Understanding climate change is the predominant scientific challenge of our time, as rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and temperatures influence shifts in weather, storm activity, sea level, biodiversity, and numerous other processes. While direct study of long-term climate variability is not feasible during a six-week voyage, SEA Semester leverages the opportunities presented by its remote, open ocean cruise tracks and repeated annual sampling to build valuable datasets in poorly studied areas of the world. Furthermore, first-hand interactions with small island communities during port stops offer the chance to explore the community impacts of regional climate-related changes already underway. Student policy research aims to first identify the most pressing climate issues along each cruise track, then explore and expand upon ongoing adaptation, mitigation and response efforts by local governments and agencies.
As dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) levels increase in seawater, the oceans become more acidic. Effects to marine environments are varied, with consequences for calcium carbonate-structure building organisms such as corals and shelled plankton significantly negative. Coastal ecosystems and higher latitude waters are most susceptible to acidification, offering target study locations. Using shipboard measurements of seawater pH and alkalinity (buffering capacity), SEA Semester students establishe baseline conditions of ocean chemistry and assesses changes over time.Selected Ocean acidification papers and publications
El Niño-Southern Oscillation
A large-scale coupled ocean-atmosphere pattern in the equatorial Pacific, El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) alters wind, current, temperature, and ecological conditions of both the surface and deep oceans throughout the region. SEA has sampled the central Pacific for more than 15 years, yielding a dataset that includes multiple El Niño and La Niña phases as well as transitional periods. Oceanographic research in this region includes a consideration of the influences of ENSO regardless of discipline; changing productivity, coral bleaching and recovery, carbon fluxes with the atmosphere and fisheries influences are frequent areas of focus. Our research with the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and across remote small Pacific islands significantly enhances regional understanding.
SEA faculty and collaborators: Jan Witting (SEA)Selected El Nino-Southern Oscillation papers and publications
Carbon occurs in the ocean in a variety of chemical compounds; the many and diverse processes that alter its form and transport it between atmosphere, sediments, living organisms, land and ocean are collectively termed the carbon cycle. SEA Semester student research focuses on measuring organic and inorganic carbon using shipboard instrumentation and laboratory analysis of water samples in order to quantify reservoirs of ocean carbon and the fluxes between them.Selected Carbon cycling papers and publications
Deary, A., S. Moret-Ferguson*, M. Engels*, E. Zettler*, G. Jaroslow* and G. Sancho, 2015. Influence of central Pacific oceanographic conditions on the potential vertical habitat of four tropical tuna species. Pacific Science , 69, 461-475. doi: 10.2984/69.4.3
Selected student research
Asher, L., 2018. The impact of El Nino upon the availability of Equatorial Undercurrent-derived nutrients. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-281, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Watson, K., 2018. Variations in sub-surface temperature and salinity in the central Pacific due to El Nino Southern Oscillation. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-280, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Mose, K., A. Davis and W. Lounsbery-Scaife, 2018. Impacts of ocean acidification on pteropod population dynamics and shell condition in the South Pacific. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-278, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Dailey, E., B. Hernandez and R. Tan, 2018. The relationship between air-sea carbon dioxide flux and ocean acidification in the South Pacific Ocean. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-278, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Racioppi, A. and C. Gaunt, 2018. Temporal trends in Antarctic Intermediate Water temperature, salinity and stratification in the Southern Pacific Ocean. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-278, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
McLaughlin, L., 2018. Sea surface temperature and thermocline depth: climate change effects in the Caribbean. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-277, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Benz, J., 2017. Assessing alkalinity in relation to urchin spatial distribution across Caribbean reefs. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-276, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Livingston, K. and C. Stoudt, 2017. The role of particulate organic carbon on the global carbon cycle in the South Pacific Ocean. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-276, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Benton, M., 2017. Fueling the fire: growing intensity of tropical cyclones during climate change. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-275, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
McKenna, F., 2017. Salt water intrusion from sea level rise in Tonga. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-275, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Ranney, J., J. Rose and C. Bradham, 2017. Seawater pH and aragonite saturation effects on calcifying zooplankton diversity and abundance around the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-274, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Ferguson, L. and M. Burnett, 2017. Quantifying the effects of ENSO and the Western Pacific Warm Pool on geostrophic flows and nutrient dynamics in the South Pacific gyre. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-273, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Ravn, M., 2016. Investigation of change in hurricane intensification and the underlying drivers with focus on sea surface temperature. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-270, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Lucas, D., J. Irving and K. York, 2016. Temporal trends of intermediate water masses in the subtropical North Atlantic. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-270, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Davis, A. and S. Botia, 2015. Distribution and Transport of Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC) in the Antarctic Intermediate Water and the Sub-Antarctic Mode Water in the South Pacific Ocean. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-258, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Harden, B.*, 2016. The fate of the Gulf Stream. Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Next in Science program. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
Meyer, A.*, M. Becker^, K. Grabb^ and SEA Cruise S-250 Scientific Party, 2014. SEA Semester undergraduates research the ocean's role in climate systems in the Pacific Ocean. AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA.
* SEA faculty and staff
^ SEA Semester alumnus
AloftPosted on: November 17, 2019
By: Mollie Ockene, Middlebury College
Day 4 consisted of an exciting, new, and breezy series of events. We started the day early, with a delicious breakfast made by our stewards before morning chores, getting into the routine of eating, cleaning, and taking care of the ship (our home for the month) together.Read More
Arrival Day!Posted on: November 14, 2019
By: Chris Nolan, Captain
The intrepid students of SEA Semester S-289: Climate and Society have all arrived to SSV Robert C. Seamans in Auckland, New Zealand after completing shore components in Woods Hole, MA and the South Island of New Zealand.Read More
S-289: Climate & SocietyPosted on: November 11, 2019
Students of Class S-289, Climate & Society, board the SSV Robert C. Seamans in Auckland, New Zealand on Nov. 14th after a one-week second shore component on New Zealand’s South Island. The voyage ends in Auckland on Dec. 15th after port stops in the Bay of Islands, Napier, and Great Barrier Island.Read More
Haere Mai, Class S-289!Posted on: November 06, 2019
By: Jeff Wescott, Professor, Climate & Society
Students and faculty arrived safely in New Zealand today, surprisingly energetic considering the long hours across the Pacific Ocean.Read More
Ocean Acidification, Whaling Conventions, and SheetsPosted on: August 03, 2017
By: Chiara Rizzuti and Maggie Nye, Liceio scientifico statale Leonardo da Vinci School and The Urban School of San Francisco
Today we woke up at 6:30 and after the usual chores, we had our watch meetings and learned how to tie a bowline knot. While some of us were able to complete the knot right away, some struggled to tie it. The RA’s challenged some of us to tie the knots in weird and creative ways such as, tying it behind the back, with our feet, and by closing our eyes.Read More