The 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) spill in the Gulf of Mexico was the largest accidental release of oil into the ocean, with approximately 210 million gallons gushing from the blown out well. In an attempt to prevent vast quantities of oil from fouling beaches and marshes, BP applied 1.84 million gallons of chemical dispersant to oil to oil released in the subsurface and to oil slicks at the sea surface. The dispersant was thought to rapidly degrade in the environment. (more…)
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Thought to dwell mostly near the ocean’s surface, Chilean devil rays (Mobula tarapacana) are most often seen gliding through shallow, warm waters. But a new study by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and international colleagues reveals that these large and majestic creatures are actually among the deepest-diving ocean animals. (more…)
The Greenland Ice Sheet is a 1.7 million-square-kilometer, 2-mile thick layer of ice that covers Greenland. Its fate is inextricably linked to our global climate system.
In the last 40 years, ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet increased four-fold contributing to one-quarter of global sea level rise. Some of the increased melting at the surface of the ice sheet is due to a warmer atmosphere, but the ocean’s role in driving ice loss largely remains a mystery. (more…)
The Antarctic Peninsula, the northern most region of Antarctica, is experiencing some of the most dramatic changes due to climate warming, including population declines of some penguin species.
This is not the first time that region has felt the effects of climate warming. How did penguins respond to the melting of snow and ice cover 11,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age? (more…)
New study up-ends conventional wisdom
Phytoplankton—tiny, photosynthetic organisms—are essential to life on Earth, supplying us with roughly half the oxygen we breathe. Like all other life forms, phytoplankton require the element phosphorus to carry out critical cellular activity, but in some parts of the world’s ocean, P is in limited supply. How do phytoplankton survive when phosphorus is difficult to find? (more…)
Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) are kicking off an innovative NOAA-funded pilot program using robotic instruments and computer modeling analysis to shed light on changing ocean conditions in the Gulf of Maine as they relate to the harmful algal bloom (HAB) phenomenon commonly known as the New England red tide.
The red tide is caused by the germination of dormant cysts of alga called Alexandrium fundyense, which produces a toxin that can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). These cysts are found in bottom sediments and near-bottom waters, accumulating in “seedbeds” that serve as the source of swimming, rapidly dividing cells that form the blooms each spring. (more…)
Results Could Aid Future Efforts to Monitor Health
Bacteria are invisible to the naked eye, but they reside on nearly every surface humans encounter—including the skin. Uncovering the role these microorganisms play in human health is a major focus of research in skin microbiology, but little is known about the identity or function of skin bacteria in other mammals.
In a paper published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and colleagues identified a core skin bacterial community that humpback whales share across populations, which could point to a way to assess the overall health of these endangered marine mammals. (more…)
As part of on-going research nearly four years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will team up with a group of high school students in Florida to collect remnants of oil from Gulf Coast beaches this week.
Marine chemist Chris Reddy studies how the many compounds that compose petroleum hydrocarbon, or oil, behave and change over time after an oil spill. He and his researchers have collected and analyzed about 1,000 oil samples from the Gulf Coast since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (more…)