SEA Currents: News
SEA Semester in the News
URI students sail to remote Pacific islands to study effect of climate change on coral reefs
Two University of Rhode Island students are sailing to remote islands in the Pacific Ocean to study any damage to coral reefs from climate change.
Hailey Simpson, of Rochester, N.Y., who has her B.S. in Ocean Engineering and is earning her master’s degree in Oceanography, and Kyle Alvanas, of Portsmouth, who will graduate next year with a degree in marine affairs, are among 24 students from American colleges conducting research in this largely under-studied region.
Simpson and Alvanas are making the voyage with Sea Education Association, or SEA Semester, an internationally recognized program that combines classroom learning on shore at Woods Hole, Mass., with study aboard a research vessel.
In order to help guide strategies to confront the problem of plastics pollution, scientists today published the first-ever global analysis of all the plastics made since widespread production began in the 1950s.
The study, published by Science Advances, traces worldwide plastics production, use and what we do with plastic after we’re done with it.
“Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made” was co-authored by Dr. Kara Lavender Law, Research Professor of Oceanography at Sea Education Association, Dr. Jenna Jambeck , University of Georgia, and Dr. Roland Geyer, University of California, Santa Barbara.
SEA Semester in the News
Practicing Science on the High Seas
GW students combined oceanography research on environmental threats with the rigors of seamanship during a 12-week journey aboard a tall ship in the South Pacific.
By John DiConsiglio
Somewhere in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, about 200 nautical miles east of New Zealand, Lily Anna Segalman got her sea legs.
An environmental studies major at the George Washington University, Ms. Segalman held steady to the rail of the tall ship as 20-foot swells sprayed her head to toe with salt water. For the first time since setting sail 10 days earlier, she stumbled across the wooden deck of the 135-foot Brigantine named the Robert C. Seamans in 25-knot winds without getting seasick.
“I considered that a major victory,” she laughed. “I wouldn’t say I was a sailor yet. But it was a start.”
That winning moment for Ms. Segalman came in the middle of a 12-week journey at sea. Along with 13 other students from 12 different schools, including Turi Abbott, a rising senior at GW, she was participating in the Sea Education Association’s SEA Semester, a study abroad program that combines oceanography research with basic seamanship.
Last week, SEA joined in committing to advance science and partnership in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.
At the UN Ocean Conference, held June 5th through 9th, the PIPA Scientific Advisory Committee made a voluntary commitment to implement UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”, with support from SEA and other collaborating organizations*.
Specifically, this commitment includes generating a new ten-year research plan for the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), one of the largest marine protected areas and the largest—and deepest—UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This one-day symposium is the capstone experience for students from SEA Semester class C-273, Marine Biodiversity & Conservation. The event includes oral presentations of the students’ research findings and policy recommendations to a panel of invited experts, and contributes directly to international effort to protect the Sargasso Sea. Student presentations will be interspersed with related talks given by some of the invited participants. The public is invited to attend. Space is limited.
How often do you think about the ocean? As inhabitants of a coastal commonwealth and a historic maritime city, we do so perhaps more than the average American. The more compelling question is “how do we think about the ocean?” How would we describe it? Beautiful and mysterious? Likely. Awe-inspiring? Perhaps. How about imperiled? Damaged? Hopeless?
Thursday, June 8 marks the 26th annual World Oceans Day, an idea that emerged from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The World Oceans Day website describes the annual event as providing “a unique opportunity to honor, help protect, and conserve the world’s oceans.” It notes that our oceans provide much of the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat, and help to maintain the climate that sustains us. Our oceans also inspire us. For one day in June, we are encouraged to acknowledge and celebrate these gifts, and to commit ourselves to improving ocean health through both activism and our choices as consumers.
This World Oceans Day, the focus is on encouraging solutions to plastic pollution, and preventing marine litter.
At SEA, we’ve been studying plastic pollution for a long time. The plastic we study is collected in our neuston nets floating at the surface of the open ocean. Mostly, we find microplastics (pieces less than 5mm in diameter, usually broken down from larger objects).
It’s a serious problem, impacting marine life and degrading marine environments.
Congratulations to SEA alum and marine biologist Mike Gil for being selected as a TED Fellow. He’ll join a class of 21 change-makers from around the world to deliver a talk this August from the TEDGlobal stage in Arusha, Tanzania.
A National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of California, Davis, Mike studies human impact on marine ecosystems, and how social interactions among fish that eat harmful algae can counteract coral reef degradation.
As a science communicator, Mike started a science appreciation campaign. He creates videos and gives talks which he says are designed to “reveal the lesser-known side of science: an adventure, accessible to all….”
Today marks the global launch of .eco, a new symbol of sustainability.
Environmentalism and conservation are core elements of SEA Semester’s mission and curriculum, both in the classroom and at sea. While program specifics vary, students are focused on gaining a deeper understanding of critical issues including climate change, sustainability, biodiversity, human impact on the environment, and environmental justice. Students are actively involved in field research, and their work often contributes to international ocean research efforts.
We’re thrilled to once again join with Sailors for the Sea, a leading ocean conservation organization, for our “Onboard Reporter” program.
This is a special partnership that began last year. Each term, one SEA Semester student is designated as Sailors for Sea’s “Onboard Reporter,” and receives a $1,500 award.
This spring, the Onboard Reporter is Anna Brodmerkel, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Anna is currently sailing aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer as a member of C-273, Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (known around here as MBC).