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Research Highlights

News & Insights

Wave Glider provides gateway to remote exploration

November 10, 2020

WHOI geochemist Chris German pairs an autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) called a Wave Glider with other vehicles to expand research here and on other Ocean Worlds

Mining ancient dust from the ocean’s loneliest spot

September 24, 2020

Researchers investigate dust from the ocean’s farthest point from land to reconstruct the climactic history of the Southern Hemisphere, and understand how micronutrients have influenced biological productivity in this oceanic desert.

Working from Home: Mallory Ringham

July 2, 2020

WHOI-MIT joint program student outfits her basement to do vital work on a marine carbon sensor

oil spill

A dangerous leak of diesel fuel in the Arctic

June 18, 2020
plastics by the numbers

The many lifetimes of plastics

June 15, 2020

Infographics strive to give us a sense of how long plastic goods will last in the environment. But is this information reliable? The findings of a new study from WHOI may surprise you.

toxins story

Are natural toxins in fish harmful?

May 28, 2020

Marine life has been naturally producing toxic chemicals well before chemical companies were manufacturing PCBs. But are these naturally-produced compounds as harmful as man-made environmental pollutants, and do those pose a human health threat?

Working from Home: Matt Long

May 7, 2020

A marine chemist spends his time at home tinkering on a high-tech buoy in the basement, proving that being homebound doesn’t mean you can’t think big.

Our Radioactive Ocean: Ken Buesseler

April 30, 2020

Ken Buesseler joins the hosts of Future Hindsight Podcast to talk about the safety of the Pacific Ocean, the natural occurrence of radioactivity in our environment, and a citizen scientist project for oceanic testing.

Why Sunlight Matters for Marine Oil Spills

April 30, 2020

A decade of research since the Deepwater Horizon disaster has revealed how sunlight—its importance long understated in oil spill science—substantially alters petroleum floating at the sea surface.

per

Finding medical answers in the ocean

March 19, 2020

The test being used to diagnose the novel coronavirus—and other pandemics like AIDS and SARS—was developed with the help of an enzyme isolated from a microbe found in marine hydrothermal vents as well as freshwater hot springs.

News Releases

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...

WHOI-engineered DISCO allows scientists to measure highly reactive superoxide on coral reefs

December 12, 2019

Researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) successfully conceived and tested a portable device, DISCO, that performed the first in situ measurements of a highly reactive type of oxygen, known as superoxide, which may play an integral role in the...

Laura Weber collects a syringe sample from seawater surrounding an Orbicella faveolata coral colony in Jardines de la Reina, Cuba.

New Study Finds Distinct Microbes Living Next to Corals

May 21, 2019

Symbiotic algae living inside corals provide those animals with their vibrant color, as well as many of the nutrients they need to survive. That algae, and other microbes within the bodies of corals, have been extensively studied—yet until now, researchers...

Biofilm in a natural seep in Costa Rica. Credit: Peter Barry.

Microbes May Act as Gatekeepers of Earth’s Deep Carbon

April 24, 2019

Two years ago an international team of scientists visited Costa Rica’s subduction zone, where the ocean floor sinks beneath the continent and volcanoes tower above the surface. They wanted to find out if microbes can affect the cycle of carbon...

Sunlight Reduces Effectiveness of Dispersants Used in Oil Spills

Sunlight Reduces Effectiveness of Dispersants Used in Oil Spills

April 25, 2018

Two new studies have shown that sunlight transforms oil on the ocean surface more significantly and quickly than previously thought. The phenomenon considerably limits the effectiveness of chemical dispersants, which are sprayed during oil spills to break up floating oil...

Radioactivity Lingers from 1946-1958 Nuclear Bomb Tests

Radioactivity Lingers from 1946-1958 Nuclear Bomb Tests

October 30, 2017

Scientists have found lingering radioactivity in the lagoons of remote Marshall Island atolls in the Pacific Ocean where the United States conducted 66 nuclear weapons tests in the 1940s and 1950s. Radioactivity levels  at Bikini and Enewetak Atolls were extensively...

Dispersants Improved Air Quality for Responders at Deepwater Horizon

Dispersants Improved Air Quality for Responders at Deepwater Horizon

August 28, 2017

A study published Aug. 28, 2017, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences adds a new dimension to the controversial decision to inject large amounts of chemical dispersants immediately above the crippled oil well at the seafloor during...

New Studies Take a Second Look at Coral Bleaching Culprit

New Studies Take a Second Look at Coral Bleaching Culprit

December 7, 2016

When it comes to coral health, superoxide—a natural toxin all oxygen-breathing organisms produce—gets a bad rap. Scientists have called superoxide out as the main culprit behind coral bleaching: The idea is that as this toxin builds up inside coral cells,...

Oceanus Magazine

Finding answers in the ocean

November 10, 2020

Finding answers in the ocean In times of uncertainty, the deep sea provides potential solutions By Elise Hugus | November 9, 2020 Deep-sea hydrothermal vents harbor diverse microbes whose enzymes can be used in diagnostic tests, like the ones to detect the novel...

Microplastics in the ocean

Microplastics research gets critical private funding

October 26, 2020

Microplastics research gets critical private funding By Hannah Piecuch | October 26, 2020 Confetti-sized bits of microplastic get swept through the ocean by fast-moving currents and shifting circulation patterns. (Photo by Shutterstock) Despite regular media coverage and international concern over...

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

Putting the ‘nuclear coffin’ in perspective

October 20, 2020

Putting the ‘nuclear coffin’ in perspective Marine chemist weighs in on leaking radioactive dome in the Pacific By Evan Lubofsky | August 13, 2019 WHOI geochemist Ken Buesseler discusses marine radioactivity monitoring in the Marshall Islands atop Runit Dome—a 350-foot-wide...

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...