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Dr. Dennis McGillicuddy

Senior Scientist and Department Chair
Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering

Contact Information:
Work: 508 289 2683
Building: Bigelow 209A

Mailing Address:
Mailstop 11
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, MA 02543

Research Statement

My primary research interest is the interface between the fluid dynamics and the biology of the sea. The fundamental connection between these disciplines in the oceanographic context arises from three basic sources: (1) ocean currents continually redistribute dissolved and suspended constituents by advection and diffusion; (2) space-time fluctuations in the flows themselves impact biological and chemical rates; and (3) organisms are capable of directed motion through the water. This tripartite linkage poses difficult challenges to understanding oceanic systems: differentiation between the three sources of variability requires accurate assessment of property distributions in space and time, in addition to detailed knowledge of organismal repertoires and the processes by which ambient conditions control the rates of biological and chemical reactions. Understanding the functioning of marine systems requires an integrated strategy that includes theory, observation, and modeling. By weaving these three approaches together, my research program is designed to expose the basic mechanisms of physical-biological-chemical interactions in the ocean. Coupled interdisciplinary model systems provide a focal point for such synthesis, in that such models are used to construct space-time continuous representations of oceanic fields that cannot be achieved through observations alone. Simulations thus provide a four-dimensional framework for the analysis of coupled physical-biological-chemical processes that is not accessible by any other means. However, in order to make these models truly relevant to the real ocean, it is absolutely crucial that they be firmly grounded in data. This synergistic conjoining of observations and models not only provides a useful methodology for process studies, but also maximizes the utility of observations and aids in their interpretation. He has pursued physical-biological-chemical interactions in four contexts: (1)  the role of eddies in biogeochemical cycling of the open ocean , (2)  impacts of coastal circulation on zooplankton, (3) dynamics of harmful algal blooms, and (4) larval dispersal in deep-sea vent communities.


B.A. Harvard University, 1987, Engineering Sciences
M.S. Harvard University, 1989, Applied Physics
Ph.D. Harvard University, 1993, Earth and Planetary Sciences

Google Scholar Profile: link


Dr. McGillicuddy joined the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1993 as a Postdoctoral Scholar. He was appointed to the scientific staff in 1996. He was a recipient of the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (1998), the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography’s Lindeman Award (2000), and the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel Award (2008). He is author or co-author of over one hundred thirty refereed publications and more than thirty technical reports; he has edited or co-edited seven special volumes of various journals.

Dr. McGillicuddy has been active in the oversight of large interdisciplinary oceanographic programs on both national and international levels, having served on the scientific steering committees of the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study, the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Program, and the Global Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms. He has participated in NASA’s Ocean Vector Winds Science Team, Ocean Color Research Team, and Ocean Surface Topography Science Team. Dr. McGillicuddy currently serves as Deputy Director of the Woods Hole Center for Oceans and Human Health.