Dr. Sam Laney

Associate Scientist with Tenure
Biology Department

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Contact Information:
Work: 508-289-3647
slaney@whoi.edu

Mailing Address:
Redfield Laboratory 1-38
266 Woods Hole Road, MS #34
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, MA 02543

Research Interests

I'm an oceanographer and engineer with broad interests in marine phytoplankton ecology. The questions that motivate me the most are those that examine how phytoplankton respond to changes in the oceanic light environment. Phytoplankton aren’t the simple ‘wandering plants’ that their name implies; they are complex photosynthetic microbes well adapted for harvesting sunlight from the ocean’s continually varying light field. My research aims to decipher the complex photosynthetic behaviors we see in phytoplankton, in order to gain more insight into how these critical marine microbes contribute to oceanic processes such as primary production.

My main tool for examining complexity in photosynthesis is the weak red fluorescence that phytoplankton emit while they absorb light energy. Oceanographers measure this fluorescence primarily to determine the biomass and distributions of phytoplankton in the ocean. However, changes in this fluorescence can also provide important information on their health and physiological state, provided that this variability is properly interpreted. Much of my research in the past five years has focused on developing the new theory and observational capabilities that are needed to better exploit these complex yet data rich photosynthetic responses to light.

My research is strongly interdisciplinary and novel instrumentation & engineering approaches play an important role in my laboratory and field studies. My engineering efforts focus a lot on autonomous, 'robotic' sampling of phytoplankton properties in the open ocean and in ice-covered polar regions. Engineering also plays a strong theoretical role in my research, such as how engineering principles can be used to understand the dynamics of photosynthesis in the ocean.

Education

Oregon State UniversityCollege of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.  Corvallis, Oregon.  Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography, minor in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science.  2006.

Oregon State UniversityCollege of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.  Corvallis, Oregon.  M.S. in Biological Oceanography, minor in Physical Oceanography.  2000.

Cornell UniversityCollege of Agriculture & Life Sciences and College of Engineering, Joint Program B.S. in Agricultural & Biological Engineering (now Biological and Environmental Engineering). Ithaca, New York.  1992.

Deep Springs College, Deep Springs, California. Program of Study. 1989.

Biography

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Biology Department.  Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Associate Scientist with Tenure (2017 - present)
Associate Scientist (2013 - 2017)
Assistant Scientist (2009 - 2013)
Postdoctoral Investigator (2008 - 2009)
Postdoctoral Scholar, WHOI Ocean Life Institute (2006 - 2008).

Deep Springs College, Deep Springs, California.
Visiting Professor (2011): Single Variable Calculus, Multivariable Calculus.
Visiting Professor (2007): Single Variable Calculus, Multivariable Calculus, Numerical Methods & Computer Modeling.