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Virtual Summer Program

SEA Quest: Online High School Summer Program

SEA Quest is a 2-week, in-depth, virtual exploration of critical marine conservation topics coupled with essential training in leadership and scientific skills. SEA Quest Explorers will meet professionals from Woods Hole regional research and conservation centers, participate in and contribute to an active learning community that values the ocean, and explore various marine ecosystems through a virtual ocean research cruise. 

Program Highlights

Field Journals

  • An essential characteristic of vigilant mariners and inquisitive scientists is the disciplined, organized, and accurate note-taking and record keeping of observations in a logbook or field journal.
  • Maintaining a field journal encourages synthesis, fosters creativity and innovation, and reveals cross-disciplinary connections.
  • A well-kept field journal will become a lasting memento of your SEA Quest academic adventure.


  • Learn the science behind ocean health issues.
  • Engage in hands-on science practice using materials provided in a teaching kit and/or virtually guided activities in local ecosystems.
  • Take a virtual scientific cruise to understand what tools and processes are involved in gathering data.

Nautical Science and Leadership

  • Understand more about your personality and how you work as a team member or leader.
  • Through weather and celestial observations, gain appreciation for the elements impacting ocean navigation.
  • Develop a keener sense of situational awareness.

Oceans and Society

  • Learn how ocean conservation groups form and accomplish their goals.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of issues surrounding the uses and protection of marine ecosystems through the eyes of diverse stakeholders.
  • Practice presenting scientific evidence supporting conservation efforts to the general public.

Program Description

This program is designed for rising high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, as well as recent high school graduates. Centered on learning by doing, SEA Quest is a multidisciplinary experience that welcomes students to work creatively, from home, to approximate participation in coastal ecosystem research and engage in exercises essential to the team effort that is required on any oceanographic expedition. SEA Quest relies heavily on activities centered on both the Woods Hole community of researchers and our Sailing School Vessels (SSVs), the Corwith Cramer and Robert C. Seamans, the two sailing research vessels operated by SEA.

Under the direct, interactive tutelage of a professional scientist, a licensed mariner and a marine policy instructor, SEA Quest students gain hands-on experience conducting field research in their own neighborhood ecosystems, engage in many of the exercises and activities that would prepare them for time on a tall ship and analyze scientific deployments, understanding the complexities of creating and managing marine sanctuaries, and developing crucial leadership and teamwork skills. This program, like research at sea, is fast-paced, and while work is limited to 4 hours a day, students will still be exposed to aspects of the planning and managing of a ship that is underway 24 hours a day.

Skill Building

Central to the SEA experience is the challenge of forming a team to operate a sailing ship at sea. In our virtual program, the teamwork, leadership, community building, and a sense of shared mission, core values of all SEA programs, remain central as students take responsibility for helping one another in cultivating these valuable life skills. The Nautical Science and Leadership instructor will lead exercises in leadership, communication, thoughtful participation, and a planned approach to tasks – all essential in school, the workplace, and in learning to deal successfully with dynamics or unplanned events. SEA Quest participants grow not only as students, but as individuals and contributing members of a “ship’s company.” This in turn fosters a deeper understanding of their own potential and ability to influence our world.


SEA Quest provides students with a unique opportunity to understand the process of marine research at sea and to apply those to their own unique ecosystems in their neighborhoods. In this program, students will virtually participate, through SEA logbooks and interactive video sessions, in our scientific voyages focused on near-shore and offshore ecosystems. The waters that we sail are important habitats for rare and endangered species – whales, turtles, seabirds – along with countless other marine organisms. Data analyzed by SEA Quest Explorers is part of a cumulative data set of SEA voyages compiled over nearly 50 years, and it provides critical annual monitoring of these marine protected areas for key stakeholders. These data include biodiversity information, sea temperature and salinity, chemical nutrient measurements, sediment samples, visual and acoustic recording of whales and vessel traffic, and more. Scientific studies are given human background context with discussions of the development of policies behind the marine protected areas we visit. Students return home with a broader sense of the ocean’s importance to our planet and the need to preserve this precious resource for future generations.

Program Structure

Our theme-based sessions are 2 weeks long (M-F, 4 hours per day). Each theme is designed to emphasize the kinds or research activities typically involved in SEA programs, but it will also incorporate the work done at local research centers or organizations that are long-time SEA partners.

SEA Quest is based on daily, scheduled, ‘live, in-person’ class periods that occur twice a day (two different disciplinary topics - either OC, NS, or MS). Scheduled class times are 1030-1230 ( trying to accommodate west coast) and 1400-1600. 

Each 2-hr online class is designed to have 1-hr in-person followed by self-guided activities for students to perform during the other hour. So total screen time each day is only 2-hrs. but ~ 4-hrs of activities/work.

Session Themes

Session I: Coral Reefs and Climate Change

Coral reefs and their linked ecosystems protect islands and provide food for growing human populations; they also attract tourists and drive economic development. But modern reefs face many threats, including rising temperatures and ocean acidification (lower pH) due to climate change, overfishing, and reduced water quality. In this session, you will explore tropical marine ecosystems, their diverse marine life inhabitants, and the impact of human actions upon them. You will get a virtual look at a changing ocean from the deck and lab logbooks of the Corwith Cramer and Robert C. Seamans as you simulate heading out to study reef environments. Based on the records of our ships at sea, you’ll work with fellow students to examine the changes to modern reefs brought about by shifting climatic conditions and develop strategies for connecting scientific data to observable climate impacts on human societies. Through an examination of reef survey footage (video and images), oceanographic deployments, group discussions, and nautical science and leadership training, you’ll gain a unique and valuable perspective of reef ecosystems. You will also put into practice what you have learned and share your findings with your fellow SEA Quest Explorers during an online poster session.

Session II: Ocean Biodiversity and Issues of Marine Debris

Ocean biodiversity captures the imagination and supports humanity by providing a healthy source of food, a plethora of natural products for medicinal and industrial uses and ensures that marine habitats continue to function properly and provide valuable ecosystem services such as carbon storage and protection from sea level rise. Despite the many benefits reliant on ocean biodiversity it is threatened by habitat destruction, fishing, climate change and pollution such as marine debris.

Gain an understanding of factors that influence marine biodiversity and issues contributing to rise of plastic debris in the oceans. Discover how research is conducted and engage with organizations that also track these factors and other related ocean health issues. Based on scientific records and plankton samples collected at sea during one of our cruises you’ll work with fellow students to examine the changes to our oceans brought about by increasing abundance of microplastics and develop strategies for connecting marine debris data to changes in biodiversity. Through an examination of oceanographic deployments, group discussions, and nautical science and leadership training, you’ll gain a unique and valuable perspective of the environmental factors that determine patterns in marine biodiversity. You will also put into practice what you have learned and conduct your own biodiversity survey of a habitat in your neighborhood and share your findings with your fellow SEA Quest Explorers during an online poster session.

Each weekday of a two-week session will be divided into morning and afternoon periods. No more than 15 minutes of “lecture” or “discussion” at a time, with emphasis on breaking free from the screen to engage in project-based learning. Guest lecturers and virtual field trips will play a central role in each 2-week theme. No more than 4 hours of programming per day, including the off-screen activities.