Making Democracy Work


Woods Hole is home to several prestigious scientific institutions

In 1871, Spencer Fullerton Baird established the U.S. Fish Commission laboratory in the village of Woods Hole because of its excellent harbor and the clean waters offshore where strong tidal currents provided abundant fisheries. Today, Woods Hole is home to several prestigious scientific institutions which attract students and investigators from around the world. The year-round scientific community is host to hundreds of additional investigators and students during the summer. The public is welcome to attend lectures and seminars.

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL)

is a private, non-profit international center for research, education and training in biology, biomedicine and environmental science. In 2003, Brown University and the MBL began a partnership to offer doctorate programs. Each summer scientists and advanced students from around the world come to study marine organisms because they are good models for basic biological processes. Scientists at the Ecosystems Center study terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, resource management and global climate change. The laboratory's educational program plays a major role in training the nation's experimental biologists. The other Woods Hole research institutions share in the rich resources of a world-renowned library on the MBL campus.

MBL Associates welcomes for membership anyone interested in the laboratory's work. They inform the public about the MBL, sponsor educational and cultural programs, and raise funds for special projects. There is a Visitors Center on Water Street in Woods Hole. The MBL website is

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS),

successor to the U.S. Fish Commission, conducts research on the nation's marine resources at the Woods Hole laboratory and coordinates the research of six other laboratories in the Northeast. Scientists study the forces affecting marine life in the Northwest Atlantic in an effort to maintain productive fisheries. Woods Hole is the home port for the R.V. Bigelow, the research ship of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NMFS runs an aquarium on Albatross Street that focuses on regional fish and crustacea and includes hands-on tanks for children.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)

studies all aspects of the sea in all the world's oceans and operates three large research vessels (R.V. Oceanus, R.V. Knorr, and R.V. Atlantis), as well as the human-occupied deep-diving research submersible Alvin and a variety of autonomous remotely operated underwater vehicles. WHOI has three large laboratories and elaborate dock and shop facilities in Woods Hole village. Other research buildings are on the Quissett campus one and a half miles north on Woods Hole Road. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers graduate degree programs with WHOI. WHOI is a private, nonprofit organization supported by a mix of grants from federal agencies including the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, private contributions, and endowment income.

WHOI has an Associates membership program and welcomes anyone interested in their work. There is an information office on Water Street, and a visitor center on School Street open to the public April to December (hours vary). The WHOI website is

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

established a field office in Woods Hole in the early 1960s in order to initiate cooperative marine studies with WHOI. In 1974 the Woods Hole office became headquarters for the present USGS Branch of Atlantic Marine Geology, which has two buildings of its own on the WHOI Quissett Campus and a Marine Operations Facility in Falmouth. The primary goal of the USGS Branch is to develop a systematic understanding of the marine geology of the offshore areas of the U.S. Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean coasts. USGS scientific programs focus on the earth's crustal structure beneath the continental margins, the bottom and shallow sub-bottom geology of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, and the geology and processes along coastal areas. These programs improve our understanding of national energy and mineral resources, and help us to evaluate environmental conditions that may affect or be affected by the development of these resources.

The Woods Hole Research Center

was founded in 1985 to combat grave threats to the environment through scientific research and education and through applications of science in public policy. Climate change and the warming of the earth are at the core of its research. The Center's policy program works in the international arena to foster agreement on ways to safeguard the health of the planet. The treaty on climate change, now ratified by nearly every nation except the U.S.A., was drafted by Center staff.

The Center's headquarters building is located two miles north of Woods Hole village, near the Sea Education Association campus. Completed in 2003, the Gilman Ordway Campus represents pioneering efforts to conserve energy and water through a combination of wind and solar power and a heat exchange system. It offers a public demonstration of sustainable design and construction methods. The website is

The Woods Hole Science, Technology and Education Partnership (WHSTEP)

is a joint effort by the scientific institutions and public school districts to promote scientific literacy and opportunities in science and technology education for all Falmouth students.

The National Academy of Sciences maintains a summer presence at headquarters it shares with the MBL overlooking Quissett Harbor, where national and international experts convene to participate in study conferences organized by the Academy.