The research being conducted at SoMAS seeks to understand the way our marine, atmospheric,
and terrestrial environments function; as well as the impact of human interactions
with these systems. These problems all require knowledge from multiple disciplines
and the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences encourages interdisciplinary research.
Unlike many other places, we do not have traditional departments. What we do have
is a large number of faculty and students who work together to better understand our
One way of understanding the research that is done here at SoMAS is to look at the
traditional scientific disciplines that our faculty came from. Clicking on any of
these specific disciplines will provide a list of current SoMAS faculty and their
research projects that uses the knowledge from these disciplines. You’ll notice that
many faculty appear under more than one discipline and that is because most modern
problems require interdisciplinary knowledge.
SoMAS faculty use their knowledge of biology in a variety of different ways from diseases
affecting marine organisms, ecological and trophic interactions, processes affecting
local fish and shellfish communities, and many others. More information on specific
faculty research programs that utilize biology are below.
SoMAS faculty use their knowledge of chemistry in a variety of different ways from
radio isotope analysis, chemical reactions that occur in the atmosphere and oceans,
biogeochemical studies, and many others. More information on specific faculty research
programs that utilize chemistry are below.
SoMAS faculty use their knowledge of geology in a variety of different ways from studying
paleoclimate issues, examining the influence of groundwater on coastal systems, and
many others. More information on specific faculty research programs that utilize geology
SoMAS faculty use mathematics in a variety of different ways from modeling atmospheric
and oceanic processes, statistical analysis of different data sets, and many others.
More information on specific faculty research programs that utilize mathematics are
SoMAS faculty use their knowledge of physics in a variety of different ways from solving
fluid dynamics problems, studying physical processes in the atmosphere, the development
of remote sensing systems, and many others. More information on specific faculty research
programs that utilize physics are below.
There are several research areas that significant numbers of SoMAS faculty work on.
These research themes do not cover every single research project that occurs at SoMAS
but they do represent several specialty areas where SoMAS researchers have significant
Quantitative analysis of marine and atmospheric systems is an important part of SoMAS
research. Our faculty are involved in a diversity of research efforts that employ
modeling and other quantitative tools to better understand and predict oceanographic,
atmospheric and ecological processes. By combining mathematical models and empirical
data, SoMAS faculty gain insight into the causes and consequences of natural phenomena
and human disturbances. Here are a few examples of current quantitative research at
Understanding the causes and consequences large-scale oceanographic phenomena
Role of oceanic processes on global carbon cycles
Evaluating mechanisms of climate change
Exploring the impact of physical circulation and oceanographic features on biological
Assessing anthropogenic impacts on food web dynamics
Predicting regional weather from meso-scale models
Human activities have altered the Earth’s atmospheric composition and its land surface
to a sufficient degree that world climates are likely changing as well. It is certainly
no longer controversial that human activities have increased atmospheric greenhouse
gases, pollutants, and aerosols; nor is it deniable the we have dramatically changed
Earth’s vegetation and other landscape characteristics. Under these conditions, questions
about how the world climate system and its natural variability interact with human
forcings are major concerns to the society. Several scientists at SoMAS are carrying
out research to quantify the human forcing of climate, to detect the signals and pattern
of climate change, and to understand how the climate system works through numerical
simulations. Other researchers are more focused on the impacts of climate change on
Earth’s physical and biological regimes. Around the globe, shifting temperature, precipitation,
and storm patterns are driving significant changes in continental runoff, coastal
hydrology, and species abundance and distributions. Understanding the links between
between natural variability, climate change, and human forcings are key to developing
rational strategies for such environmental changes.
The presence of chemicals and pathogens in the environment is of great concern to
both ecosystem and human health, yet the source, fates, and effects of these contaminants
are often not well known. In collaboration with each other and with colleagues in
the Stony Brook Health Sciences Center, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Cornell’s
Veterinary School, SoMAS faculty are actively investigating these and other environmental
Pathology and parisitology of marine fish and shellfish
Sources and assessment of sediment toxicity
Fates and effects of endocrine disruptors, pharmaceuticals and personal care products
in the environments
Impact of groundwater discharges on coastal water quality
Bioavailability, food chain transfer and effects of contaminants in marine invertebrates
Humans have widespread effects on marine environments, ranging from the indirect effects
of land-use on coastal water quality, to the direct effects of exploitation. SoMAS
faculty are interested in gaining a better understanding these effects and in trying
to develop improved management policies. Research interests include identifying the
causes and effects of brown tides, understanding shellfish dynamics, exploring causes
of disease outbreaks, assessing how aquatic organisms interact with toxic chemicals
in their environment, establishing marine wilderness areas, and identifying the evolutionary
and ecological effects of fisheries. These efforts involve close collaboration with
state and federal management agencies, such as the New York Department of Environmental
Conservation and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.
Anthropogenic alteration of biogeochemical processes such as carbon and nitrogen cycling
is thought to be causing a variety of changes to Earth’s biosphere. Faculty at SoMAS
are working both on projects designed to produce a mechanistic understanding of how
energy and nutrients are transformed from one form to another as they pass through
marine ecosystems, and on using that new information to discover approaches to mitigate
the pressing environmental problems that result from human activities. These projects
include studies of the sources, transformations, fates, and fluxes of various organic
and inorganic compounds in both planktonic and benthic systems, as well as studies
of the relationships between the genetic and physiological diversity of marine microorganisms
and the physical and biological processes that structure their habitats, including
food web interactions. These efforts are focused at scales ranging from the water
quality of a local embayments over seasons and years, to changes in global climate
over years and decades.
While we do not have strict disciplinary boundaries at SoMAS, for many students and
researchers the traditional research areas of marine, atmospheric and environmental
science may be useful in understanding the research that occurs here.
Research in Atmospheric Sciences at the Institute for Terrestrial and Planetary Atmospheres is centered around the following themes: (1) Climate Change and Impact, (2) Mesoscale
Ensemble Forecasting, (3) Data Assimilation and Integration, (4) Model Analysis and
Improvement, (5) Atmospheric Chemistry and Aerosol, (6) Atmospheric Dynamics, (7)
Interaction Between Climate and Marine Biology.
To tackle these challenging questions faculty at ITPA use a variety of exceptional
infrastructural means such as: The BlueGene supercomputer, locally run numerical weather
prediction model (MM5) and the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF), remote sensing
data, and laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art instruments to measure atmospheric
trace gases and to determine aerosol-cloud and aerosol-gas phase interactions.
Biological Oceanographers are interested in developing a better understanding of how
living things influence and are influenced by the structure and function of marine
systems. At Stony Brook, Biological Oceanographers and Marine Biologists often collaborate
closely with their colleagues trained in the other oceanographic disciplines and with
atmospheric scientists as they study a variety of organisms including viruses, bacteria,
phytoplankton and zooplankton, benthic animals, and fish.
Chemical oceanographers seek to understand how the ocean functions as a chemical system
and how oceanic biological, geological and chemical processes control the chemistry
of seawater and sediments. Indeed, many faculty at SoMAS study the interactions of
biology, chemistry and geology in the oceans and thus work in an area termed ‘biogeochemistry’.
As this term implies, chemical oceanographers often collaborate with biological and
geological oceanographers in studying broad, multidisciplinary areas such as the ocean
carbon cycle. Chemical oceanographers at SoMAS also study the distribution and fates
of a wide range of chemical species in the ocean, including trace metals, radionuclides,
organic compounds and dissolved gases. Often these various chemical species are used
as tracers to better understand the dynamics of oceanic processes.
The Marine Geology program at SoMAS has a strong focus on continental margin systems,
from the slope and shelf up through the shoreline and coastal plain. These diverse
settings are very dynamic and are where the interactions between land and sea and
the influence of humans are greatest. Within this realm SoMAS geologists are investigating
fundamental processes that control changes in our shorelines, seafloor, and coastal
groundwaters, particularly as related to anthropogenic forcings and future impacts
under global climate change. Together with other researchers in SoMAS, interdisciplinary
questions centered about coastal dynamics, benthic processes and resources, sea-level
rise, and continental margin development comprise some of the major research topics
on which we focus.
Research in physical oceanography deals with some of the most challenging problems
in classical physics and fluid dynamics. With improved observing tools, increased
computing power, and new analytical understanding, this field is at a stage of rapid
evolution. Tools of trade include space satellites, numerical modeling, satellite-tracked
buoys, and ships. Major cooperative research efforts are dramatically changing our
understanding of the dynamics of the and atmosphere-ocean coupling. The results of
these studies have impacts on a yet broader range of oceanic, geological, chemical,
biological, engineering, and societal problems, e.g., coastal and estuarine dynamics
in the Hudson River, Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Santa Barbara Channel, and
Great South Bay is a shallow, well-mixed, lagoonal system on the south shore of Long
Island, NY. Known in the past for its extensive finfish (menhaden, winter flounder,
and many other species) and shellfish (hard clam, oyster) populations, along with
its extensive eelgrass beds that served as spawning and nursery areas, production
of commercial and recreational resources has been in decline for decades. SoMAS faculty
are continuously conducting research in the bay, including Dr. Charles Flagg’s study
on Superstorm Sandy’s Breach at Old Inlet.
In response to deteriorating environmental conditions in Shinnecock Bay on Long Island,
faculty at SoMAS founded the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program (ShiRP) to restore
the health of this vital ecosystem. The goal of ShiRP is to use science, outreach,
and partnerships to restore the water quality and fisheries of Shinnecock Bay.
The Stony Brook Storm Surge Research Group is developing a real-time weather and ocean
storm surge prediction system which can be used for a variety of purposes. Such uses
include hurricane and nor ‘easter flooding predictions and alerts, water quality and
effluent dispersion, the feasibility of building storm surge barriers to protect the
New York Metropolitan region from storm damage and coastal flooding in an era of global
climate change and rising sea level.
This website maintains a database of meteorological and hydrological data, historical
data, images, and written information generated by the system operator or received
from other sources. In addition, this site provides in real time a selection of current
weather and oceanic observations for use by the national and international community.
In an effort to enhance science, experimental products are accessible on this server
and care must be taken when using such products as they are intended for research
use. Reasonable efforts are made to keep this site available 24 hours a day, seven
days a week, but timely delivery of data and products from this site through the Internet
is not guaranteed.