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Sustainability in Polynesian Island Cultures and Ecosystems

SEA Semester: Sustainability in Polynesian Island Cultures & Ecosystems

Pursue a more sustainable relationship with our oceans... Voyage to paradise in this place-based and comparative environmental studies semester. Visit several South Pacific islands to confront challenging questions of colonial conflict, cultural identity, and environmental justice, and to examine relationships between political structures, culture, and the natural environment. This program concludes with a shore component in New Zealand to compile and process research findings.

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Overview: Fall 2016 | New Zealand

Voyage Map

Click map to enlarge.

Application Deadline: Program Closed

What?

The impacts of environmental change are being felt all over the globe, affecting people and ecosystems in even the most remote locations.  Questions are being raised about how humans societies will operate in the future given limited resources, growing populations, exponential increases in waste generation, and climatic disruption.  Humans have always been an important factor in environmental change, bringing plants, animals and diseases from one part of the planet to another, but our awareness in the twenty-first century of the rapidity and irreversibility of those changes, and of the profound effects they will have on human cultures and economies, demands we address them. The SEA Semester course “Sustainability in Polynesian Island Cultures and Ecosystems” (SPICE) was designed to encourage a conversation on these topics. This environmental studies semester  takes an interdisciplinary look at the people and islands of Polynesia in an effort to learn what they can tell us about the global issues of environmental sustainability and cultural continuity.

Where?

Cruise Track: American Samoa to Auckland, New Zealand
Destinations: American Samoa > Tonga > Fiji > Auckland

Port stops subject to change.

When?

August 29 - November 16, 2016

Aug. 29 - Sept. 23: Shore I in Woods Hole
Sept. 26 - Nov. 7: At Sea
Nov. 8 - 16: Shore II in Auckland

Who Should Apply?

This semester is particularly appropriate for Environmental Studies / Science majors but students from any major are encouraged to apply.

Click here to view the SPICE Atlas.

Program Description

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The remote islands of Oceania are some of the most special and significant places in the world. Their coral reefs and tropical forests are oases of biological diversity, and their human populations possess an equally rich diversity of histories, languages, and social practices. Western colonization brought about disruptive changes in the economies and cultures of these societies, which had thrived for millennia on self-sustaining practices. Today, imposed Western cultural values, consumer products, and cultural suppression have severely undermined the close connection between the island cultures and the environment. In this semester, students will examine what the future holds for these islands, and whether they can offer solutions for how we manage our natural resources that may apply to other regions of the world as well.

Developed by SEA faculty in conjunction with local partners, SEA Semester: Sustainability in Polynesian Island Cultures & Ecosystems (SPICE) begins with a shore component in Woods Hole where students will be introduced to the history, culture and geography of remote Pacific Islands. Visiting scholars will share their work on resource management, Polynesian voyaging and navigation, and traditional art and cultural practices.

Students will then join the crew of the SSV Robert C. Seamans for a 7-week sailing research voyage. They will visit several South Pacific islands to confront challenging questions of colonial conflict, cultural identity, and environmental justice, and to examine relationships between political structures, culture, and the natural environment. They will explore issues of sustainability with local officials while visiting historical, cultural, and agricultural sites. They will also investigate the complex factors that threaten fragile island ecosystems and the surrounding marine environment in an effort to pursue a more sustainable relationship with our oceans.

The program concludes with a shore component in New Zealand where students will compile their research and present their findings in the form of a collaborative online atlas.

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

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Academic Credit

SEA Semester: Sustainability in Polynesian Island Cultures & Ecosystems (SPICE) carries 17 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.

Course Descriptions

Marine Environmental History (300-level, 4 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor.
Employ methods and sources of historians and social scientists. Examine the role of human societies in coastal and open ocean environmental change. Issues include resource conservation, overfishing, pollution, invasive species, and climate change.

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.

Maritime Studies (200-level, 3 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Relationship between humans and the sea. History, literature and art of our maritime heritage. Ships as agents of contact change. Political and economic challenges of contemporary marine affairs. Destination-specific focus.

Nautical Science (200-level, 3 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Learn the fundamentals of sailing ship operation, in preparation for direct application at sea. Navigation (piloting, celestial and electronic), weather, engineering systems, safety, and sail theory. Participate as an active member of the ship’s crew on an offshore voyage.

Oceanography (200-level, 3 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Explore how interconnected ocean characteristics (bathymetry, seawater chemistry, biological diversity) and processes (plate tectonics, surface and deep-water circulation, biological production) shape global patterns across multiple scales. Discuss destination-specific environmental issues and hot topics in marine research.

Syllabi

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"SEA Semester was one of the most memorable chapters of my life. I was able to spend a semester among like-minded peers for one of the first times in my life, exploring new environments and cultures during port stops, merging old and new technologies together to navigate our ship and bring us safely to our next destination, and bringing a new view of the world to light."

Liz Stefany
Bates College
Environmental Studies Major