Monday, October 2, 2023

MTR100: #5 Dr. Mark Abbott, WHOI

Greg Trauthwein

Dr. Mark Abbott, President & Director, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) ... "Helping to bring 'these exquisite solutions' to scale"

The editors of Marine Technology Reporter are pleased to share that Dr. Mark Abbott, President & Director, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), is #5 in the 14th Annual "MTR100". The full  electronic edition of Marine Technology Reporter is available at

Dr. Mark Abbott is the tenth director and president of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and he presides over what is arguably the most prestigious institutes on the planet for the study of the world’s oceans.

Abbott has had a lifelong passion for all things environmental, stating when he was a young boy. “It started when my grandfather took me bird watching,” where he first became interested in the environment. Over time, he melded his aptitude in math and interest in the environment, becoming interested in applying mathematics to ecological issues.

Founded in 1930 and located in the picturesque Woods Hole, Massachusetts, WHOI is an independent non-profit organiztion which gets its funding from government grants and contracts, foundation and private donations and  industry contracts, and has an annual operating budget of $215 million.

WHOI’s Center for Marine Robotics hosted the 5th Annual Marine Robotics Entrepreneurs Forum. (Photo: Greg Trauthwein)

In total there are six research departments and more than 40 centers and labs, employing approximately 950 employees, including more than 500 scientists, engineers, ship’s crew, and technicians. WHOI operates three ships, the global class research vessel Atlantis; the ocean class research vessel Neil Armstrong;  and the coastal vessel Tioga, small boats. It also have several underwater vehicles, from the human-occupied submersible Alvin; to ROVs, AUVs, hybrids and towed vessels.

But the value proposition of WHOI far transcends the numbers, as WHOI serves as a hub for technology, business and finance, a rallying point for organizations of all sizes and individuals to colloborate on next generation solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems in and around its waterways. This was on full display in July 2019 when some of the brightest minds in vehicle autonomy spent two days at WHOI’s Center for Marine Robotics at the 5th Annual Marine Robotics Entrepreneurs Forum.

A common theme for the day was the need to increase the volume and scale of ocean-specific technology solutions. “The challenge (we have) is how to bring these exquisite solutions to scale, to get the numbers in the thousands, or the hundreds of thousands,” said Abbott. “We need to move from these hand-made solutions to build out the size and scale” to increase the numbers and “to build networks of smart devices.”
While Abbott comes to work every day surrounded by cutting edge technology, the greatest satisfaction he admits is seeing the enthusiasm each year of the new crop of students, scientists and engineers that are dedicated to helping solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

WHOI’s Center for Marine Robotics hosted the 5th Annual Marine Robotics Entrepreneurs Forum. (Photo: Rob Howard)

Efforts to map the world’s oceans are ramping up, with new and emerging technologies leading the way.
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