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Pacific Reef Expedition

Pacific Reef Expedition

Contribute to a new body of knowledge… Chronicle the state of coral reefs in the remote Pacific Ocean in response to a major ongoing climate event: an El Niño predicted to be the strongest on record. Participate in oceanographic research while making an epic 2,600-nautical mile passage across the Equator from Tahiti to Hawaii. Retrace historic voyages of Polynesian migration, mastering time-tested navigation methods that rely on the sun, stars, and moon. Visit some of the most remote island atolls in the world to document the effects of environmental change.

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Contribute to a new body of knowledge… Chronicle the state of coral reefs in the remote Pacific Ocean in response to a major ongoing climate event: an El Niño predicted to be the strongest on record. Participate in oceanographic research while making an epic 2,600-nautical mile passage across the Equator from Tahiti to Hawaii. Retrace historic voyages of Polynesian migration, mastering time-tested navigation methods that rely on the sun, stars, and moon. Visit some of the most remote island atolls in the world to document the effects of environmental change.

Overview: Summer 2016 | Polynesia & Hawaii

Voyage Map

Click map to enlarge.

Application Deadline: No longer accepting applications

What?

This field-based program for all majors will explore the changing Pacific Ocean environment through science and leadership lenses, including a rare chance to study remote, pristine coral reef ecosystems up close.

Where?

Cruise Track: Pape’ete, Tahiti to Honolulu, Hawaii
Destinations: Pape’ete > Rangiroa > Caroline Island, Kiribati > Kiritimati > Honolulu

When?

May 23 – June 19, 2016

(April 25 – May 18: Required Online Coursework)
May 23 – June 19: At Sea

Program Highlights

  • Open ocean passage
  • Equatorial crossing
  • Snorkel-based reef surveys
  • Traditional Polynesian and Western navigation methods
  • Hands-on sailing and leadership experience
  • Original data collection and authentic research

Who Should Apply?

This program is ideal for any undergraduate with an interest in the oceans. We welcome students of all majors to apply.

Program Description

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The Pacific Ocean is in the midst of a major climate event: what is shaping up to be the strongest El Niño (a complex, warming weather pattern) on record. With this phenomenon comes rising water temperatures and the potential for widespread changes to the marine environment, impacting both the ecosystems and the people that inhabit these regions. Students will have the rare opportunity to contribute to a growing body of knowledge about the susceptibility of remote coral reefs to climate change: an important question, since they support some of the richest diversity of species on the planet.  

Unlike other SEA Semester programs, Pacific Reef Expedition does not begin with a shore component at our Woods Hole, Massachusetts campus. Therefore, the program requires participation in a minimum of 4 hours of online discussion forums prior to sailing, with additional optional discussion forums as student pre-program schedules permit. Access the full syllabus below for further details.

After completing the initial online coursework and upon joining the SSV Robert C. Seamans in Tahiti, students will set sail for Hawaii, conducting snorkel-based photographic and visual surveys of the local corals, fish, and invertebrates found among three distinct island atolls along the way. Comparative research of environments that have experienced wide variations in development— Caroline Island (none), Rangiroa (moderate) and Christmas Island (extreme)— will allow students to document and compare the potential effects of El Niño. Data collected during this voyage could help shed new light on the ability of reefs to endure and adapt to global climate change. 

Coursework in Practical Oceanographic Research offers the opportunity to carry out predetermined research projects while sailing across the Equatorial Pacific. In small teams, students will examine the richness and variety of marine life in coral reef environments at different locations along the cruise track. No science prerequisites – see what field research is all about!

All students will participate as full, working member of the scientific team and sailing crew aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans.

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Academic Credit

Summer Session I – Pacific Reef Expedition, carries 4 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.

Course Description & Syllabus

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Academic Credit

Summer Session I – Pacific Reef Expedition, carries 4 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.

Course Descriptions

Practical Oceanographic Research (200-level, 4 credits)

(Previously titled Practical Oceanography II)
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.

Syllabus

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"Amazing things can be done when a group of people put their lives together working towards common goals. The Robert C. Seamans is a true exemplar of this concept, not only collecting research around the Pacific, but teaching life lessons and enriching the lives of everybody involved."

Rob Kozloff
Environmental Studies Major
University of Vermont