Ecosystems Center Seminar Series

September 13, 2016 by Beth Colt

Speck Auditorium

Ecosystems Center Seminar Series – “Local and global patterns of daytime leaf-level carbon exchange” – Mary Heskel



Science made Public: Understanding the Secret life of Sharks

August 30, 2016 by Julia Pearl

Ocean Science Exhibit Center
15 School Street
Woods Hole, MA 02540

SCIENCE MADE PUBLIC – During July and August, WHOI’s Ocean Science Exhibit Center and Information Office at WHOI sponsor a series of public talks by WHOI scientists and engineers designed for a lay audience. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Understanding the Secret Lives of Sharks
Camrin Braun, Joint Program Student, Biology Department

All the information that scientists understand about the iconic great white
shark comprise only a few short sentences. We have no generalizable knowledge
about what they eat or their feeding behaviors, no knowledge of where they go
to mate or to breed, and absolutely no answers to “why” they do almost
anything. For all other shark species, we know even less. Learn how researchers
are using cutting-edge, satellite-based tags on sharks in our back yard on Cape
Cod to answer some of these basic questions about sharks.

Science Made Public: How to Sink a Boat

August 23, 2016 by Julia Pearl

Ocean Science Exhibit Center
15 School Street
Woods Hole, MA 02540

SCIENCE MADE PUBLIC – During July and August, WHOI’s Ocean Science Exhibit Center and Information Office at WHOI sponsor a series of public talks by WHOI scientists and engineers designed for a lay audience. Everyone is welcome to attend.

How to Sink a Boat: The Ocean Engineering BehindAlvinand Other Deep-sea Manned Vehicles
Bruce Strickrott, AlvinManager, Operational Scientific Services

Alvin and other
deep-sea manned submersibles are complex machines with high-tech systems. But
the principles of diving a deep-submergence vehicle are based on the
fundamentals of physics, hydrodynamics, and engineering. This presentation
includes a brief history of submarine systems (1600s through 1900s) and lessons
on the basic concepts that take Alvin
and other deep-sea manned vehicles safely to and from the seafloor.

August 19, 2016 by Julia Pearl

Lecture given by Carol W. Greider of Johns Hopkins University; Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2009) All lectures are free and open to the public


The MBL offers weekday tours late June through the end of August. Learn more about the Marine Biological Laboratory by visiting the newly renovated Pierce Exhibit Center at 100 Water Street in Woods Hole. New exhibits tell the story of the MBL and its impact on life sciences. Live animals, stunning underwater video footage, a hands-on microscope, and an interactive squid are all part of the visitor experience.We invite you to explore the Pierce Exhibit Center and learn more about the natural world around you. The Pierce Exhibit Center is designed for all ages. The Exhibit Center is open May – October.May: 11 AM-4 PM (Mon., Weds., Fri.); June: 11 AM-4 PM (Mon., Weds., Fri., Sat.); July-August: 10 AM-4:30 PM (Mon.-Sat.); September: 11 AM – 4 PM (Mon., Weds., Fri., Sat.); October: 11 AM – 3 PM (Mon., Weds., Fri. through Columbus Day). The Marine Biological Laboratory is an international center for research, education, and training in biology, biomedicine, and ecology.

Special Seminar – WHOI & Falmouth Stem Booster Sponsored

August 17, 2016 by Julia Pearl

Redfield Auditorium 45 Water Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543

“Functional Imaging of the Human Brain as a Window into the Mind” Nancy Kanwisher, MIT

Public lecture sponsored by the Falmouth STEM Boosters and the WHOI Information Office

Join Dr. Nancy Kanwisher, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT and Investigator at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, as she shares striking new understandings of the human brain. Some of these findings were presented in a recent New York Times article, “New Ways Into the Brain’s Music Room.”

Twenty-five years ago with the invention fMRI it became possible to image neural activity in the normal human brain.  Many regions have been shown to carry out highly specific mental functions, like the perception of faces, speech sounds, and music, and even very abstract mental functions like understanding a sentence or thinking about another person’s thoughts. Dr. Kanwisher will discuss some of the evidence for highly specialized brain regions, what  these findings imply and what they do not, and what is next. To see Kanwisher’s short talks on the brain, which require no scientific background, go to:

The event is free and open to the public. Students are welcome and encouraged! Donations made at the door will benefit the FalmouthSTEM Boosters, a local non-profit organization connecting Falmouth Public School teachers and students with science, technology, engineering and math resources and opportunities.  For more information on the lecture and the STEM Boosters, or the WHOI Information Office at 508-289-2252.

Science made Public

August 16, 2016 by Beth Colt

Tuesday, August 16, 2016 3:00 PM

Ocean Science Exhibit Center
15 School Street
Woods Hole, MA 02540

SCIENCE MADE PUBLIC – During July and August, WHOI’s Ocean Science Exhibit Center and Information Office at WHOI sponsor a series of public talks by WHOI scientists and engineers designed for a lay audience. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Living on the Edge: A Bio-physical Cruise on the R/VNeil Armstrong to the New England Continental Shelf Break
Gareth Lawson, Associate Scientist, Biology Department

At the edge of the continental shelf, the water depth drops off abruptly from a
few hundred feet to more than a mile deep. This is a highly dynamic area,
influenced by a variety of currents and processes, and is also home to a
multitude of marine organisms, from plankton to commercial fish to whales. Come
learn about a recent cruise on the research vesselNeil Armstrong to the New England shelf
break, where an interdisciplinary team of WHOI scientists and students deployed
a sophisticated suite of instruments and nets to understand how ocean physical
processes affects the marine ecosystem.

Science made Public: Breaking the Ice

August 9, 2016 by Beth Colt

Ocean Science Exhibit Center
15 School Street
Woods Hole, MA 02540

SCIENCE MADE PUBLIC – During July and August, WHOI’s Ocean Science Exhibit Center and Information Office at WHOI sponsor a series of public talks by WHOI scientists and engineers designed for a lay audience. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Breaking the Ice: Tracking the Effects of Climate Change in the Arctic

Lauren Kipp, Joint Program Student, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry Department
The Arctic is particularly susceptible to climate change, but little is known about how increased temperatures, diminishing sea ice, and the thawing of frozen land will affect the Arctic Ocean and its ecosystems. Last summer, researchers from all over the world traveled to the Arctic Ocean to measure ocean chemistry and gain a better understanding of this unique environment. Learn about how the Arctic is changing in response to a warming climate, how we can measure those changes, and what it’s like to conduct research at the top of the world.

Woods Hole Science Stroll

August 6, 2016 by Beth Colt

August 6, 2016 • 11am – 3pm

Water Street, Woods Hole

A FREE public event

  1. Woods Hole Science Aquarium

Marine animals, touch tanks, harbor seals in an outdoor pool.

  1. NOAA Dock

NOAA Fisheries
Displays related to research on whales, sea turtles and other protected marine species, fish, water chemistry and plankton, and tracking ocean currents. Learn how to identify whales; identify sea turtles; step inside a life-size (43-foot) inflatable humpback whale (weather permitting).

US Coast Guard (USCG)
Tour the USCG 45-foot response boat;* see a shipboard damage control demonstration and techniques to control flooding; watch a search and rescue demonstration with a USCG helicopter and rescue swimmer. Time of demonstration will be communicated on the day of event. *Availability of activities is subject to change based on USCG operations.

US Geological Survey
See the SeaBoss vehicle, which collects seabed images and sediment samples in coastal regions, and participate in interactive demonstrations of underwater video capabilities by the SeaBoss.

  1. Waterfront Park

Buzzards Bay Coalition
Learn all about the 10th annual Watershed Ride to help save Buzzards Bay. Get details, ask questions and sign-up for this fall tradition.

Sea Education Association/SEA Semester
From Plastics to Plankton! Conduct simple experiments to better understand plastic pollution in the ocean, a serious problem that affects birds, fish, and ocean mammals; use a microscope to get up-close and personal with the ocean’s wanderers: plankton!

US Geological Survey
Meet the authors of a new book on the Cape Cod National Seashore. Check out the interactive displays on shoreline change, 3-D sea-floor mapping, and predicting hurricanes. Try your hand at a demo about how scientists sample gas from the Earth.

Woods Hole Historical Museum
Check out reprints of historical photographs and publications about the long history of science in Woods Hole. Kids will enjoy a number of games including a “fishing game” with cod of various sizes in a bucket.

Woods Hole Research Center
Learn about Climate research conducted around the world by the Woods Hole Research Center. Measure the amount of CO2 absorbed by plants, using a CO2 Analyzer.

WCAI – the Cape, Coast, and Islands NPR Station
Play “Guess That Sound,” a children’s activity involving ocean life and ocean environment sounds. Meet the host of “Living Lab,” Heather Goldstone.

  1. Marine Biological Laboratory Pierce Visitor Center and Gift Shop

Colorful exhibits tell the story of the MBL and its impact on life sciences.

  1. Marine Biological Laboratory Marine Resources Center

Tour the facilities and see live animals in the touch tanks. Space is limited; sign up on-site.

  1. Zephyr Education Foundation

See the effects of sea level rise, storm surge waves, and tsunamis as you model coastal processes using “augmented reality sandboxes.” The activities are suitable for ages 9 and up. Younger children benefit from adult supervision.

  1. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Dock

NOAA Ship Bigelow
Reserve a space for your tour* of the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. Learn about the research conducted aboard the ship and see what it’s like to live onboard. *Reservations required. Visitors to the ship must have a valid photo ID. Tours require the ability to climb several flights of stairs. Please wear sensible shoes; no backpacks, no strollers. For free ticket visit

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution displays
Get up close with some working oceanographic instruments and research vehicles used in oceans around the world. Check out Splash Lab science demos and make your own Science Stroll souvenirs at the kids activities table.

  1. WHOI Redfield Auditorium

Come see a kid-friendly film for free at 2 pm sponsored by the Woods Hole
Film Festival

  1. Buzzards Bay Coalition Discovery Center

Explore a marine touch tank full of animals from Buzzards Bay and hands-on family friendly activities.

  1. WHOI Ocean Science Exhibit Center

Videos, displays, and exhibits include marine mammals, Titanic, hydrothermal vents, polar research and many more.

Science made public – The power of waves at Martha’s Vineyard

July 19, 2016 by Beth Colt

During July and August, WHOI’s Ocean Science Exhibit Center and Information Office at WHOI sponsor a series of public talks by WHOI scientists and engineers designed for a lay audience. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The Power of Waves at Martha’s Vineyard

Anna Wargula, Joint Program Student, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering

Norton Point, the southern barrier beach of Martha’s Vineyard, is one of the most dynamic coasts in Massachusetts. In April 2007, an inlet breached during the Patriot’s Day storm, exposing Katama Bay to tides and waves from the Atlantic Ocean. In August 2011, Hurricane Irene struck Martha’s Vineyard with 18-foot waves and 40-mile-per-hour winds and stopped the normally two-knot tidal flows out of the bay. Learn how WHOI scientists make measurements in breaking waves and strong currents and what these measurements tell us about ocean waves’ impacts on tidal flows in inlets and bays.

Tour the New Research Vessel R/V Neil Armstrong, an insider photo essay

June 26, 2016 by Beth Colt

new research vessel in Woods Hole

Woods Hole officially welcomed a new $100 million dollar research ship called the R/V Neil Armstrong on Saturday June 25th.  Over 25 years in the planning, this gleaming new floating laboratory was open for the day, with thousands of lucky visitors (including me!) invited on board for a full tour.

Woods Hole is the NASA of the ocean.  Led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, our tiny village is a world leader in understanding everything about ocean science.  I have been looking forward to my VIP insider tour since the invitation arrived weeks ago.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution WHOI

Our tour was led by Cyndy Chandler, longtime WHOI scientist and veteran of many “cruises” which is what the scientists call a research trip out on the boat.

new boat in Woods HoleOur group was pretty stoked as we boarded, looking up at this huge ship loaded with high tech gear.

Woods Hole research boats

Check out the Bridge of the R/V Neil Armstrong

First stop was the bridge, where we learned the ship is controlled by the tiniest wheel plus a couple of joysticks like a video game console.  The navigator explained that the technology of the ship’s engines allows them to remain in an exact location within a few inches if the seas are calm.

inside tour of research vessel in Woods Hole

What about inside the ship?

We traveled up and down the ship’s hallways, seeing bunk rooms, a floating hospital room, a fully handicap accessible room, recreational spaces and laboratories where the scientists do their work at sea.

R/V Neil Armstrong in Woods Hole

Cyndy explained how communications at sea have changed since she started at WHOI in the 1970’s.  She said the new internet connection was great for morale as shipmates can communicate regularly with loved ones, but sometimes she missed the quiet of leaving distractions behind.

Woods Hole scienceShe told us the labs were stripped of gear as each science cruise brings their own computers and equipment aboard.

research vessel in Woods Hole, interior

See the Galley of the R/V Neil Armstrong

The galley is where the 40+ scientists and crew eat all their meals.  The chef talked about the challenges of cooking and serving meals when the boat is in a rough sea.  I appreciated the small plastic sign he had over the serving area (“free beer tomorrow“) which he removed from the former vessel R/V Knorr before it was sold to the Mexican Navy.

visit inside the RV Neil ArmstrongOutside, we looked back at the Woods Hole waterfront from on high.  The ship feels at least four stories tall,

Woods Hole newsand I spied Quicks Hole Tavern and the Woods Hole Inn from this cool new vantage point.

visit to the research vessel Neil Armstrong

On the aft deck, they explained how experiments start with a huge crane that can lower equipment into the water as well as an ingenious system of deck bolts for ever-changing special gear.

visiting a research vessel in Woods Hole

Back on the Docks

Back out on the docks, there were exhibits, t-shirts, photo-ops and more.  I looked at the “CTD” device that measures conductivity, temperature and depth — one of many things lowered off the ship to collect data.

RV Neil ArmstrongGuides were wearing purple t-shirts with a graphic image of the new ship and the slogan “R/V Neil Armstrong — one giant leap for the ocean.”  In many ways, the mysterious ocean is one of the last unexplored corners of planet earth, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole is much like NASA in it’s mission to understand the darker corners of the deep blue sea.

exploring the RV Neil ArmstrongGoofing around at the end of the tour of the R/V Neil Armstrong with one of the divers suits, I am deeply appreciative of WHOI for their generous welcome, this amazing tour, and the ongoing science to which they are so dedicated.

Welcoming World Class Scientists, Everyday

It’s pretty cool living next door to all the big things happening at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  It can sometimes be a little intimidating to welcome these world-class scientists to the Woods Hole Inn, but we are reminded that while our research is focused on simpler things like good linens, spotless rooms and the world’s best home made granola, everyone needs a good night’s rest.

Woods Hole MA ocean research

WHOI Ocean Science Exhibit Center

June 20, 2016 by Beth Colt

Welcome to the Ocean Science Exhibit Center at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Visitors to the Ocean Science Exhibit Center will learn about the Institution’s ocean science research and the vessels and tools developed by WHOI engineers and scientists for use in that research. Visitors will also find WHOI merchandise in the Gift Shop located in the Ocean Science Exhibit Center.

Located at 15 School Street, Woods Hole, the center is open Monday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m

Peanut Butter Club – Camrin Braun, PhD student

June 10, 2016 by Beth Colt

Presents Camrin Braun, PhD student in the WHOI Joint Program. Camrin will be discussing his new ProjectWHOI crowdfunding campaign “The Secret Lives of Sharks”on Friday, June 10, at noon, in Redfield Auditorium, 45 Water St., Woods Hole. Think about top predators in the ocean. Something at the apex of the food chain, that swims wherever it wants and truly rules the sea. What comes to mind? Most people would answer sharks. Maybe even great white sharks. Yet if we boil down every piece of information that scientists understand about the iconic great white shark it would comprise only a few short sentences describing how white sharks move (in some places), a few ideas about what they might eat (in some places), and where they might have nursery habitat for their young (you guessed it, only in some places). That is all we know about the world-renowned great white shark. We have no generalizable knowledge about what they eat or their feeding behaviors, no knowledge of where they go to mate or to breed, and absolutely no answers to “why” they do almost anything. How do they navigate? Which habitats do they use, when and why? Does their diet change as they get older/bigger? The list of questions goes on and on. And remember this is the state of the art for great white sharks, a name that almost anyone recognizes. Our lack of knowledge is far moreprofound foralmost all other shark species. We seek to deploy cutting-edge, satellite-based tags on sharks in our backyard on Cape Cod to see where they go and to figure out why. Essentially, we’re tracking sharks in our local waters from space! Are they staying close to home where we can closely monitor and protect them? Or are they wandering the high seas, encountering thousands (or even millions?) of hooks from foreign fishing vessels, and ending up in the Hong Kong market as a stack of dried fins? For more information, visit Sponsored by the Information  Office. Coffee, tea, and cookies served. Donations accepted.

WHOI Ocean Science Exhibit Center

June 6, 2016 by Beth Colt


Welcome to the Ocean Science Exhibit Center at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Visitors to the Ocean Science Exhibit Center will learn about the Institution’s ocean science research and the vessels and tools developed by WHOI engineers and scientists for use in that research. Visitors will also find WHOI merchandise in the Gift Shop located in the Ocean Science Exhibit Center.

Located at 15 School Street, Woods Hole, the center is open Monday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m

The Woods Hole Folk Music Society

April 3, 2016 by Beth Colt


Presents “Bluegrass Gospel Project” on Sunday, April 3. Airtight vocal harmonies, stirring repertoire and roots firmly planted in the bluegrass tradition combine to produce complex and inspiring music from this group of unparalleled musicians. The “Bluegrass Gospel Project” explores and expands the tradition of bluegrass gospel, from U2 to the Stanley Brothers, Sam Cooke to Steve Earle. Its six members bring classic talent and variety of experiences to the band. Front man Taylor Armerding (mandolin, vocals), is a very familiar face – he led Northern Lights, the progressive bluegrass group that delighted WHFMS audiences for decades. On New Year’s Eve 2001, Taylor joined Gene White, Jr. (fiddle), Paul Miller (vocals, guitar) and Steve Light (banjo, Dobro, guitar, vocals) for a one-off performance. Playing to a packed house, their onstage chemistry and the music’s broad appeal was powerful beyond anyone’s expectations. The group continued to perform, with Colby Crehan (lead vocalist) and Kirk Lord (upright bass) joining in 2007. They continue to sweep audiences off their feet with smooth, blissful vocal work, seminal musicianship, and a camaraderie that few bands exhibit. Please join us in welcoming Taylor back to Woods Hole, as we finish our 44th season on a high note! The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. Admission is $15, with discounts for members, seniors, youth, and children. The Community Hall is handicapped accessible. There is no charge for street parking after 6:00 p.m. More information is available at or by calling (508) 540-0320.

– See more at:

“Making North Ameria: Life”

January 8, 2016 by Beth Colt


Presents the video “Making North America: Life” on Friday, January 8, at noon in Redfield Auditorium, 45 Water St., Woods Hole. How did massive volcanic eruptions, inland seas, and land bridges pave the way for life? Sponsored by the WHOI Information Office. Coffee, tea, and cookies served. Donations accepted.

6th International Oyster Symposium

October 21, 2015 by Beth Colt

The One International Oyster Conference
Don’t Miss It! 

To become a member of WOS for 2015, at no charge, click here:

1. Symposium Registration

Includes all Conference materials, admission to all Technical and Workshop Sessions during the conference; Lunch during Wednesday’s Plenary Session; Opening Reception; Exhibition Hall.

To become a member of WOS for 2015, at no charge, click here.

Member Nonmember
Early Bird Rate (until 4/1/15) $295 $340
Standard Rate (until 10/7/15) $340 $395
At-the-Door Rate (after 10/7/15) $395 $440
Student Rate $150 $195

Students are required to provide current student status (ie. Student ID) to qualify for the Student Rate.

2. Day Pass

Includes all Conference materials, admission to All Technical and Workshop Sessions during the conference, and Tradeshow and Expo for the specific day selected.

Wednesday, October 21st $145
Plenary Session with Lunch at MBL
Thursday, October 22nd $125
Friday, October 23rd $125

3. Exhibition Hall Pass $50

Good for admission to all exhibits for the entire run of the trade show and expo. Note: included in Symposium Registration

4. Pre-Conference Industry Tours $100 (per Tour)

  • BAY SIDE Tour – Details TBA
  • SOUTH SIDE Tour – Details TBA

5. Entertainment Oyster-tainment

Wednesday Evening Concert + Theatre Comedy $35

A performance organized by Cape Cod Symphony and Conservatory and The Living Arts Institute, inspired by the words of Dr. Mori, President of the World Oyster Society, «Let the Sea live, Let Us Live with the Sea» featuring music, movement, media, and a memorable oyster tale.

Thursday Evening Oyster Grand Tasting $50

Executive Chefs will present oyster culinary delights and also inspire us with simple recipes for the home cook.  Raw bars featuring oysters from the Cape Cod region will be featured. 

Friday Evening BiValve Beach Bake with Band $125

Closing Ceremony, Awards and Announcements, and Party.

Cancellation of registration must be received – in writing – no later than September 21, 2015. Refunds for registration fees will be subject to a 20% handling fee. Refunds are processed after the conference. No refund will be made for cancellations received after September 21, 2015 or for “no shows”. After September 21, 2015, no refunds will be made for professional or personal emergencies, flight cancellations, denied visa, weather related cancellation or other travel emergencies.

Under the Waves- WHOI Science in Local Waters

June 7, 2015 by Beth Colt

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) researchers work in ocean basins all over the world. But what’s happening in our local waters? Come and meet scientists, engineers, and other WHOI staff  and see some of the equipment used to uncover the mysteries within our own regional waters.

  • SharkCam
  • Make your own jellyfish
  • Imaging Flow Cytobot
  • Whale buoy
  • Squid, river herring, oysters, offshore canyons
  • and more


Exhibits will be on the lawn behind the Redfield Building, 45 Water Street, and at the WHOI Ocean Science Exhibit Center, 15 School Street.

Science Journalist Angela Posada-Swafford on “The View from Antarctica”

June 6, 2015 by Beth Colt

Talk by Angela Posada-Swafford, science journalist and recipient of the 2014 Byron H. Waksman Award for Excellence in the Public Communication of Life Sciences
“The View from Antarctica: Reporting on Climate Change from the White South”
This talk is part of the MBL Ecosystems Center 40th Anniversary Celebration – Free and open to the public
Lillie Auditorium, 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole

James Cameron comes to Woods Hole

July 2, 2013 by Beth Colt

James Cameron loves Woods Hole.  He has been coming here for decades, first to meet with Bob Ballard and the team that discovered the Titanic for his hit film of the same title, later to research the underwater sequences for the international blockbuster Avatar.
When Cameron crossed the line from film-maker to explorer to built his own deep-sea submersible called the Deepsea Challenger, he became one with the scientists and engineers here, and his visits increased culminating in the donation of his incredible vessel to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

In Woods Hole last month with his whole team, Cameron talked about the team of engineers and his solo dive to the Mariana Trench, one at 11,000 meters one of the deepest places in the ocean.  His exciting journey to the bottom of the sea (think Abyss, literally)  gathered video and samples allowing for the identification of over 60 new species!

Cameron’s vessel Deepsea Challenger will live next door to us here in Woods Hole, where WHOI scientists can make the most of this incredible vehicle.   Here are a few photos of the donation ceremony, as well as a link to more information on the WHOI website.

We hope Cameron returns to Woods Hole to visit Deepsea Challenger, and that the legacy of this extraordinary gift to humankind continues it’s reach.  Woods Hole — a picture postcard village, postmarked around the world.

James Cameron and Susan Avery at WHOI Woods Hole, Cape Cod James Cameron donates vessel to WHOI, Cape Cod

Rain or Shine…ing Sea Bike Path

June 12, 2011 by Beth Colt

Local sculpture at the 3 mile mark on the Shining Sea bike path in Falmouth.

The sky was glowering when I biked out of Woods Hole on the Shining Sea bike path yesterday, with a blustery wind blowing from the southeast which is where the summer storms blow in from.  The breeze was warm enough, it was cool and pleasant, a perfect day to explore.

The bike path, which is one of the biggest draws to Falmouth, is on the reclaimed path of the old railroad tracks (abandoned in the 1960s).   This means it is a nice straight line, far from any road except a handful you cross along the way.  How rarely do we get to bike on a paved road nowhere near a car? A special experience, it makes me wish that cities and towns across the country would have to foresight to install a unique right of way such as this one.

The bike path was extended last year, and now runs 11 miles from Woods Hole to North Falmouth. I dream that someday it will extend (as the abandoned train tracks still do) all the way to the Cape Cod Canal and hook up with the path that swoops out toward Provincetown making all of the Cape safely bike-able and connecting us in a green way to our neighbors in Chatham, Wellfleet, Truro and beyond.

I am working towards riding the whole thing round trip, and yesterday I made it past the five mile marker.  The first mile out of Woods Hole is in the shady beech forest, passing over several old wooden bridges the bike wheels going thump thump thump on the weathered boards.  There are glimpses through the trees of the houses on Fay Road that line a private beach looking out at Vineyard Sound.  Tiny intriguing foot paths veer off to the right and left with small painted “private please” signs.

About a mile up, you get your first big reveal of the ocean.  Surf Drive, one of the most beautiful of Falmouth’s many beaches, stretches two miles before you, surf crashing today over the breakwaters, the shore dotted with little cabins on stilts.  I think of the people who used to come here on the train, most headed to the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard,  and imagine that this view was an exciting moment as they emerged from the woods and saw Vineyard Sound for the first time, caught a whiff of that distinctive smell of eel grass drying in the sun, and felt the cool breeze off the water.  I can only imagine this was the first real taste of summer vacation.

View of Surf Drive from the bike path on a stormy day.

Yesterday, the southeasterly wind buffeted my bike as soon as I emerged from the woods.  I passed the Trunk River which is a tidal pond that empties into the ocean.  Herring run here in season, and fisherman gather at the breakwaters to catch fish drawn to the current.  There is another small wooden bridge, and a sign about the life of the tidal river that is worth a quick stop.

From here, the path veers inland, back into the lee, past several conservation sites with salt-water pond views and walks, toward the main streets of Falmouth.  The vista to the left across the Oyster Pond is particularly delightful, even on a gray day, with the Spohr Gardens in the distance.  Once in Falmouth, you can take a right off the path at the bus station for a pick-me-up at the locally-run Coffee Obsession on Palmer Ave., or continue onto Main Street for ice cream, homemade fudge, cupcakes and lots of fun local shopping.

I did not stop, as the weather was still threatening.  Past the village, from the path you can see the back side of the bus station, the back corners of the Steamship Authority parking lot, and the cooking vents of Seafood Sam’s  then you are back in the woods again, the canopy high above you and the light filtered green with the glow of the spring leaves.

I made it up to the Sippewisset Marsh, about mile five, before the rain started coming down in those large droplets that you can almost dodge between but indicate that much more is likely on the way.  I paused to look out over the marsh and read a sigh posted there about the Wampanoag.  It says, among other things, that “Sippewisset” means “place of the brook” and that this was a sacred site for Native Americans on their annual peregrination towards the fishing holes and summer hunting of what we now call Woods Hole and the islands.

History buffs will enjoy learning that this marsh is also the site of Rachel Carson’s 1950’s era scientific exploration into the devastating effects of DDT (a pesticide) on the environment which inspired her to write “Silent Spring” the book that launched the environmental movement in the US, ultimately inspiring the US Congress to ban the use of DDT.  Were she alive today, she would reflect again on the sacred beauty of this marsh, again filled with osprey and many other shore birds that have returned due to her clarion call.  Even with the threatening rain, I pause for several minutes to appreciate this achievement, a nice confluence of the scientific with the spiritual.  Louis Agassiz would approve.

View point from the Shining Sea bike path in Falmouth.

The ride home, I pick up the pace as the rain starts to come in earnest.  It is all subtlety downhill now,  I realize as soon as I turn around, and the trip back is faster and easier.  I fall into a trance as the rain drips softly from my hat and the view in reverse rushes past.

Rolling back into Woods Hole, almost two hours and ten miles later, I am ready for a snack and a place to put my wet feet up.  Lobster taco time!  Thank god for Quicks Hole, the restaurant on Luscombe Avenue across from the Landfall, the perfect spot for a dripping wet biker to unwind a bit before heading back to that comfortable suite at the Woods Hole Inn.

Woods Hole = Harvard Square of Cape Cod

September 2, 2009 by Beth Colt

So, I guess I am not the only one who thinks the academic buildings of Woods Hole make the whole place feel a little like Cambridge on Cape Cod. And frankly, since I often refer to Cambridge as “utopia,” when you mix utopia with great beaches and the positive ions of the ocean air, I guess you get…um… nirvana?

Harvard professor Louis Agassiz was an important force in the development of the Marine Biological Laboratory back in the 1880s. And along with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, there have been countless Harvard grads living and working here for the last 125 years. The MBL is billed as the oldest private laboratory in the country and it is famous for serendipitious scientific encounters such as the meeting of Franklin Stahl and Matthew Messelsen which resulted in the first replications of DNA. And lots of other cool stuff like that including all the research for Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”

There are two or three Nobel prize winners living right in this little fishing village. So if you are into science, walking around here is like being on the red carpet at the science Academy Awards: “Look, there’s Brad Pitt, err … I mean Osamu Shimomura. He’s married to Angelina Jolie, I mean … He won the Nobel for harnessing the natural power of luminescence found in jellyfish.”

Follow this link to the journalist who claims, “I like to think of Woods Hole, in Falmouth, as the Harvard Square of Cape Cod.” She has a number of nice photos there too.

But remember, the “nirvana” you may experience with those positive ions, the great beaches and our wonderful ocean views is not really science. To me, it’s more like art.

Woods Hole Inn recommended by the Boston Globe

June 2, 2009 by Beth Colt

WOODS HOLE – by Patricia Borns for the BOSTON GLOBE

To understand this village in Falmouth, you have to think beyond the parking lots overflowing with ferry passengers bound for Martha’s Vineyard. Park at the Falmouth Mall, hop the WHOOSH trolley, and you can spend a day on beaches laced with salt ponds and pink rosa ragosa.

What to do in Woods Hole:

Waterfront Park, Water Street
90-minute trips June 22-Sept. 5, adult $22, children 4-12 $17.

WHOI tours
93 Water St.
About 75 minutes, July-August, weekdays 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., free; call for reservations.

MBL tours
Water and MBL streets Reservations: 508-289-7623 About an hour, late June-September, weekdays 1 and 2 p.m., free.

Where to eat
The Captain Kidd

77 Water St
From $8.75.

Where to stay
Woods Hole Inn

28 Water Street

From $125.


From its main drag Water Street to the channel between Penzance Point and Nonamesset Island for which it was named, Woods Hole is synonymous with ocean. You can smell it in the air, see it from almost every restaurant, appreciate it in the seascapes at Edie Bruce’s art gallery on School Street, and learn about it from some of the world’s premier marine research institutions, starting with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) and the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL).

You might start by admiring the new drawbridge on Water Street as it opens and closes on a pageant of boat traffic in and out of Eel Pond. Then, follow Woods Hole Road to Church Street where Nobska Point Light overlooks one of the best views on Cape Cod.

See white sails tacking toward the purple outline of Martha’s Vineyard on the Vineyard Sound chop, and the mostly Forbes family-owned Elizabeth Islands tapering to a southwest vanishing point facing Buzzards Bay. A day could start and end on this spot, as it often has for artist Doug Rugh, whose career began as an illustrator at the MBL, where his grandparents did research. Rugh and his wife, artist Hillary Osborne, have created an oeuvre of Woods Hole scenes. To locate these in physical reality, link to the Google map on their website,

Spread your blanket on Nobska Beach below the lighthouse on Church Street, or on Stoney Beach beside Gosnold Road, where “you can hear children calling the shells by their [scientific] names,” Rugh says. That’s because scientists by the hundreds flock to the Buzzards Bay-side beach during the season.

“I love the summer. It’s great to be around so many new and different people,” says Cliff Pontbriand, a junior engineer working on oceanographic instrumentation at WHOI. For a peek at the marine scientists’ inner sanctums, he suggests one of the WHOI or MBL tours. The WHOI tour includes a view of the institution’s dock where recently sub-sea robot Nereus was being tested before shipping out to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of Earth’s oceans.

Along with a library of scientific journals dating from the 17th century, the MBL tour visits the Marine Resources Center on MBL Street, where Ed Enos presides over tanks filled with sea creatures used in research.

“What does this remind you of?” says Enos, handing around a mass of gelatinous, fingerlike squid eggs to some shy youngsters. “Gummy bears!” He likens a sea urchin to “mom’s pin cushion” and presses a finger to a toad fish’s soft abdomen so that it grunts “like a frog.”

Pontbriand suggests that if you want to experience what scientists do, get out on the water with OceanQuest. Located next to the WHOI docks on Great Harbor, OceanQuest’s 63-foot, three-station research vessel is the brainchild of Kathy Mullin, a math and science teacher who moved to Cape Cod with her husband but couldn’t find a teaching job. The 90-minute cruise starts on the bow, introducing the atmospheric and ocean dynamics that make our planet viable. There you’ll take a water sample, and in the cabin, analyze it under a scope. On the stern, you might trawl and handle crabs, lightning fish, or any of 200 species found in just a 10-mile radius.

“In the fall we even see trigger fish, usually found in the tropics. The confluence of currents gives Cape Cod waters incredible diversity,” Mullin says.

Science is present even in the spiritual quiet of the Garden of Our Lady, located on Millfield Street across from St. Joseph Church. Created by Frances Lillie, who came in 1894 to study at the MBL, the garden offers a bench where you can contemplate the messages inscribed on the bell tower (Lillie named the two bells for Roman Catholic scientists Gregor Mendel and Louis Pasteur) and the prolific flowers with names like Lady’s Slipper, Lady’s Mantle, and Madonna Lily invoking the Virgin Mary.

The 700,000 daffodils may have passed, but the rhododendrons will be blooming in Spohr Gardens, an out-of-the-way landscape off Oyster Pond Road that’s worth a painting or picnic in early June. Begun in the 1950s, the six-acre plot set on a still green pond was the passion of Margaret and Charles Spohr, who also collected the ships’ anchors, bells, and millstones on display.

You could wind down the day with a brew and burger at “the Kidd” (Captain Kidd Restaurant on Water Street) where wisps of theoretical discourse can be heard among the tourists’ din.

But if you like to bike, follow the Shining Sea Bikeway out Quissett Road to Quissett Harbor. New this year, the shore-hugging route, which many consider the sweetest on Cape Cod, has been extended from the Woods Hole Steamship Authority to County Road in North Falmouth, about 10 miles. Slightly north of Woods Hole proper, inner Quissett Harbor looks like a page from a children’s book: deep and glade-like, dotted with classic sloops. Around the shoreline, the buildings of the former Quissett Harbor Hotel and James Marshall estate, now a conference facility of the National Academy of Sciences, recall Quissett’s days as a 19th-century vacation spot.

A leafy trail shoots off to small beaches, and a narrow neck of land, the Knob, wraps its protective arm around the harbor. Here you can watch the sun set with a wide-open view to Buzzards Bay and the Elizabeth Islands.

While I was here, a boy splashed in the shallows with his parents. “Mom,” he said, “isn’t this the perfect place?”

Patricia Borns can be reached at