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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

Dust Busters for the Oceans

Dust Busters for the Oceans

March 8, 2006

Like most living things, microscopic marine plants need iron and other minerals to live and grow. On land, soil provides a ubiquitous source of minerals, but how do essential nutrients get into vast watery stretches of the open ocean? The...

Graduate Student Discovers an Unusual New Species

Graduate Student Discovers an Unusual New Species

February 10, 2006

Sheri Simmons gets into the rugged wilderness as often as she can, backpacking in Newfoundland, the Sierras, the Adirondacks, and Alaska—where she once encountered a grizzly bear on a trail. She skis every chance she gets, on notoriously rough slopes...

Earth Can't Soak Up Excess Fossil Fuel Emissions Indefinitely

Earth Can’t Soak Up Excess Fossil Fuel Emissions Indefinitely

October 5, 2005

Earth’s land and oceans have been soaking up the excess carbon dioxide that humans have pumped into the atmosphere through smokestacks and tailpipes. But there are limits. A new-generation computer model indicates that the capacity of land and ocean to...

The Deeps of Time in the Depths of the Ocean

The Deeps of Time in the Depths of the Ocean

March 8, 2005

At the helm of the British ship Endeavor, James Cook departed England in 1768. He rounded Cape Horn in January 1769, entering the vast, unexplored Pacific and Southern Oceans and opening up an entirely new vista on the world. Cook...

Mistaken Identity

Mistaken Identity

February 10, 2005

Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have found that two chemicals accumulating in the tissues of marine animals and suspected to be manmade pollutants actually came from natural sources. Brominated organic chemicals are used as flame retardants for electronics,...

Water Flowing Underground

Water Flowing Underground

December 10, 2004

Up in the cliffs, Nickerson had noticed the…display of ‘extraordinary spirit and activity’ and soon became part of a general rush for the beach. The men had, in fact, found a spring bubbling up from a hole in a large...

Oil in Our Coastal Back Yard

Oil in Our Coastal Back Yard

October 13, 2004

On September 16, 1969, the barge Florida ran aground off Cape Cod, rupturing its hull and spilling 189,000 gallons of No. 2 fuel oil. Winds and waves pushed the oil onto the beaches and marshes of West Falmouth, Massachusetts, carrying...

Living Large in Microscopic Nooks

Living Large in Microscopic Nooks

August 24, 2004

Between a rock and a hard place is the proverbial worst spot for people to find themselves in. But for certain deep-sea microbes, it’s the place to be. In 2000, to our surprise, we found that microscopic nooks and pits...

Mixing Oil and Water

Mixing Oil and Water

June 23, 2004

Drop by drop—that is how most oil enters the oceans. Catastrophic spills make the headlines, but it is the chronic dribble, dribble, dribble of seemingly small inputs that supplies most of the oil polluting the world’s oceans. In recent decades...

The Remarkable Diversity of Seafloor Vents

The Remarkable Diversity of Seafloor Vents

February 13, 2004

In late summer of 1984, I anxiously awaited my first trip to the seafloor in the submersible Alvin. There was a delay in launching the sub, but I resisted the urge to have a drink, anticipating one final trip to...