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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.

per

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

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...

Specks in the Spectrometer

Specks in the Spectrometer

December 15, 2015

There’s a symphony playing in the Plasma Mass Spectometry Facility at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Tired but attentive, oceanographers attune their ears to the subtle hiss of inert gases moving through the plumbing, the percussive beat of printers churning...

Earth's Riverine Bloodstream

Earth’s Riverine Bloodstream

November 23, 2015

Each day from July to October, monsoon rains bring the equivalent of 35,000 dump truck loads of dirt racing down the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers—50 metric tons per second—and deliver it to the Bay of Bengal off the coast of...

Tracking a Trail of Carbon

Tracking a Trail of Carbon

October 6, 2015

Lake Titicaca in the Andes Mountains of South America is a great site for reconstructing all sorts of history. Around the lakeshores, archaeologists have uncovered the rise and fall of the Tiwanaku civilization, which arose in the third century A.D....

Short-circuiting the Biological Pump

Short-circuiting the Biological Pump

August 24, 2015

The ocean has been sucking up the heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) building up in our atmosphere—with a little help from tiny plankton. Like plants on land, these plankton convert CO2 into organic carbon via photosynthesis. But unlike land plants, decomposing...

New Use for Well-known Algae

New Use for Well-known Algae

January 28, 2015

Shock! Horror! Some treasured  molecular paleoenvironmental tools of organic biogeochemists—namely the alkenones, an esoteric group of long-chained compounds made by aquatic microalgae—are  being put forward  by O’Neil et al.1 as candidates for conversion to jet fuel on an industrial scale!...

Jet Fuel from Algae?

Jet Fuel from Algae?

January 28, 2015

We believe we have found a recipe that could open a new door to producing jet fuel from ocean algae. We are not claiming some Rumplestiltskinesque hay-into-gold finding—but rather a first step worth exploring. We took a closer look at...

Big Questions About Tiny Bacteria

Big Questions About Tiny Bacteria

November 3, 2014

It’s 3 a.m., and Jesse McNichol is struggling to stay awake. Since midafternoon, he’s been in his lab, tending to a jumble of glassware, plastic tubing, and metal cylinders filled with microbes. He sighs, rubs his bloodshot eyes, and heads...

Where Did Deepwater Horizon Oil Go?

Where Did Deepwater Horizon Oil Go?

October 27, 2014

As chemists studying the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we get this question all the time from family, friends, colleagues, policymakers, and the general public: What happened to the 200 million gallons of crude oil that were released into the Gulf of...

Proteomics Reveals Ocean's Inner Workings

Proteomics Reveals Ocean’s Inner Workings

September 4, 2014

For decades, doctors have sought methods to diagnose how different types of cells and systems in the body are functioning. Now scientists have adapted an emerging biomedical technique to study the vast body of the ocean. In a study published...