Understanding climate change is the predominant scientific challenge of our time, as rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and temperatures influence shifts in weather, storm activity, sea level, biodiversity, and numerous other processes. While direct study of long-term climate variability is not feasible during a six-week voyage, SEA Semester is leveraging the opportunities presented by its remote, open ocean cruise tracks and repeated annual sampling to build valuable datasets in poorly studied areas of the world. Furthermore, first-hand interactions with small island communities during port stops offer the chance to explore the impacts of regional climate-related changes already underway. Student policy research aims to discern the most pressing climate issues along the cruise track, and to identify ongoing adaptation, mitigation and response efforts supported by local governments and agencies.
Carbon occurs in the ocean in a variety of chemical forms; the many and diverse processes that alter its form and transport it between atmosphere, sediments, living organisms, land and ocean are collectively termed the carbon cycle. At SEA, research is focused on measuring organic and inorganic carbon using shipboard instrumentation and laboratory analysis of water samples in order to quantify reservoirs of ocean carbon and the fluxes between them.Selected Carbon cycling papers and publications
El Nino-Southern Oscillation
A large-scale coupled ocean-atmosphere pattern in the equatorial Pacific, El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) alters wind, current, temperature, and ecological conditions of both the surface and deep oceans throughout the region. SEA has sampled the central Pacific for more than a decade, resulting in a dataset that includes multiple El Niño and La Niña phases as well as transitional periods. Oceanographic research of nearly every discipline occurring in this region includes a consideration of the influences of ENSO.Selected El Nino-Southern Oscillation papers and publications
As dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) levels increase in seawater, the oceans become more acidic. How this will affect marine communities is poorly understood, though the consequences for calcium carbonate-structure building organisms such as corals and shell-building plankton are likely to be significant. Using shipboard measurements of seawater pH and alkalinity (buffering capacity), we are establishing baseline conditions of ocean chemistry and assessing changes over time.Selected Ocean acidification papers and publications
Renewable energy resources and technologies
Renewable energy projects offer a relatively new avenue of research for SEA. Utilizing a combination of shipboard observations and supporting buoy and satellite data, we examine wave, wind, solar, and ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) energy potential. Resource assessments also consider these alternative energy sources in light of real-world use scenarios, identify the most reasonable types of technologies (existing or under development) for the resource in the study region, and consider potential challenges to its use and/or implementation.Selected Renewable energy resources and technologies papers and publications
Selected student research
Bateman, T., S. Davis and C. Lee, 2015. The Effects of Ocean Acidification on Pteropod Distribution, Abundance, and Shell Condition in the Southern Pacific Ocean. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-258, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Davis, A. and S. Botia, 2015. Distribution and Transport of Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC) in the Antarctic Intermediate Water and the Sub-Antarctic Mode Water in the South Pacific Ocean. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-258, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
McDonald, K., 2014. Exploring the Potential for Wave Energy and Combined Wave-Wind Energy Devices Off the Coast of New Zealand. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-256, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Gustafson, D., N. Dahal and A. Payne, 2014. The El Nino Effect: Examining Past Records From the Perspective of the Deep Chlorophyll Maximum. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-252, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Enright, K., C. Puleo and H. Wagner, 2014. Spatial and Temporal Comparisons of CO2 Sequestration and Flux in the Subtropical and Equatorial Pacific. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-252, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Pagniello, C., 2013. The Impacts of Ocean Acidification on the Geographic Distribution, Abundance, Species Composition, and Species Diversity of Thecosome Pteropods in the East Pacific. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-250, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Fontanet, P., 2013. Spatial and Temporal Patterns in pH in the North Pacific. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-248, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Simpson, A. and N. Delatolas, 2013. The Potential for Renewable Wave Energy as a Means for Powering Autonomous Buoys in the Equatorial Pacific. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-246, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Bernardi, L., J. Lyles, M. McGee and B. Sparre, 2013. Alternative Energy Sources and Fuel Use Assessment for Cruise and Cargo Ships in the Equatorial Pacific. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-246, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Abram, A. and J. Sturtevant, 2013. Feasibility of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion in the Northern Equatorial Pacific. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-246, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Claffey, D. and C. Holzinger, 2013. Temporal and Spatial Change in Carbonate Chemistry Along N-S Transect in the Subtropical Pacific. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-246, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Cupo, M. and S. Raycroft, 2012. Are Barrier Layers Indicative of Imminent ENSO Events? Unpublished student research paper, Class S-244, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Ouni, S., 2012. Effects of El Nino Southern Oscillation on the Equatorial Undercurrent Heat Transport. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-244, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Minckler, A., S. Herda and S. Kyros, 2012. La Nina Effects on Trophic Structures in the Central Pacific. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-240, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Duerr, J. and L. Jones, 2012. Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC) Variance With Depth Within the Sargasso and Caribbean Seas and its Implications for Calcifying Organisms. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-239, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Toney, B., 2011. Analyzing a Predictive Model for Aragonite Saturation. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-238, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Meyer, A. W.*, M. K. Becker^, K. C. Grabb^ and SEA Cruise S-250 Scientific Party, 2014. SEA Semester Undergraduates Research the Ocean's Role in Climate Systems in the Pacific Ocean. AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA.
* SEA faculty and staff
^ SEA Semester alumnus
Hold ‘Em & Fold ‘EmPosted on: July 14, 2017
By: Mark “Snark” Waddington, B-watch, Second Mate
A very wise friend once gave me this advice (I think we were talking about chairs): “You’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them. Know when to walk away, and know when to run.” He was trying to wax philosophically about how chairs were like life in general. Now it’s my turn.Read More
Inverts, microscopes and vents! Oh my!Posted on: June 28, 2017
By: Deborah Leopo, University of California, Santa Cruz
I could feel my hands getting clammy as I got off the Peter Pan bus in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. It was 9:30 PM and in a couple minutes, I was going to be greeted by Dr. Adrienne George. While waiting for Dr. George, I was lucky to have met another PEP student, Lynnette. Lynette and I were both from the UC system and we both knew what an honor it was to be selected into the Partnership Education Program. On our way to the SEA campus, I couldn’t help but smile.Read More
Coral HealthPosted on: June 09, 2017
By: Chris Le Boa, Stanford
Standing at the helm, I grasp two spokes of the ship’s wooden steering wheel, when the order comes: “Course ordered 355, steering 005.” I recite the order, following ship’s protocol, knowing full well it will send us directly into the path of an oncoming squall. I turn the wheel a quarter turn until the bow points directly toward the looming wall of black clouds.
I can see black streaks on the horizon, curtains of rain spilling out of sky. The junior watch officer barks out commands in preparation for the oncoming deluge.Read More
SEA you later!Posted on: November 11, 2016
By: The Class of C-270
We are fourteen students from institutions around the world coming together to sail across the tropical North Atlantic Ocean. Our six-week shore component studies have just concluded, with classes in Nautical Science, Oceanography and Marine Policy. Within the next few days we will start our highly anticipated voyage, with the opportunity to put our practical nautical science skills to use and complete our scientific projects.Read More
Cloudy with a Chance of Fresh WaterPosted on: March 22, 2016
By: Jan Witting, Professor of Oceanography, Sea Education Association
How do you feel about rainy days? I have a hunch that most of you are like me, and far prefer prefer blue skies to drizzle and rain. Yet it is a pretty indulgent relationship with water, something we can afford thanks to municipal water supplies and secure access to it. Something that can quickly make this fact plain to us is a trip to an atoll island pretty much anywhere. I remember waking up to the sound hard rain hammering the tin roof of my friend Herve’s house on the island of Rangiroa in French Polynesia some years ago.Read More