faces a few challenges to address this issue, including poor spatial and temporal resolutions of monitoring programs, absence of integrated data fusion, and absence of on demand auto-sampling capability. The only way forward to address these challenges is to use/develop state-of-the-art in-situ river monitoring observatories that can provide real-time data. The goal of this project is to design and develop low-cost, multi-parameter, water quality monitoring platforms that would consist of several in-house developed sensors and auto sampling capability for durable and reliable real-time monitoring. The summer project is to work with a group of chemists and engineers to develop and test low-cost oxygen, pH, and conductivity sensors to be deployed in river systems. These sensors are substantially cheaper than most of commercial sensors so that we can deploy them in large quantity to significantly improve river monitoring.
Marine Policy Center
Studies of Coupled Nature-Human Systems
Porter Hoagland, Hauke Kite-Powell, Andy Solow and Di Jin
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.
Large-scale seaweed farming systems: Hauke Kite-Powell
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: Hauke Kite-Powell
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
Mobile shellfish hatchery systems: Hauke Kite-Powell
Researchers at the WHOI Marine Policy Center (MPC) are working with WHOI engineers and commercial shellfish hatchery operators in New England to develop a mobile shellfish hatchery system. This mobile hatchery, packaged into a standard 20 foot shipping container, can be deployed on short notice to locations where shellfish seed is needed, without the need for permanent dedicated waterfront real estate. The project involves refining the design and optimizing the economics of the mobile hatchery system in advance of anticipated prototype construction in the fall/winter of 2019. Additional project information
Physical Oceanography Dept.
Physical-biological processes in western boundary current eddies
Ke Chen is a physical oceanographer broadly interested in studying processes over the continental shelf and the adjacent slope, and how the coastal ocean interacts with the large-scale atmosphere and ocean. Research topics include frontal circulation and biophysical interactions, shelf-slope exchange, heat balance, and atmosphere-ocean interaction. Research approach includes a variety of numerical models together with observations for integrated understandings.
A potential project for the summer of 2019 is the physical-biological processes in western boundary current eddies. Mesoscale eddies in the western boundary current systems include warm-core and cold-core rings. They are generated on both sides of the western boundary current, and exert significant impact on the physical and biological environments of the slope seas and marginal seas, which are major contributors to the global primary production. Compared to that of eddies in the open ocean, the role of GS WCRs in the biophysical processes of the shelf-slope system has received less attention, and contrasting results exist. This project will elucidate the key biophysical mechanisms by investigating the photoautotrophic ecosystems and the dominant physical processes controlling the vertical transport in these rings. Research activities will include analyzing satellite observations of sea surface height, sea surface temperature, and chlorophyll in both warm- and cold-core rings in the Northwest Atlantic. Depending on the progress, other western boundary current systems, e.g., Kuroshio and East Australia Current can also be included for a global-scale understanding. The analysis of satellite data will be compared with numerical simulations to better understand the dynamical processes.
Storm Effects on Shelfbreak Frontal Variability
Evolution and Transformation of South Atlantic Water Properties
Alison Macdonald and Sachiko Yoshida
The South Atlantic is crossroads where waters from many different regions of the World Ocean meet on their journey through global overturning circulation. In this complex setting waters are not only being transformed through mixing, but also appear to changing in time. These changes include changes in temperature and salinity, which can cause changes in sea level, as well as in anthropogenic carbon content – the basis of ocean acidification. We foresee two possible aspects of this investigation in which a student could be entrained. The first is observation based and will make use of thousands of profiling float observations of temperature and salinity to place our previously calculated estimates of property changes over approximate 10-year periods in the context of annual and sub-annual variations. The second is model-based and will use high-resolution ocean model data and particle tracking techniques to better understand the pathways of particular water masses as they traverse the subtropical South Atlantic.
Physical-biological interactions, upper ocean dynamics, submesoscale processes
Sea Level Change
Potential projects would focus on understanding the observed and modeled sea level changes with a particular focus on the United States east coast. Specific research topics could include characterizing the statistical nature of recent coastal sea level changes, understanding the relationship between coastal sea level and the large-scale ocean circulation of the North Atlantic, or studying how variations in river runoff effect changes in sea level at the coast.
Air-sea interaction and climate dynamics
I am interested in a potential project that relates the coastal oceanic processes in the US West Coast to landfalling Atmospheric River events (ARs). ARs are characterized by strong low-level wind, transporting high water vapor content from tropical air masses to the midlatitude. When AR inflows make landfall in regions of high topographic barriers, such as in the western US, they often bring heavy precipitation accompanied by extreme streamflow events and flooding. I hypothesize that the structure of ARs and the resulting continental precipitation are modulated by the coastal oceanic conditions along their path to the western US. We will aim to identify the coastal oceans’ response and impacts by analyzing various coastal buoys and mooring arrays as well as satellite and reanalysis datasets and high-resolution model simulations. We can also attempt to diagnose the influence of decadal modes of climate variability on the probabilities of extreme rainfall events associated with ARs using long-term climate model outputs.
Seasonal and Interannual Variability of Arctic Sea Ice
Understanding past climate variability by synthesizing coupled climate models and paleoclimate records
Ummenhofer’s group focuses on ocean-atmosphere interactions, variability and change across different components of the climate system, and the resulting regional impacts. In particular, we aim to develop an understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the ocean’s role in regional climate, with a focus on rainfall variability, droughts, and extreme events across a range of spatial and temporal scales, from individual synoptic events to interannual, decadal variability and beyond. Research addresses both present-day climate conditions, past variability over the last millennium, as well as projected changes in a warming world.
Potential projects will address how variability in rainfall and temperature on land (e.g., in Canada, Southeast Asia, Australia) or coastal ocean regions over previous centuries are influenced by large-scale ocean variability in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. Insights about the mechanisms behind these links gained from climate model output will be compared with paleo proxies, such as stalagmites, bivalve shells, 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
Coastal Wetland Science
Meagan Eagle Gonneea
Coastal morphology, natural hazards, and image analysis
The USGS conducts research to assess natural hazards to coastal regions. Recent tools include unmanned aerial systems (drones) and multi-view photogrammetry (also known as structure from motion). We use these tools to make super-high resolution maps of beaches, dunes, and wetlands. In turn, these maps are used to evaluate susceptibility to storms, and as input into numerical models of morphological evolution and coastal erosion. Summer students have the opportunity to choose from a number of related topics using data from local beaches and wetlands. These include analysis of images using structure from motion and/or neural networks, 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. Enthusiasm for GIS and coding (Matlab, Python) is necessary, but extensive experience with those tools is not.
Nearshore and Coastal Processes
Coastal Processes (coastal geology, GIS, landscape ecology, civil engineering)
Sara Zeigler and Ben Gutierrez