Smithsonian scientists

Deep-sea octocorals: An ecosystem of their own

Octocorals dominated the seafloor on Chris Mah's Okeanos mission to Johnston Atoll in the remote Pacific Ocean. Credit: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2017 Laulima O Ka Moana The deep-sea is a...
Walter Adey and the NMNH coral reef tank

The Evolution of a Reef Aquarium

Adey in front of the original reef microcosm in the National Museum of Natural History. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives In the late 1970s, Walter Adey, a paleobiologist and coral reef researcher at the National...
Tiny organisms found on ARMS

Traveling Around the World to Study the Future of the Ocean

By Dulce It takes three days of traveling to reach the islands of Papua New Guinea (PNG) from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Laetitia Plaisance , a researcher at...
Kopelman Watercolor Detail

Up Close and Personal with a Mangrove Root

Kopelman's watercolors focus on the beautiful sponges that attach to mangrove roots. Credit: Irene Kopelman I got a lot of funny looks at the airport when I opened the oversized cooler for the baggage...
Foraminifera

Trials and Tribulations with Contamination

My internship at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History started off without a hitch. I was excited to look through the microscope at samples collected from halfway across the world in Papua New...
Tiny organisms found on ARMS

From Field to Lab: How Carbon Seeps Provide a Chance to See Future Impacts of Ocean Acidification

By Sarah Leinbach Every year, humans spew billions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas. The world’s oceans absorb some of it,...

Seagrasses and Light in the Chesapeake Bay

Seagrasses growing on the seafloor of the Chesapeake Bay rely on light to grow—but, thanks to pollution, that sunlight has become more scarce. Nutrient runoff from fertilizers causes microscopic algae (phytoplankton) to grow rapidly...
A photo of plastic trash floating in the water, taken from below the surface.

Witness to a Plastic Invasion

The Smithsonian Institution's Dive Officer documents a "swirling monster" of plastic trash that she encountered while diving in Belize. It blew in for two solid days: a flotilla of plastic forks, soda bottles, rubber...
A screenshot of some of Smithsonian's marine story windows in Google Earth

What Lives in the Gulf of Mexico? Exploring Marine Collections on Google Earth

When he was 10 years old, Stephen Cairns lived in Cuba where he kept a collection of butterflies and sea shells. When his family moved to Louisiana, he could bring only one of the...
A zoomed-in image of the crown-of-thorns sea star.

A Plague of Sea Stars

Scientists have been studying why populations of crown-of-thorns sea stars ( Acanthaster planci ) have mushroomed in recent decades. Coral reefs can suffer when the sea star's numbers explode; the echinoderm has a healthy...
Juvenile plane-head filefish

A World Adrift: Life in the Sargassum

The open ocean is surprisingly barren to the naked eye. Every now and again you will encounter a school of fish and their attendant predators, but most of the life that you find is...