Optical Oceanography Faculty

Mary Jane Perry

School of Oceanography, University of Washington


My long-term goal is to understand the mechanisms responsible for the variability in phytoplankton biomass, primary production, and species composition. I started my oceanographic career by studying the role of phosphate availability in controlling phytoplankton biomass and production in the subtropical Central North Pacific.

Although I retain my interest in nutrient dynamics, my focus shifted to the interaction of phytoplankton and light in the ocean. I started this phase of my career with a study of the photoadaptive changes in the absorption cross section of photosystem I in marine phytoplankton. My present research interests include primary production (at the level of the single cell and as well as at larger scales, i.e., the entire phytoplankton assemblage); photosynthetic physiology as well as phytoplankton physiology in general; bio-optics; and remote sensing. With Ken Carder in 1985, I began the tradition of teaching optical oceanography at the UW's Friday Harbor Labs. I hope that you will consider joining us for the 5th FHL Optical Oceanography course this summer.

some representative publications

Collin Roesler

Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut


Phytoplankton ecology and physiology and hydrologic optics form the cornerstones of my research interests, the goal of which is to understand the processes that govern scattering, absorption and utilization of solar radiation in the ocean and in sea ice. My current program consists of three main projects:

  1. The development of algorithms to estimate both the concentrations of the major constituents in the water column (e.g. phytoplankton, sediments, organic particulate and dissolved materials) and the composition of the benthic habitat (e.g. kelp, eel grass, sand, mud) from remotely sensed reflectance.
  2. Identification and quantification of the biological and physical processes responsible for optical variability in coastal waters.
  3. Quantification of the effect of marine-derived organic material (particularly algae) on the reflection, absorption, and transmission of solar radiation in sea ice.
Some representative publications

Kendall Carder

Department of Marine Science, University of South Florida

some representative publications

Curtis D. Mobley

Sequoia Scientific, Inc. Mercer Island, WA

Much of my career has been devoted to research in radiative transfer theory applied to problems in optical oceanography. The widely-used Hydrolight computer program and the textbook Light and Water: Radiative Transfer in Natural Waters are the best-known products of my efforts. I am currently conducting research on the following topics:

  1. Hyperspectral Remote Sensing -- This work is using the Hydrolight model to study problems of importance to existing and future "ocean color"remote-sensing sensors.
  2. Effects of Microbial and Mineral Particles on the Optics of Coastal Waters -- This work uses Hydrolight and a large database of single-particle optical properties to study how different types and concentrations of microbial and mineral particles and dissolved substances determine the optical properties of coastal waters.
  3. Modeling of Optical Beam Spread in Sea Ice -- A Monte Carlo model for optical beam spread has been developed and is being used to interpret beam spread data taken in Arctic ice.
  4. Radiative Transfer Modeling for the Coastal Benthic Optical Properties Program -- This work takes radiative transfer theory into a new domain: shallow water with highly variable bottom topography and bottom optical properties. Models being developed will play a central role in the analysis of opt ical data to be taken in seagrass, sediment, and coral environments during the field experiments.
Some representative publications

Curtiss Davis

Naval Research Laboratory Washington,DC

Norman McCormick

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington

I am interested in the physics of radiation transport in ocean waters with the objective of providing analytically-based methods (i.e., algorithms) to determine seawater inherent optical properties and fluorescence spatial distributions, as well as sea bottom albedo properties, from downward and upward irradiance and upward radiance measurements. This work involves the solution of inverse problems developed from the radiative transfer equation.

The ultimate goal of the work is to provide biological oceanographers with the capability of estimating primary production rates as a function of depth for various Case 1 and 2 waters with different surface illumination conditions.

Some representative publications

Robert Maffione

Hydro-Optics, Biology and Instrumentation Laboratories Inc.


One of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of working in the field of optical oceanography is its highly interdisciplinary nature. The transformation of light as it propagates through the water column is determined by myriad physical, biological, and chemical processes. My general research interest is in understanding and quantifying this transformation at both small and large scales. At the small scale, for example, we still have a poor understanding of the scattering process by marine suspensions. What few models we have for characterizing angular and spectral scattering are based on scant or questionable data or unverified assumptions. On the large scale, there are many exciting questions to be answered on how physical and biological processes affect the color of the sea, and in turn how the color of the sea affects its ecology. There are a variety of ways to pursue these important problems, and one of my passions is in developing and using the necessary tools for accurately quantifying water optical properties and the interaction of light with ocean water. I am also interested in underwater visibility and how we can aid our own ability to see into and within the ocean. The better we can see the oceans, the better we will all come to appreciate this vast, virtually unexplored realm of our planet.

Some representative publications

Optical Oceanography Staff

Emmanuel Boss

College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University/School of Oceanography, University of Washington

David English

Department of Marine Science, University of South Florida

I am interested in the interactions of light and the marine environment, especially the measurement and interpretations of reflected visible light to further understand or identify components of the marine environment. Have spent some effort in the interpretation of remote sensing information from the Coastal Zone Color Scanner and the characterization and use of radiometric sensors.

Some representative publications

Mary Kay Talbot

School of Oceanography, University of Washington

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