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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.


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

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...

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...

Oceanus Magazine

Radioactivity Under the Beach?

Radioactivity Under the Beach?

February 1, 2017

Scientists have found a previously unsuspected place where radioactive material from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster has accumulated—in sands and brackish groundwater beneath beaches up to 60 miles away. The sands took up and retained radioactive cesium originating...

Scientists and Navy Join Forces

Scientists and Navy Join Forces

January 18, 2017

An intriguing email landed in Chris Reddy’s inbox last February. It was the electronic equivalent of a cold call from a Lt. Cmdr. Jason Ziebold of the U.S. Navy, soliciting Reddy’s help. Reddy, a marine chemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic...

What Happened to Deepwater Horizon Oil?

What Happened to Deepwater Horizon Oil?

December 23, 2016

Six years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, we are continually asked two questions. What happened to the 160 million gallons of oil that gushed for 87 days into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010? Was discharging 1.67 million gallons...

New Device Reveals What Ocean Microbes Do

New Device Reveals What Ocean Microbes Do

December 13, 2016

Whether you’re a plant, animal, or even a microbe, you generally can’t conduct the business of living without exchanging oxygen. So just as you can figure out what’s going on in a financial system by following the money, scientists can...

Coral Coring

Coral Coring

June 1, 2016

Off a small island in the Chagos archipelago in the Indian Ocean, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) biogeochemists Konrad Hughen and Colleen Hansel use a special underwater drill to take a core sample from a boulder coral (Porites lobata) during...

As Bay Warms, Harmful Algae Bloom

As Bay Warms, Harmful Algae Bloom

June 1, 2016

Warming coastal waters off southern Massachusetts are worsening the effects of pollution from septic systems, wastewater treatment plants, and fertilizer runoff—­and causing a rise in harmful algal blooms. Researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Marine Biological Laboratory...

A Faster Way to Better Reactions

A Faster Way to Better Reactions

May 13, 2016

When we tell people that we are chemists, they occasionally crinkle their noses in a subtle but unmistakable expression of pain. Often this is followed by a retelling of the time they almost caused a fire or explosion when attempting...

Two Chemical Roads Diverge in an Open Ocean

March 4, 2016

See Also Minerals Made by Microbes Some geology naturally requires biology

Minerals Made by Microbes

Minerals Made by Microbes

March 4, 2016

My story unfolds in two locales. The first on the brightly lit fantail of a ship at sea in the impenetrable darkness of the ocean at night. The second in a dimly lit cubicle amid an incomprehensible tangle of instruments...

A Mighty Mysterious Molecule

A Mighty Mysterious Molecule

February 18, 2016

Breathe deeply when you are near the ocean and you’ll pick up the scent of the sea. That vaguely rotten aroma, accented by salt, comes from a molecule called dimethylsulfide, or DMS. But that scent offers only a hint of...