LeAnn Whitney picture

LeAnn Whitney

Department: Ocean Studies

· Associate Professor

Phone: 207-326-2396
Email: leann.whitney@mma.edu
Office: 201 Dirigo House
Office Hours: Th (1 PM - 3 PM) or by appointment


LeAnn Whitney is an Assistant Professor of Oceanography in the Corning School of Ocean Studies. She was appointed to Maine Maritime Academy’s faculty in 2018.

LeAnn is a marine phytoplankton ecologist. Her research interests focus on identifying the cellular mechanisms employed by phytoplankton to persist in nutrient-poor environments.In her spare time, LeAnn enjoys outdoor explorations with her family.

Research Scientist, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
Postdoctoral Researcher/NSF Fellow, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
Ph.D., Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Rhode Island
B.S., Marine Science, University of Maine (Orono)

Block Schedule:

I’m an Assistant Professor of Oceanography in the Corning School of Ocean Studies. I am currently teaching Introduction to Marine Science (OS101) along with a departmental seminar (OS002).

I study marine phytoplankton; these are microscopic, photosynthetic organisms that generate nearly half of the oxygen we breath! They are also important contributors to ocean carbon cycling and whose growth is largely controlled by nutrient availability. My research focuses on identifying the metabolic mechanisms employed by phytoplankton to persist in nutrient-poor environments. To do this, I couple phytoplankton culturing experiments with molecular analyses and physiological measurements to characterize the cellular response of phytoplankton to nutrient deficient conditions. Because phytoplankton do not naturally reside in a flask, a major objective of my research is to bridge the gap between genome-enabled culture studies of marine microorganisms and wild cells found in the environment.

I grew up in Machias, ME and am excited to return to a part of the state I love.


Whitney, L.P., Lomas, M.W. (accepted). Phosphonate utilization by eukaryotic phytoplankton. Limnology and Oceanography Letters.

Whitney, L.P., Lomas, M.W. (2016).  Growth on ATP elicits a P-stress response in the picoeukaryote Micromonas pusilla.  PLoS ONE.

*Chappell, P.D., *Whitney, L.P., Wallace, J.R., Darer, A.I., Jean-Charles, S., Jenkins, B.D. (2014). Genetic indicators of iron limitation in wild populations of Thalassiosira oceanica from the northeast Pacific Ocean. The ISME journal. (*contributed equally to the work)

Chappell, P.D., Whitney, L.P., Haddock, T.L., Roy, E.G., Wells, M.L., and Jenkins, B.D. Thalassiosira spp. community composition shifts in response to chemical and physical forcing in the northeast Pacific Ocean. Frontiers in Aquatic Microbiology 4:273. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2013.00273.

Dyhrman, S.T., Jenkins, B.D., Rynearson, T.A., Saito, M.A., Mercier, M.L., Alexander, H., Whitney, L.P., Dzrewianowski, A., Bulygin, V.V., Bertrand, E.M., Benitez-Nelson, C., and Heithoff, A. 2012. The transcriptome and proteome of the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana reveal a diverse phosphorus stress response. PLoS ONE 7(3): e33768. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033768.

Whitney, L.P., Lins, J.J., Hughes, M.P., Wells, M.L., Chappell, P.D., and Jenkins, B.D. 2011. Characterization of putative iron responsive genes as species-specific indicators of iron stress in Thalassiosiroid diatoms. Frontiers in Aquatic Microbiology  (vol 2).

Wu, Z., Jenkins, B.D., Rynearson, T.A., Dyhrman, S.T., Saito, M.A., Mercier, M. & Whitney, L.P. 2010. Empirical Bayes Analysis of Sequencing-based Transcriptional Profiling. BMC Bioinformatics Nov 16;11(1):564 (0).

Recent Grants

NSF Biological Oceanography (2018 – 2021):  Phosphonate Utilization by Eukaryotic Phytoplankton:  Who, How, and Where?