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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

The Black Sea is a Goldmine of Ancient Genetic Data

May 6, 2013

When Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) marine paleoecologist Marco Coolen was mining through vast amounts of genetic data from the Black Sea sediment record, he was amazed about the variety of past plankton species that left behind their genetic makeup...

Scientists Reveal Quirky Feature of Lyme Disease Bacteria

March 21, 2013

Scientists have confirmed that the pathogen that causes Lyme Disease—unlike any other known organism—can exist without iron, a metal that all other life needs to make proteins and enzymes. Instead of iron, the bacteria substitute manganese to make an essential...

Glaciers Contribute Significant Iron to North Atlantic Ocean

March 10, 2013

All living organisms rely on iron as an essential nutrient. In the ocean, iron’s abundance or scarcity means all the difference as it fuels the growth of plankton, the base of the ocean’s food web. A new study by biogeochemists...

Fishing for Answers off Fukushima

October 25, 2012

Japan’s “triple disaster,” as it has become known, began on March 11, 2011, and remains unprecedented in its scope and complexity. To understand the lingering effects and potential public health implications of that chain of events, scientists are turning to...

Human Impact Felt on Black Sea Long Before Industrial Era

September 4, 2012

When WHOI geologist Liviu Giosan first reconstructed the history of how the Danube River built its delta, he was presented with a puzzle. In the delta’s early stages of development, the river deposited its sediment within a protected bay. As...

A ‘B-12 Shot’ for Marine Algae?

May 31, 2012

Scientists have revealed a key cog in the biochemical machinery that allows marine algae at the base of the oceanic food chain to thrive. They have discovered a previously unknown protein in algae that grabs an essential but scarce nutrient...

WHOI Scientists Map and Confirm Origin of Large, Underwater Hydrocarbon Plume in Gulf

August 19, 2010

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) detected and characterized a plume of hydrocarbons that is at least 22 miles long and more than 3,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, a residue of the BP...

WHOI scientists find ancient asphalt domes off California coast

April 25, 2010

They paved paradise and, it turns out, actually did put up a parking lot. A big one. Some 700 feet deep in the waters off California’s jewel of a coastal resort, Santa Barbara, sits a group of football-field-sized asphalt domes...

Extinction of Neanderthals Was Not a Climate Disaster Scenario

September 26, 2007

For the past few decades, scientists have offered several competing theories for what led to the extinction of the Neanderthals, with much of the debate focusing on the relative roles of climate change versus conflict with modern humans. Now one...

Acid Rain Has a Disproportionate Impact on Coastal Waters

September 7, 2007

The release of sulfur and nitrogen into the atmosphere by power plants and agricultural activities plays a minor role in making the ocean more acidic on a global scale, but the impact is greatly amplified in the shallower waters of...

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...