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Research Highlights

News & Insights

Secrets in the Dust

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 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.

Kalina Grabb studies some of the ocean’s most reactive chemicals

February 6, 2020

A marine geochemist discusses her passion for coral reefs, how volatile compounds in the ocean affect their health, and a new type of sensor that is shedding light on these interactions.

News Releases

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,...

New Study Explains Mysterious Source of Greenhouse Gas Methane in the Ocean

New Study Explains Mysterious Source of Greenhouse Gas Methane in the Ocean

November 17, 2016

For decades, marine chemists have faced an elusive paradox. The surface waters of the world’s oceans are supersaturated with the greenhouse gas methane, yet most species of microbes that can generate the gas can’t survive in oxygen-rich surface waters. So...

Mak Satio

WHOI Scientist Receives Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Award

November 10, 2016

The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation selected Mak Saito, a biogeochemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), as one of eight awardees of a 2016 Postdoctoral Program in Environmental Chemistry grant. The program provides leading U.S. faculty in the environmental...

Fukushima Site Still Leaking After Five Years, Research Shows

Fukushima Site Still Leaking After Five Years, Research Shows

March 7, 2016

Five years after the Fukushima nuclear accident, there is still no U.S. federal agency responsible for studies of radioactive contaminants in the ocean. But scientific data about the levels of radioactivity in the ocean off our shores are available publicly...

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...