Ben Van Mooy

Polar Scientist in the Spotlight

Learn about all sorts of careers that polar scientists have as we explore their different research areas through the featured Polar Scientist of the Month.

Ben Van Mooy

Chemical Oceanographer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

What do you do?

For Science: I study ocean chemistry and am particularly interested in the molecules that plankton make. I work with a team of people that collects samples of plankton from the ocean off Antarctica. We then take the samples back to the laboratory back home to analyze their molecular composition, which we can use to understand how they respond to environmental changes.

Outside of Science: I love the water and spend almost all my leisure time on boats or beaches. I work hard, and I play hard.


What is the best thing about your job?

The best part of my job is working with students training to be future oceanographers. They bring new perspectives to the problems I work on, and learning from them is really fun. Of course, working on the ocean off Antarctica is really cool also.

What is the most important tool you use for research?

The most important tool we use is a mass spectrometer, a laboratory instrument that determines what kinds of molecules are in a plankton sample.

Why is what you do important?

Plankton are tiny, but there can be a billion of them in a gallon of seawater. So when you begin to understand what plankton do, that knowledge adds up quickly. Studying plankton can teach you a lot about the whole ocean ecosystem.

Polar ICE