Ocean Optics

Research Faculty

Fraser Dalgleish, Ph.D. Bing Ouyang, Ph.D. James M Sullivan, Ph.D. Michael Twardowski, Ph.D. Anni Vuorenkoski Dalgleish, Ph.D.

The Ocean Optics program is a multidisciplinary group studying the interaction of light with the suspended particles, dissolved materials, and water molecules that make up seawater. A better understanding of light propagation in the ocean has several applications in basic and applied research, including:

  • satellite remote sensing of ocean color to determine biogeochemical parameters,
  • assessing light available for productivity and chemical reactions through the water column and in benthic environments such as coral reefs and seagrass beds,
  • predicting underwater visibility and clarity,
  • communicating underwater with lasers,
  • modeling and optimizing the performance of imaging systems and
  • assessing how biological organisms camouflage and how other objects may be camouflaged.

Our work also involves using sensors and models to specifically quantify and characterize the various particulate and dissolved materials in seawater for ocean biogeochemical research areas that include phytoplankton ecology, harmful algal blooms, particle thin layers, sediment transport, air-sea flux and carbon dynamics. Optical sensors can resolve these dynamics over spatial scales ranging from the microscopic to planetary.

Developing transformative optical technologies such as lidar (light detection and ranging), passive and active compressive imaging systems, in-water holographic imaging microscopy and state-of-the-art inherent optical property sensors employing light scattering, absorption and fluorescence to study challenging problems in oceanography is a strong focus area of our group. The Ocean Optics team is highly interdisciplinary with collaborations in the fields of ocean engineering and all primary disciplines of oceanography. We have worked in regions ranging from inland and coastal waters to all of the oceans of the world and our research is supported by NASA, Office of Naval Research, US Coast Guard, NOAA, NSF, NIH, DOE, small businesses, philanthropy from donors, and the HBOI Foundation endowment.


The Ocean Optics program is an essential component of the University's Sensing and Smart Systems pillar and its signature Institute for Sensing and Embeded Network Systems Engineering. Ocean Optics faculty member Dr. Michael Twardowski leads the Marine and Environment Program in collaboration with I-SENSE Director Jason Hallstrom, Ph.D., and Chief Engineer Jiannan Zhai, Ph.D.