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Research Highlights

News & Insights

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.


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.

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

First Detailed Oil Sample Analysis Completed from Mauritius Oil Spill

October 29, 2020

When the Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio struck a coral reef off the coast of Mauritius on July 25, 2020, and began leaking fuel oil two weeks later, local residents and the international community sprang into action to protect the pristine habitats...

New multi-institutional grant will support a fleet of robotic floats

October 29, 2020

On October 29, 2020, the National Science Foundation approved a $53 million grant to a consortium of the country’s top ocean-research institutions to build a global network of chemical and biological sensors that will monitor ocean health. Scientists at the...

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...

Oceanus Magazine

Will Ocean Iron Fertilization Work?

Will Ocean Iron Fertilization Work?

January 7, 2008

In this age of satellites, it’s fairly easy to answer the basic question of whether adding iron to the ocean can stimulate a plankton bloom. When storms over land blow iron-rich dust into the sea, satellite images show marbled swaths...

Fertilizing the Ocean with Iron

Fertilizing the Ocean with Iron

November 13, 2007

“Give me half a tanker of iron, and I’ll give you an ice age” may rank as the catchiest line ever uttered by a biogeochemist. The man responsible was the late John Martin, former director of the Moss Landing Marine...

Growing Marine Plants Need Their Vitamins

Growing Marine Plants Need Their Vitamins

June 7, 2007

Your mother was right: You need your vitamins. And that turns out to be true for life in the oceans, too. B12—an essential vitamin for land-dwelling animals, including humans—also plays a vital and previously overlooked role in determining how microscopic...

Still Toxic After All These Years

Still Toxic After All These Years

April 23, 2007

This is a story about persistence—of oil, and of people. It began in 1969 when the barge Florida ran aground off Cape Cod, spilling 189,000 gallons of fuel. But it began for me in 2000, when Aubrey Hounshell kept calling...

Cell-sized Thermometers

Cell-sized Thermometers

April 5, 2007

Climate shifts are a repeating feature in Earth’s history, but humans have added so much greenhouse gas (especially carbon dioxide) to the atmosphere that climate is warming in our lifetimes. We know that past climate changes have concurred with changes...

Follow the Carbon Trail

Follow the Carbon Trail

March 2, 2007

Carbon makes the world go around. It is the building block of life on Earth, and in the form of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere, it has a powerful impact on the planet’s climate. In the process, carbon also...

How Long Can the Ocean Slow Global Warming?

How Long Can the Ocean Slow Global Warming?

November 29, 2006

It is 4:30 a.m., far from land. A group of scientists clad in bright yellow foul-weather gear gathers in the open bay of a research ship. They wait in the chill air while the ship’s crew brings their instrument back...

The Coral-Climate Connection

The Coral-Climate Connection

October 20, 2006

Are the climate changes we perceive today just part of the Earth system’s natural variability, or are they new phenomena brought about by human activities? One way to find out is to look back at the past to get a...

A Journey to the Ocean's Twilight Zone

A Journey to the Ocean’s Twilight Zone

August 16, 2006

You are about to enter another dimension. You’re moving into a place of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas; a journey into a wondrous part of the ocean, whose boundaries are 300 to 1,600 feet (100 to 500...

Swimming in the Rain

Swimming in the Rain

August 16, 2006

Twilight zones, witch hunts, and crossbows usually don’t find their way into tales about new oceanographic instruments. This story isn’t typical, but it does start in the usual way, with oceanographers striving to coax secrets out of inscrutable oceans. In...