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Study Abroad Spain

SEA Semester: The Global Ocean

Human actions...have caused measurable changes in the global ocean. To understand how such changes occur we need to look not only at how natural systems work, but also at the histories, cultures, and policies of people who live on coasts and islands in different regions. No matter your major, if you’ve always wanted to explore the global impact of human actions on the ocean, this is the SEA Semester for you. Customize your experience by selecting the electives that best suit your interests in this diverse place-based curriculum. Sail in the waters of Spain to learn about this region’s unique relationship with its ocean environment.

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Overview: Fall 2016 | Europe & Mediterranean

Voyage Map

Click map to enlarge.

Application Deadline: Program Closed


We will explore the Western Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic while visiting a variety of ports with strong maritime heritages. This semester will introduce students to modern environmental issues faced by communities long tied to the sea.


Cruise Track: Barcelona, Spain to Canary Islands
Destinations: Barcelona > Mallorca > Cádiz > Madeira > Canary Islands

Port stops subject to change.


August 22 - November 6, 2016

Aug. 22 - Sept. 23: Woods Hole
Sept. 27 - Nov. 6: At Sea

Who Should Apply?

This semester welcomes students from all majors. Elective credit allows students to choose a program track that best meets their academic needs.

Program Description

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With coasts and islands in both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, Spain offers an opportunity to look at diverse bodies of water and a range of coastal areas. Our voyage will begin in Barcelona in the western Mediterranean, Europe’s ancient landlocked sea. Built between two rivers, this port has been important since Roman times and today is one of Europe’s principal seaports. Harbor development and a thriving tourist industry have altered the landscape; we will spend three days examining the evolution of the waterfront and the city that was built around it. We will then sail for the island of Mallorca where we will see the contrast between a port that serves fishing boats, yachts, ferries and cruise ships, and boasts the nearby Tramuntana Range, a UNESCO World Heritage site of great cultural significance. Work conducted by the Mediterranean Science Commission, with their Marine Research Center at Palma de Mallorca, will inform our visit.

We will then venture through the Straits of Gibraltar into the eastern reaches of the Atlantic Ocean. Thousands of ships still voyage weekly along this route to the New World, a track first blazed by the European explorers. We will make a stop at the ancient port of Cádiz on Spain’s Atlantic coast. One of the oldest cities in Spain, Cádiz was described by Herodotus, colonized by the Romans, and still has remnants of its medieval walls. Local parks grow plants that are reported to have been brought from the New World by Columbus. Despite this history, it is also a modern port, and we will use the metrics of the Ocean Health Index to see how human actions have changed the landscape and seascape over time.

The state-of-the-art laboratory onboard the SSV Corwith Cramer will allow us to study the waters through which we will sail, and to discuss the resources that have supported the Spanish economy for centuries. We will complete our voyage by visiting two Atlantic island groups: Madeira, where almost two-thirds of the area is protected habitat, and the Canary Islands. Both have active fisheries (and fish markets!) and are ancient stopping places between the Old World and the New.

This voyage is likely to experience a wide range of great sailing conditions, from the summer calms of the Mediterranean to spirited ocean sailing en route to the Trade Winds. Like all SEA Semester programs, The Global Ocean offers, at its core, a unique opportunity for students to develop leadership and teamwork skills in dynamic environment. There are no passengers on board our sailing school vessels (SSVs). Instead, students go to sea as crew-in-training, and learn to run all aspects of a 134’ sailing research vessel through hands-on experience under the guidance of professional mariners and oceanographers.

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

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Academic Credit

SEA Semester: The Global Ocean carries 17-18 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.

Required Core Courses

Leadership in a Dynamic Environment (300-level, 3 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor. 
Be an effective leader while leveraging the individual strengths of a team. Use leadership theory and case studies to understand how decisions affect outcomes. Participate as an active member of a ship’s crew, progressively assuming full leadership roles.

Maritime History & Culture (300-level, 4 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor. 
Explore impacts of European maritime ventures on the societies they contacted in the Atlantic or Pacific, with focus on the resulting social, political, economic, and cultural changes. Investigate responses documented in the post-Colonial literature of indigenous people.

The Ocean & Global Change (300-level, 4 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor. 
Ocean ecosystem change in the anthropocene: warming, acidification, fisheries depletion, and pollution. Review principles of circulation, seawater chemistry, nutrient dynamics, and biological production to understand causes and consequences of change. Conduct field measurements for contribution to time-series datasets.

Electives (Choose Two)

Cultural Landscapes & Seascapes: A Sense of Place (300-level, 3 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor. 
Field-intensive analysis and documentation of dynamic relationships between nature and culture in specific coastal, island, and ocean places. Apply cultural landscape and related interdisciplinary bio-cultural approaches to place-based environmental studies.

Data Communication & Visualization (300-level, 3 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor. 
Information visualization strategies and associated software, emphasizing communication to diverse audiences. Select between geospatial (GIS) and qualitative data foci. Develop graphics and/or multimedia products supporting research projects in concurrent courses. Compile iterative digital portfolio.

Toward a Sustainable Ocean: Conservation & Management (300-level, 3 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor. 
Comparative and issue-driven introduction to managing human uses and conserving coastal and ocean places and resources.  Explore concepts of technology, governance, sector and ecosystem management, and marine protected areas through expert content lectures, topical seminars, and field trips.

Your Choice of Research Courses:

Directed Oceanographic Research (300-level, 4 credits)
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Three lab science courses (one at the 300-level or higher) or consent of instructor.
Design and conduct original oceanographic research. Collect data and analyze samples. Compile results in peer-reviewed manuscript format and share during oral or poster presentation session. Emphasis on development of research skills and written/oral communication abilities.

-- OR --

Practical Oceanographic Research (200-level, 4 credits)
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Introduction to oceanographic research. Design a collaborative, hypothesis-driven project following the scientific process. Collect original data. Conduct analysis and interpretation, then prepare a written report and oral presentation.


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"Putting our trust in the natural world around us and the knowledge of the past navigators who have gifted us their epic discoveries, we embark on a journey of knowledge that crosses all boundaries of time."

Mia Pinheiro
University of Vermont
Anthropology & Art Major