Michael Follows

Director, MIT-WHOI Joint Program
Professor of Oceanography
Secondary Appointment — Civil and Environmental Engineering

Contact Info:



Office Phone






Darius Collazo 617.253.0251

Models marine ecosystems to understand relationships between microbial biodiversity and carbon and nutrient cycling in the ocean.

I’m interested in biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nutrients in the ocean.

Over the past decade and more, I have become increasingly fascinated by the biological and ecological aspects of global elemental cycles and developed a new platform for simulating and interpreting the structure, function and biodiversity of marine microbial populations. The approach relies upon the self-assembly of communities from a diverse pool of virtual phenotypes. It provides a bridge between clean concepts from theoretical ecology and the typically sparse observational data from marine ecosystems.

To date, this work has focused on marine phytoplankton populations. In my group we are currently extending the approach to provide more general descriptions of marine microbes including a broader set of trophic strategies. To understand the ecological sorting of populations, we seek to quantitatively understand and model the costs and benefits of particular organismal traits and interactions, constrained by conservation of mass, electron and energy flow.

Follows joined the MIT faculty in 2013. He is Director of the MIT-WHOI Joint Program and lead on the MIT Darwin Project and CBIOMES, the Simons Collaboration on Computational Biogeochemical Modeling of Marine Ecosystems.

Key Awards & Honors

  • 2023 • A.G. Huntsman Medal, Royal Society of Canada
  • 2013 • Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology
  • 2006 • MIT Global Habitat Longevity Award