Research at SEA
Undergraduate research is a cornerstone of SEA Semester, with an emphasis on field-based study in marine and social sciences. SEA faculty and staff are active in their respective fields through grant-funded research projects, participation in professional conferences and publication in scholarly journals.
Faculty encourage SEA Semester students to contribute new aspects to ongoing research or to develop their own avenues of inquiry, as they guide students through the entire research process from defining the scope of study to final presentation of their work. Many students continue their research upon return to their home institutions, using the field data collected at SEA as the basis of capstone or senior thesis projects. Others remain involved in the research they contributed to during their time at SEA, and are subsequently invited as co-authors on presentations and publications resulting from their work.
We invite you to explore the major avenues of research conducted by SEA Semester students and SEA faculty and staff.
Recent SEA Research in the News
Below are highlights from recent SEA research. To view all of our research-related news, click here.
Marine Plastics Study Gets Noticed by Environmental Journal
April 27, 2016
Doug Karlson, email@example.com
It’s been well reported in this blog and elsewhere: vast quantities of plastic and microplastic debris (pieces smaller than 5 mm) have been observed and sampled in oceans around the world. But accurately measuring it, on a global scale, is still a major challenge.
SEA’s Dr. Kara Lavender Law, Research Professor of Oceanography, is doing just that. Working with colleagues at other institutions, she’s employing a rigorous statistical approach to standardize a global dataset and thus better estimate the size and scope of the problem – and gauge the danger it poses to marine life.
SEA Honored with National Science Board Award
April 06, 2016
Sea Education Association/SEA Semester® is 2016 NSB Public Service awardee.
Today the National Science Board (NSB) announced that Sea Education Association (SEA) would be bestowed with its 2016 Public Service Award.
This esteemed award honors exemplary public service in promoting public understanding of science and engineering. SEA is the sole recipient of the Public Service Award this year.
SEA Plastics Expedition Yields Insight on Marine Species Migration
February 10, 2016
Floating plastic debris in the ocean may be more hospitable to some marine animals than originally thought, according to a new study co-authored by a SEA Semester alumnus who gathered samples aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans during the 2012 Plastics at SEA: North Pacific Expedition.
The researchers found that the presence of barnacles on large plastic debris creates a more sustainable long-term habitat for rafting species to take hold and thrive on otherwise slippery surfaces, such as spherical fishing buoys commonly found drifting in the oceans.
New Study: Far More Floating Plastics in Ocean Than Thought
January 07, 2016
Kara Lavender Law, SEA Semester Research Professor of Oceanography
Dr. Kara Lavender Law, a SEA Semester research professor of oceanography, co-authored a new study entitled, “A Global Inventory of Small Floating Plastic Debris,” published with international colleagues on December 8, 2015 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters. This study finds larger quantities of tiny plastic bits floating in the world’s oceans than previously estimated. But even this amount accounts for only 1% of plastic that likely enters the ocean annually, and scientists are still working to understand where the rest of it ends up.
The majority of data for this study came from plastic samples collected and analyzed during decades of SEA Semester voyages. Here, Kara discusses what these findings mean for future scientific research directions and anyone trying to make sense of the massive amounts of plastic entering the world’s oceans every year.
New Study: Microbes on Marine Plastic Debris Differ by Ocean
December 10, 2015
Anne Broache, firstname.lastname@example.org
Microplastics—tiny fragments less than 5 millimeters in size—are now the most abundant form of ocean debris, prompting growing concerns from the public about the array of potential impacts on marine ecosystems. For SEA Semester faculty and students, one key line of research is better understanding the “Plastisphere,” the communities that colonize and thrive on these floating plastic islands.
A newly published scientific paper co-authored by SEA Semester Professor of Oceanography Dr. Erik Zettler reports an important finding: The make-up of the Plastisphere microbial communities appears to differ significantly on a global ocean basis. Notably, their analysis revealed genetic “signatures” that distinguish microbial communities found on plastic floating in Atlantic Ocean gyre environments from those found in the Pacific Ocean.