The health of the oceans and the health of humans go hand in hand. Sustaining life in a variety of different ways, oceans provide us with the air we breathe, the food we eat, even some of the medicines we use to cure disease. However, imbalance in the oceans can have deleterious effects on human health. In particular, proliferation of harmful algal blooms and pathogenic microbes can cause human illness or, in acute cases, death, while also wreaking economic havoc through beach and fishery closures. Understanding this corollary between the health of the ocean and our own, policymakers and researchers sought to emphasize an inter-disciplinary approach in studying this important relationship, pairing oceanographers and other scientists with biomedical experts.

The Woods Hole Center for Oceans and Human Health (WHCOHH) was instituted as a center where precisely such an inter-disciplinary approach could flourish. Currently, scientists from oceanographic, biologic, and technical institutions all work in a cooperative effort at WHCOHH to address issues of human health as it pertains to oceanographic research. While current research at the center focuses on fundamental questions regarding the nature of harmful algal blooms (HAB), biological phenomena with significant human health and economic concerns, research in the past has also encompassed the genetic and environmental study of other microbial, waterborne pathogens, as well.