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Research Highlights

News & Insights

The oceans are losing oxygen, and faster than we thought

December 12, 2019

WHOI scientists weigh in on a new ICUN report highlighting a 2% decline in marine oxygen levels between 1960 and 2010. The loss of oxygen has triggered an expansion of marine dead zones throughout the global ocean that has put marine life and ecosystems in peril.

Ken Buesseler

The Ocean Twilight Zone’s crucial carbon pump

December 11, 2019

When CO₂ enters the ocean, where does this heat-trapping gas go? WHOI geochemist investigates how much carbon from the surface ocean is dispatched to the ocean twilight zone–the midlayer of the ocean–and on to the deep ocean.

Shells

Ocean acidification gets a watchful eye in New England aquaculture ‘hot spot’

December 5, 2019

Shellfish aquaculture is thriving in New England, but future growth in the industry could be stunted as coastal waters in the region become more acidic. Researchers at WHOI have developed a way to link nutrient load reductions to improvements in the health of Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, which may an important step toward cleaner and less acidic harbors in the Baystate.

Julie Huber and Bill Nye Science Guy

WHOI’s Julie Huber on Science Rules! with Bill Nye

November 7, 2019
Berhard Peucker Ehernbrink

River Detective: WHOI scientist studies river chemistry around the world

October 2, 2019

Bernhard Peucker-Ehrenbrink has been studying rivers around the world as part of the Global Rivers Observatory network to observe how natural and human-caused environmental changes affect the composition of river water over time.

oil spill barge

Fifty years later, the West Falmouth oil spill yields lasting contributions to remediation efforts

September 20, 2019

After 175,000 gallons of oil spilled from a barge that ran aground along West Falmouth Harbor, the contaminant has all but disappeared, save a small marsh inlet that continues to serve as a living laboratory for scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

WHOI in the Christian Science Monitor: How the deep sea could unlock outer space

August 28, 2019

“When hydrothermal vents were discovered in 1977, it very much flipped biology on its end,” says Julie Huber, an oceanographer who studies life in and below the seafloor at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) on Cape Cod. “People knew that organisms could live off of chemical energy, but they didn’t imagine they could support animal ecosystems.”

Scientists like Dr. Huber have continued to study those chemical-munching microbes. And it turns out, she says, a diverse set of microbes can be really good at making a living where the sun doesn’t shine. They make use of the chemicals available to them, even at some of the harshest vents, known as black smokers.

WHOI geochemist Ken Buesseler discusses marine radioactivity monitoring in the Marshall Islands atop Runit Dome

Putting the ‘nuclear coffin’ in perspective

August 27, 2019

WHOI chemist and marine radioactivity expert shares his thoughts about radioactivity waste leaking from Runit Dome—a bomb crater filled with radioactive soil in the Marshall Islands that is now being penetrated by rising sea levels

Boston Harbor

WHOI Scientist Chris Reddy on NBC Boston

April 29, 2019

Boston Harbor water quality is thriving again—but Reddy discusses some potential threats on the horizon. WATCH

News Releases

Porites coral

Ocean acidification causing coral ‘osteoporosis’ on iconic reefs

August 27, 2020

Scientists have long suspected that ocean acidification is affecting corals’ ability to build their skeletons, but it has been challenging to isolate its effect from that of simultaneous warming ocean temperatures, which also influence coral growth. New research from the...

New paper addresses the mix of contaminants in Fukushima wastewater

August 6, 2020

Nearly 10 years after the Tohoku-oki earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant and triggered an unprecedented release radioactivity into the ocean, radiation levels have fallen to safe levels in all but the waters closest to the...

Benjamin Van Mooy

WHOI receives $2.7M from Simons Foundation to study nutrients, microbes that fuel ocean food web

July 23, 2020

The Simons Foundation has awarded Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists Dan Repeta and Benjamin Van Mooy two grants totaling $2.7 million to study key processes that help fuel the health of our ocean and planet. Repeta’s research will focus...

WHOI Scientists Make Woods Hole Film Festival Appearance

July 17, 2020

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists appear in two shorts and a feature film at this year’s Woods Hole Film Festival (WHFF). In addition, scientists will also participate in Q&A sessions connected to three of the festival’s feature-length, ocean-themed entries....

What did scientists learn from Deepwater Horizon?

April 20, 2020

Paper reviews major findings, technological advances that could help in next deep-sea spill.  Ten years ago, a powerful explosion destroyed an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and injuring 17 others. Over a span of 87...

New geochemical tool reveals origin of Earth’s nitrogen

April 15, 2020

Volcanic gas emissions in Northern Iceland. The research team collected gas samples here that were analyzed as part of this study. (Photo by Peter Barry, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) Novel analysis method may also be useful for monitoring volcanic...

Healy, Polarstern

A rapidly changing Arctic

April 8, 2020

Shelf sediments, freshwater runoff from rivers brings more carbon, nutrients to North Pole A new study by researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and their international colleagues found that freshwater runoff from rivers and continental shelf sediments are bringing...

Buesseler sediment trap

The ocean’s ‘biological pump’ captures more carbon than expected

April 6, 2020

Scientists have long known that the ocean plays an essential role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere, but a new study shows that the efficiency of the ocean’s “biological carbon pump” has been drastically underestimated. (Video by Elise Hugus, UnderCurrent...

Report reveals ‘unseen’ human benefits from ocean twilight zone

January 22, 2020

Exclusive report Value Beyond View: Illuminating the human benefits of the ocean twilight zone Download now – it’s free! Did you know that there’s a natural carbon sink—even bigger than the Amazon rainforest—that helps regulate Earth’s climate by sucking up...

How microbes reflect the health of coral reefs

December 19, 2019

Microorganisms play important roles in the health and protection of coral reefs, yet exploring these connections can be difficult due to the lack of unspoiled reef systems throughout the global ocean. A collaborative study led by scientists at the Woods...

Oceanus Magazine

A DISCO in the Ocean

A DISCO in the Ocean

January 30, 2019

How do you measure a chemical in the ocean that exists for less than a minute? This was the conundrum facing Colleen Hansel, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). She studies superoxide, a molecule so unstable that...

Investigating Oil from the USS Arizona

Investigating Oil from the USS Arizona

December 7, 2018
Sweat the Small Stuff

Sweat the Small Stuff

December 3, 2018

An estimated eight million tons of plastics enter our oceans each year, yet only one percent can be seen floating at the surface. This is the first in a three-part article series about how researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution...

Journey to the Bottom of the Sea

October 4, 2018

My eyelids were tightly pressed down as I mustered all the tricks I could think of to get myself to sleep. I rolled around with no sign of getting close to slumber. I had no ticking bedside alarm clock to...

Marshes, Mosquitoes, and Sea Level Rise

Marshes, Mosquitoes, and Sea Level Rise

October 2, 2018

In the 1930s, the Cape Cod Mosquito Control Project dug approximately 1,500 miles of ditches across marshes on the Cape to drain their water and reduce the number of ponds where mosquitoes can breed. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution biogeochemist Amanda...

The Unseen World on Coral Reefs

The Unseen World on Coral Reefs

September 18, 2018

The waters around a coral reef are brimming with life. Not just with the bounty of fish, sea urchins, and anemones we see when we snorkel, but with innumerable unseen microbes in the waters surrounding them—a microbiome that is inextricably...

A Change Has Come in the Arctic

A Change Has Come in the Arctic

June 18, 2018

I was about fifteen minutes into my nap when I heard the announcement: “Polar bear. Port beam. One hundred yards. Huge.” I paused to consider: Would this be worth losing some of the only precious moments of sleep I could...

The Discovery of Hydrothermal Vents

The Discovery of Hydrothermal Vents

June 11, 2018

“Wait a minute. What is that?” It was February 1977, and Robert Ballard, a marine geologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), sat aboard the research vessel Knorr 400 miles off the South American coast, staring at photos before him....

A Long Trail of Clues Leads to a Surprise About Oil Spills

A Long Trail of Clues Leads to a Surprise About Oil Spills

April 25, 2018

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was unquestionably a tragic disaster. But many scientists found silver linings—a way to extract some good from a bad situation. This unprecedented oil spill provided a unique opportunity to...

Reassessing Guidelines for Oil Spill Cleanups

Reassessing Guidelines for Oil Spill Cleanups

April 25, 2018

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) disaster released more oil into the Gulf of Mexico than any other spill in United States history. When oil spills happen, one of the first things responders do is refer to their guidance documents about...