Over the decade and a half since planning for the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS) began, a number of shifts, both subtle and profound, have occurred in certain paradigms of biological and chemical oceanography. Nowhere have greater changes taken place than in the way we view the stoichiometry of elements in the ocean and the processes that influence these patterns. We started this era with a conception of new production that focused on nitrate, linked to other elements in a simple, generally stable ratio in the ocean. We now know that elemental ratios vary more than we thought. We also know far more about the importance of iron as a limiting nutrient and its effects on elemental stoichiometry. Assumptions about systems in steady state have given way to the recognition that nothing is constant except change. Relationships between nutrient fluxes and climate conditions over a broad spectrum of time scales have become apparent.