What is Oceans at MIT?

Tackling Research Vital to the Future of the Planet

We are a group of researchers dedicated to understanding, protecting, and harnessing the world’s least explored and most vital frontier—the ocean. We represent diverse fields, departments, and perspectives, but through interdisciplinary research and education programs, we are making important progress in understanding the roles that the oceans play in supporting life on Earth. Oceans at MIT is part of the MIT Global Environmental Initiative, which is developing sustainable solutions for the planet’s growing population.

Exploring Earth’s Most Important Frontier—the Ocean

The oceans cover 71 percent of the world’s surface and constitute 99 percent of the planet’s livable habitat. In fact, the Earth’s oceans are the largest space inhabited by living organisms in the known universe. Moreover, much of humanity lives on or near the coast, so our activities directly affect and are affected by the ocean.

The very well-being, prosperity, and sustainability of the human condition rely on the functioning of Earth’s oceans and life within it. But the impacts of pollution, overfishing, and climate change on the oceans pose significant physical, ecological, social, and economic challenges for humanity.

Just as important, we have yet to tap the oceans’ full potential as a resource. The oceans are vast storehouses of food, energy, and drinkable water, and we must learn how to exploit those resources sustainably.

Finding Answers by Crossing Boundaries

Researchers in fields from robotics to acoustics, marine ecology to environmental engineering, and economics to public policy are now looking to the oceans for answers to many of the world’s most compelling challenges. Oceans at MIT is a robust interdisciplinary initiative integrating the strengths of departments, centers, and laboratories across MIT and at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), an essential partner in the work ahead.