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Graduate Research Opportunities

We encourage prospective students to contact faculty who have research areas of interest. When contacting them, please state your research interests and include your CV and an unofficial transcript.

A few examples of research opportunities are listed here:

Applied Ocean Science and Engineering

Drs. Gordon Zhang and Andone Lavery are seeking a doctoral student to join an interdisciplinary group of scientists funded to study submesoscale physical and biophysical processes at the Mid-Atlantic Bight shelf break region and to investigate their influence on the underwater acoustic propagation. The student will be involved in i) two field experiments in the shelf break region to integrating high-resolution ship-board sonar and physical oceanographic data to determine sound speed structure and assess impact of environmental variability on acoustic propagation, and ii) model simulations of the environmental variability to jointly analyze model and field data to understand the generation mechanism of the variability and its acoustic and biological influences. The student maybe come in through either AOSE or PO.

Biological Oceanography

Dr. Michelle Shero is seeking a doctoral student to work on an NSF-funded project using Weddell seals in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica as a model to examine why some individuals within populations produce more offspring than others. The successful candidate will be part of a highly-collaborative team that aims to distinguish which traits make some ‘robust’ female Weddell seals particularly successful at producing pups year-after-year, while other ‘frail’ females produce far fewer pups throughout their lifetime than the population’s average. The student will focus on the physiological factors that impact energy dynamics, aerobic capacity, and reproductive success in Weddell seals so experience with biochemistry/molecular labwork is a plus. Example projects include studying female-to-pup energy transfer during lactation in ‘robust’ vs ‘frail’ female Weddell seals, links between female physiologic dive capacities and her pup’s, and differences in female reproductive phenology (ovulation timing, pregnancy rates, pregnancy loss) and hormones between ‘robust’ and ‘frail’ seals. The successful applicants will conduct extensive fieldwork at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, each year. See www.shero-lab.com.

Chemical Oceanography

Dr. David Nicholson is seeking a doctoral student to study the role of the ocean in carbon uptake and sequestration via the solubility and biological carbon pumps. In particular, an NSF-funded project at the Irminger Sea Ocean Observatories Initiative is applying sensor-based observations from underwater gliders and moorings to observe biogeochemical dynamics through the entire annual cycle in the subpolar North Atlantic. Further opportunities may be available on the NASA EXPORTS project or working with Biogeochemical Argo floats.  An interest in global biogeochemical cycles and strong quantitative/data analysis skills are desired. Some programming experience in Python or Matlab is a plus. More information on projects can be found at boomlab.whoi.edu.

Dr. Adam Subhas is seeking a new doctoral student to join his group studying calcium carbonate cycling in the context of paleoceanography and modern chemical oceanography.  The project focuses on reconstructing the calcium carbonate cycle by making CaCO3 measurements on sediment core samples from the Atlantic and Pacific ocean basins.  In particular, the study aims to understand how foraminifera and coccolithophores, the two main calcifiers in the ocean, have contributed to calcium carbonate fluxes and the cycling of alkalinity in the ocean over the last 800,000 years.  The student will utilize techniques such as Off-Axis Integrated Cavity Output Spectroscopy (OA-ICOS) to determine carbon-12 and carbon-13 abundances in CaCO3, trace metal measurements using ICP-MS, and conduct earth system modeling to develop a systems-level framework of CaCO3 production, dissolution, and burial.  The student can join the group either through CO or MG&G.

Marine Geology and Geophysics

Dr. Forrest Horton is seeking a doctoral student for an NSF-funded project to study the geochemistry of lavas from Baffin Island, arctic Canada. These samples contain the isotopically lightest helium of any terrestrial igneous rocks, indicating that they perhaps material from the deepest and most primordial regions of Earth's mantle. The goals of the project are to (1) better characterize this deep mantle component using an array of isotopic systems, (2) improve our understanding of helium behavior in magmatic environments, and (3) evaluate the temporal evolution of mantle plumes. The student will have the opportunity to conduct fieldwork, learn a wide variety analytical techniques (noble gas mass spectrometry, laser ablation ICP-MS, and SIMS), and/or conduct high-temperature diffusion experiments.

Dr. Adam Subhas is seeking a new doctoral student to join his group studying calcium carbonate cycling in the context of paleoceanography and modern chemical oceanography.  The project focuses on reconstructing the calcium carbonate cycle by making CaCO3 measurements on sediment core samples from the Atlantic and Pacific ocean basins.  In particular, the study aims to understand how foraminifera and coccolithophores, the two main calcifiers in the ocean, have contributed to calcium carbonate fluxes and the cycling of alkalinity in the ocean over the last 800,000 years.  The student will utilize techniques such as Off-Axis Integrated Cavity Output Spectroscopy (OA-ICOS) to determine carbon-12 and carbon-13 abundances in CaCO3, trace metal measurements using ICP-MS, and conduct earth system modeling to develop a systems-level framework of CaCO3 production, dissolution, and burial.  The student can join the group either through CO or MG&G.

Dr. J. Pablo Canales is seeking a doctoral student interested in conducting research on subduction zone processes and structures, in particular seismic imaging of megathrusts and determining the structure and physical properties of incoming and downgoing plates, and/or accretionary prisms. The student will have the opportunity to learn one or more imaging and modeling techniques, including seismic reflection imaging, traveltime tomography of P- and S-wave velocity structure from controlled and/or natural sources, and elastic full waveform inversion, and to participate in research cruise(s) using multichannel seismic methods and ocean bottom seismic instrumentation.

Dr. Jeff Donnelly is seeking a doctoral student to join his group to reconstruct intense storms across the Pacific, from the tropics to the Bering Sea, over the last millennium or more. The goal of the work is to determine if statistically meaningful changes in the frequency of intense storms has occurred, and if so, diagnose the potential climatic forcing responsible. In addition to using sedimentological analyses of sediment cores from deep coastal basins, the project will include analysis of climate model output.

Physical Oceanography

Drs. Gordon Zhang and Andone Lavery are seeking a doctoral student to join an interdisciplinary group of scientists  funded to study submesoscale physical and biophysical processes at the Mid-Atlantic Bight shelf break region and to investigate their influence on the underwater acoustic propagation. The student will be involved in i) two field experiments in the shelf break region to integrating high-resolution ship-board sonar and physical oceanographic data to determine sound speed structure and assess impact of environmental variability on acoustic propagation, and ii) model simulations of the environmental variability to jointly analyze model and field data to understand the generation mechanism of the variability and its acoustic and biological influences. The student maybe come in through either AOSE or PO.

Dr. Amala Mahadevan is seeking new doctoral students to join her interdisciplinary research group in Physical Oceanography.  Funded topics of study range from (i) Dynamics of fronts and eddies at ‘submeso’ scales; (ii) Physical underpinnings of ocean ecology, phytoplankton production and respiration, export of organic carbon, air-sea exchange of CO2, and the carbon cycle; (iii) Role of the oceans in the Monsoons and rainfall variability; (iv) Boundary layer processes. The group uses a combination of theory, modeling and observations. Students with interests in data analysis and computation, in making measurements at sea, and combining quantitative biological and physical analyses methods are welcome. Upcoming sea-going opportunities are in the Mediterranean Sea and California Current.

Dr. Jake Gebbie is seeking a doctoral student to collaborate on a NASA-funded project that combines physical oceanography, paleoceanography, and climate dynamics. The aim of the project is to answer whether global oceanic observations detect the remnants of the Little Ice Age in the modern ocean. Some subsurface ocean waters ocean were last in contact with the atmosphere several hundred years ago during the cold period known as the Little Ice Age, and are expected to exhibit a slow cooling trend in the deep Pacific Ocean. Multiple forms of information can inform this question, including the ECCO ocean reanalysis product that combines millions of in-situ and satellite observations. The project also provides the possibility of using paleoceanographic sediment core data, historical ship observations, and general circulation models. If the remnants of the Little Ice Age are confirmed, estimates of ocean heat uptake and transient climate sensitivity will have to be substantially revised. The successful applicant will have the opportunity to join both the Paleoceanography and Climate Physics groups at WHOI.