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Amala Mahadevan’s lab studies physical processes related to the oceanic carbon cycle, biogeochemical distributions, and the ocean’s role in climate change. Using modeling and the analysis of observational data, the group investigates the implications of ocean processes on the productivity and distribution of phytoplankton, the transport and mixing of properties, and the exchange of heat and freshwater between the surface ocean, deep ocean and atmosphere. Having developed one of the first three-dimensional non-hydrostatic ocean models suited for limited domains, the group uses the model as a research tool for exploring mesoscale and submesoscale phenomena. The Process Study Ocean Model (PSOM) is used to study a number of processes such as the vertical transport of nutrients by frontal and submesoscale processes, the dynamics of the shelfbreak front, heterogeneity in the distributions of various biogeochemical tracers, and the interaction of aquatic vegetation and flow in shallow coastal environments. Data from a number of sources including satellite, in situ ship-based observations, and autonomous observations with ships and gliders are the basis of many of the studies. 

One broad theme of the research is understanding the interactions between physical processes, the autotrophic community and the carbon cycle. Another is the role of the surface oceanic layer in exchanging heat, moisture and gases with the atmosphere and the vast ocean that lies beneath.

Amala Mahadevan

Amala Mahadevan

Senior Scientist
Physical Oceanography
Tel: +1 508 289 3440

Lab Members

Kathleen Abbott

Kathleen Abbott
Ph.D. Student
MIT/WHOI Joint Program


Weiguang (Roger) Wu
Ph.D. Student
MIT/WHOI Joint Program

Jing He

Jing He
Ph.D. Student
MIT/WHOI Joint Program

Mara Freilich

Mara Freilich
Ph.D. Student
MIT/WHOI Joint Program


Yue (Cynthia) Wu
Postdoctoral Investigator


Air-sea interaction and Monsoonal variability

February 6, 2017
The workshop

In January, we (Gualtiero and Amala) participated in a meeting to discuss air-sea interactions and intra-seasonal monsoonal variability in the Bay of Bengal. A workshop was hosted at IIT-Madras along with students and scientists in India.

Clockwork Ocean in the Baltic Sea

July 6, 2016

In the summer of 2016, Sebastian Essink participated in the Helmholtz Institute’s observational campaign to study submesoscale eddies in the Baltic Sea that evolve on time scales of less than a day. An airship and airplanes were used to obtain thermal imagery and track chlorophyll at meter-scale resolution. Coastal research vessels operated from the island…

Chasing Freshwater in the Bay of Bengal

August 31, 2015

As part of ASIRI, the Air-Sea Interaction Regional Initiative funded by ONR, we are exploring the role of freshwater on air-sea fluxes in order to improve understanding of the South Asian Monsoons. We are on a research cruise on board the R/V Roger Revelle from August 23 to September 21, 2015. Scientists from several institutions including University…

Science for Public Video

August 30, 2015

Oceans and Climate From WGBH in Boston: Learn about the complex and vital relationship between the oceans and Earth’s climate. She and other researchers at Woods Hole describe how they gather climate and monsoon data via remote sensors in the oceans, and she also explains how international teams work on research cruises like the one…

Swirling Currents Deliver Phytoplankton Carbon to Ocean Depths

April 9, 2015

“Much of this particulate organic carbon, especially the larger, heavier particles, sink. But we wanted to find out what is happening to the smaller, non-sinking phytoplankton cells from the bloom. Understanding the dynamics of the bloom and what happens to the carbon produced by it is important, especially for being able to predict how the…

Mahadevan selected as Radcliffe Fellow

March 26, 2015

Amala Mahadevan was amongst 50 fellows selected for a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.  As a result, she is spending a sabbatical year (2014-15) at Harvard University. During her fellowship year, Mahadevan is devoting time to understanding how the physical complexity of upper ocean dynamics at scales of 0.1–10 kilometers affects oceanic ecosystems. Life…

Recent workshop: Life in a Turbulent Environment

March 24, 2015

Mahadevan, along with Federico Toschi and David Nelson organized a recent workshop at the Radcliffe Institute titled Life in a Turbulent Environment. This  workshop convened expertise from the physical, biological and ocean sciences to stimulate a multidisciplinary discussion on how the dynamics of the ocean environment shapes life — ranging from individual plankton and microbes, to…

Melissa Omand joins GSO URI as Faculty

March 23, 2015

Melissa Omand, who joined the lab as a postdoctoral investigator in 2011, has joined the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island as Assistant Professor. For more information:

Science for the Public

March 4, 2015

How Plankton Blooms Absorb CO2 From WGBH: Microscopic plankton play a vital role in the ocean’s absorption of atmospheric CO2. And since that absorption represents about one third of the planet’s CO2, scientists are keen to understand this very complex cycle. Dr. Amala Mahadevan explains how ocean eddies shift layers of warm and cold water, so that the…

North Atlantic Plankton Bloom

July 25, 2012

Ocean eddies help jump-start plankton blooms that spread across hundreds of square miles In what’s known as the North Atlantic Bloom, an immense number of phytoplankton burst into existence, first “greening,” then “whitening” the sea as one or more species take the place of others. What turns on this huge bloom, what starts these ocean…

Recent Publications

Derr, N.J., Fronk, D.C., Weber, C.A., Mahadevan, A., Rycroft, C.H. and  L. Mahadevan, Flow-driven branching in a fragile porous medium, 2020, Phys. Rev. Lett. 125 (15), 158002

Mahadevan, A., A. Pascual, D.L. Rudnick, S. Ruiz, J. Tintoré, E. D’Asaro,  Coherent pathways for vertical transport from the surface ocean to interior, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (2020) doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-19-0305.1.

Jaeger, Gualtiero Spiro,  A.J. Lucas, J.T. Farrar, E. Shroyer, J. Nash, J. MacKinnon, A. Tandon, A. Mahadevan, 2020, Variance of spice in the Bay of Bengal,  J. Phys. Oceanogr.

Omand, Melissa, Rama Govindarajan, Jing He and Amala Mahadevan, A mechanistic model for the sinking flux of particles in the oceans, Scientific Reports, 10.1 (2020): 1-16.

Dever, Mathieu, Mara Freilich, J. Thomas Farrar, Benjamin Hodges, Tom Lanagan and Amala Mahadevan,  EcoCTD for profiling oceanic physical-biological properties from an underway ship, In Press,  J. Oceanic & Atmos. Technology

Jaeger, Gualtiero S.,  A.J. Lucas and Amala Mahadevan, 2020, Formation of Interleaving Layers in the Bay of Bengal, Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography 172: 104717