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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans

May 14, 2017

Science and Policy Meet in Bermuda

Mark Howard Long, Ph. D., Associate Professor, History & Social Science

Open water ahead

Ship's Log

33º 39.1N x 66º 31.9’ W

Winds NWxW F4, 8ft seas

Souls on Board

Dear loyal readers,

After almost a week of field trips in Bermuda we are now making our way home. One of the aspects of teaching at SEA that I find most rewarding is the way that we routinely examine the intersections between history, policy, science and exploration, all in an inter-/multi- disciplinary setting. Our time in Bermuda this week was spent investigating how all of these threads come together in this unique part of the world. We had the opportunity to spend quality time with scientists, policy makers, and environmental advocates and to learn from and question each of them in an effort to understand the challenges facing Bermuda’s marine ecosystem and the barriers that policy makers face when trying to preserve their beautiful and bountiful coastal waters. The specifics of these trips have already been discussed by students in their blog posts, so I will not rehash the details, but I will say that our afternoon spent snorkeling the reef was an important reminder of how important these spaces are and how critical the effort to protect them must be for us. 

Now that we are headed home our thoughts have turned to the second shore component and the daunting task that lies ahead; getting ready for the final Symposium that serves as the culminating experience for MBC students (and faculty).

The students are hard at work every day in our lab working on extracting and amplifying the DNA of their target species, which is no small feat on a tall ship that is rocking and rolling through the North Atlantic. Our policy project this year has us diving into the finer details of public engagement in the political process at local, national, and international levels. The emergence of NGOs as key players in international governance, especially involving issues of environmental conservation, offers concerned citizens a myriad of avenues for public engagement. Our students will craft a plan to create an NGO that is focused on conservation of the Sargasso Sea. I am confident that the experiences of the past week will serve them well in that process. The time spent in conversation with scientists studying this marine environment, policy makers trying to thread the needle of blending the demands of science-based conservation goals with public expectations for resources, or simply lying on a beach and snorkeling a reef and soaking in the beauty that these waters exude, have laid a foundation that they can build on when we return to Woods Hole in about ten days. I am sure these moments will be treasured when we are back on campus and hard at work building a framework for citizen engagement to preserve and protect the Sargasso Sea.

- Mark

PS – Happy Mother’s Day to my Mama and my lovely wife, and to all the mothers of the students, staff and crew aboard the Corwith Cramer.

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