News | December 5, 2010

The Future of the Oceans

This day long workshop, subtitled “Building a New Agenda for Ocean Research and Education” took place on December 2, 2010,  at the McGovern Auditorium of the Whitehead Institute in Kendall Square.

The goal was to spark discussions, explore synergies, and identify a
new agenda for a coordinated research and education effort within the
broader context of the MIT initiative on global environment now being
designed by the Environmental Research Council (ERC).

Immediately following the workshop, all panel members and speakers were
invited to participate in drafting a concept paper to summarize the
conclusions of the conference. and set the research and educational agenda for a new collaborative “hub” on ocean science and engineering.

The critical role that the oceans play in climate and the overall
health of the planet is undeniable. Recent events in the Gulf of
Mexico amply demonstrate the pressing need to better monitor and
actively protect the oceans, as more and more activities take place
across the entire water column. Many MIT faculty and WHOI staff
conduct ocean research, which can contribute greatly to safer, wiser
more sustainable use of the oceans. It was considered timely to bring these
efforts together within the framework of the ERC, anticipating that
the cumulative impact will greatly exceed that of individual efforts.

The workshop was organized around the following three major themes,
each with its own session designed and facilitated by a four-member

  • Oceans, Climate and Environment
  • Life in the Oceans, and
  • Ocean Resource and Energy Use

These themes are representative of the breadth of current research at
MIT and WHOI, and provide a framework within which to address the many
critical issues facing our oceans today. Each session consisted of
several key topical presentations arranged by the session panelists,
followed by discussions. The purpose of each presentation was to
provide a synopsis of the latest advances in each particular topic.
The afternoon discussion forum provided an opportunity for all
participants to provide input, with the goal of defining what MIT and
WHOI can do to enhance the safe use and sustainable health of our

Oceans, Climate and Environment
Organized by Carl Wunsch, Pierre Lermusiaux, John Marshall and Henrik Schmidt

  • Ocean-Climate/Paleoclimate — Bill Curry
  • The Ocean Carbon Cycle, Ecology, and Acidification?Scott Doney
  • Ocean, Ice, and Sea-level — Patrick Heimbach, Carl Wunsch
  • Coastal Oceans — Ken Brink

Life in the Oceans
Organized by Penny Chisholm, John Leonard, Nick Makris and Janelle Thompson

  • Ocean microbial genomics — Ed DeLong
  • Phytoplankton — Heidi Sosik
  • Microbe engineering — Anthony Sinskey
  • Corals — Janelle Thompson
  • Acoustic sensing of fish populations — Nick Makris
  • Marine mammals, Pelagic fishes — Peter Tyack, Molly Lutcavage

Ocean Resources and Energy Use
Organized by Michael Triantafyllou,Rich Camilli, Alex Slocum and Kripa Varanasi

  • Field surveillance and subsea completion — Rich Camilli
  • Flow assurance for oil and gas production — Kripa Varanasi
  • Upcoming technologies for ships — Ahmed Ghoniem, Michael Triantafyllou
  • Renewable energy — Alex Slocum
  • Freak waves and environmental forcing — Dick Yue
Story by Helen Hill, PAOC