How can we both conserve ecosystems and grow our maritime economies? SEA Semester marine policy efforts address the reality that strong economies rely on a healthy environment, and thriving ecosystems require support by well-planned management structures and communities with both the resources and the will to protect. These human and natural systems rely on scientific understanding of marine processes and organisms and social scientists who can translate legal, policy-related, and scientific language, events and timescales. Ocean and coastal activities bring users into close proximity and competition; with increasing frequency, groups plan to avoid conflicts in ocean places rather than wait for disputes to arise. Marine spatial planning, mandated by US federal policy from 2010 until June 2018, provides a way to understand, anticipate and defuse arguments about resource harvest, energy, transport, trade, pollution, recreation and other uses.
Strategies for Ocean Health and Resilience Policy
Coastal and ocean policy
SEA Semester students and faculty investigate coastal and ocean areas’ future ability to support human activities and healthy ecosystems by asking questions about wise resource use: Which marine habitats capture and store atmospheric carbon and thus need protection? How should we mitigate coastal pollution? What do island and coastal residents need to know about ocean acidification? How can we best use renewable power resources and technologies? Which fishing and food production methods work best for coastal communities? How can we optimize island fresh water and public health systems? Students work with planners and other experts to understand economic and stakeholder-designed strategies for adaptive, ecosystem-based coastal resource management and disaster preparedness.Coastal and Ocean Policy papers and publications
Trash Shouldn’t Splash
SEA Semester students and scientists have been cataloguing floating plastic in the ocean since the 1970s, creating a decades-long marine debris dataset as well as the motivation to change land- and sea-based behaviors that worsen the global problem of plastic pollution. Supported by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program and alongside local partner Falmouth Water Stewards/Skip the Straw, SEA students and faculty built a plastic-reduction toolkit for communities wishing to decrease their ocean plastics “footprint,” calling the initiative “Trash Shouldn’t Splash.” The Trash Shouldn’t Splash toolkit’s foundation is a growing dataset gauging people’s attitudes about single-use plastic items like bags, bottles and other food ware. Ninety-seven percent of those surveyed in the pilot study want food vendors to offer less single-use plastic in their businesses. How will you change for ocean health?Trash Shouldn't Splash papers and publications
Marine spatial planning
Seeking to efficiently and sustainably manage our oceans and coasts, marine spatial planning is a process utilized to gather information and make decisions. First compiling insights into the geography, valued resources, and current stakeholder uses of a given location, planners then protect sensitive environmental characteristics to ensure resilient ecosystems while allowing compatible uses to share ocean space and avoid potential conflicts. SEA Semester students apply knowledge and skills from both marine and social sciences as they evaluate local and global case studies (i.e., Massachusetts Ocean Plan, Rhode Island's Ocean Special Area Management Plan, New Zealand's Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan). Students also work with leaders in ecosystem-based Marine Protected Area (MPA) development to design, conduct and communicate voyage-specific research projects.Marine spatial planning papers and publications
Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA)
The Phoenix Islands Protected Area is an equatorial Pacific Marine Protected Area (MPA) established in 2008 by the Republic of Kiribati. SEA Semester faculty researchers, collaborators and students study and visit this remote and largely uninhabited oceanic coral archipelago, the world’s largest – and deepest – UNESCO World Heritage Site, to engage first-hand with island caretakers and stakeholders while gathering baseline scientific data that informs ongoing planning. In doing so, they explore and augment the ways in which the government of Kiribati and non-governmental organizations, such as Conservation International and the New England Aquarium, are applying the PIPA Management Plan to ensure its protection.Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) papers and publications
Sargasso Sea management plan
The Sargasso Sea Commission, an international collaborative body, aims to secure protective measures for this globally unique large marine ecosystem at the center of the North Atlantic subtropical gyre. SEA Semester: Marine Biodiversity and Conservation students support the Commission’s stewardship role by contributing scientific findings and policy analysis, and also participate in the marine spatial planning process by developing an array of management strategies for the region.Sargasso Sea management plan papers and publications
Selected student research
Wigglesworth, R. 2018. Continuing Kiribati's ocean legacy: Protecting the Line Islands. Unpublished student policy paper, Class S-281, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Hoff, C., 2018. Assessing PIPA as a blueprint: implementing a MPA in Tonga. Unpublished student policy paper, Class S-281, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Wigglesworth, R., L. Asher and C. Hoff, 2018. Considering the social and cultural dimensions of ocean policy in the Phoenix Islands. Unpublished student policy paper, Class S-281, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Schneider, C. and B. Desrosiers, 2018. Restoration of seabird populations in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Unpublished student policy paper, Class S-281, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Cwikiel, S., N. Johnson and M. Meier, 2018. Effective conservation of marine migratory species in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Unpublished student policy paper, Class S-281, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Renee, J., A. Sanders and S. Waller, 2018. Mare incognitum: highlighting the under-explored ecosystem services of science and sense of place. Unpublished student policy paper, Class C-279, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Anderson, A., J. Gill, D. Hanelin and M. Martinez, 2018. The legacy of the Sargasso Sea's history and legends: an early inspiration for a more contemporary sense of place. Unpublished student policy paper, Class C-279, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
SEA Class S-278, 2018. Marotiri Marine Protected Area Proposal: Creating a sustainable MPA for the Austral Islands. Unpublished student policy paper, Class S-278, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
SEA Class S-277, 2018. Marine Spatial Plan for Wellington, NZ. Unpublished student policy paper, Class S-277, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Stafford, S., 2018. Zero waste lifestyle swaps for beginners. Unpublished student policy paper, Class S-277, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
SEA Class S-276, 2017. Marine Spatial Planning press kit for Napier, NZ. Unpublished student policy paper, Class S-276, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Alvanas, K., 2017. Protection from above: fisheries enforcement in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Unpublished student policy paper, Class S-274, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Guo, C., 2017. Seasonal labor migration and its social impacts: the case of I-Kiribati seafarers. Unpublished student policy paper, Class S-274, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
SEA Class C-273, 2017. The International Coalition for the Sargasso Sea action plan. Unpublished student policy paper, Class C-273, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
SEA Class C-270, 2017. Climate change resilience management proposal for the commonwealth of Dominica. Unpublished student policy paper, Class C-270, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
So, K., M. Gano and I. Klaaborg, 2016. Place-based management of ocean and environmental changes in the Mediterranean. Unpublished student policy paper, Class C-269, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Morgan, B. and T. Diaz, 2016. The future of the Kiribati reef: an analysis of MPAs and their success in reef systems. Unpublished student policy paper, Class S-268, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
SEA Class C-266, 2016. A framework for the implementation of conservation management in the Sargasso Sea. Unpublished student policy paper, Class C-266, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Soudakoff, R., S. Luo and E. Thomas, 2016. The Ross Sea: the last ocean. Unpublished student policy paper, Class S-264, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Kelly, C., J. Kenyon and H. Westbrook, 2015. Mitigating the effects of ocean acidification: case studies for a global solution in the climate change era. Unpublished student policy paper, Class C-263, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
SEA Class C-259, 2015. A Marine Management Proposal for the Sargasso Sea. Unpublished student policy paper, Class C-259, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
SEA Class C-252, 2014. Conservation in the Sargasso Sea Under the Hamilton Declaration. Unpublished student policy paper, Class C-252, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.
Bryant, E.*, 2018. Plastics at SEA: scientists searching for solutions. Falmouth Green Planet Faire (invited speaker). Falmouth, MA.
Law, K. L.*, 2018. Nature sustainability. Tsinghua University International Forum: Re-thinking Interdisciplinary research for global sustainability, Beijing, China.
Bryant, E.*, 2016. Marine debris reduction via a shift in social norms. Marine Debris Law and Policy Symposium, Roger Williams University School of Law, Bristol, RI.
Siuda, A.* and T. Smythe*, 2016. Marine spatial planning applied to the high seas: process and results of an exercise focused on the Sargasso Sea. Ocean Sciences Meeting, New Orleans, LA.
Siuda, A.*, J. Jensen* and C. McClennen^, 2013. Cross-training undergraduate scientists in practical conservation: integrating science and policy skills in a problem-based curriculum. 26th International Congress for Conservation Biology, Baltimore, MD.
Jensen, J.*, A. Siuda*, J. McDonald, C. McClennen^, L. Amaral-Zettler and E. Zettler*, 2013. SEA Semester Marine Biodiversity and Conservation: improving stewardship capacities through field-based undergraduate education. George Wright Society Biennial Conference on Parks, Protected Areas and Cultural Sites, Denver, CO.
Laffoley, D. d'A, H. Roe, M. Angel, J. Ardron, N. Bates, I. Boyd, S. Brooke, K. Buck, C. Carlson, B. Causey, M. Conte, S. Christiansen, J. Cleary, J. Donnelly, S. Earle, R. Edwards, K. Gjerde, S. Giovannoni, S. Gulick, M. Gollock, J. Hallett, P. Halpin, R. Hanel, A. Hemphill, R. Johnson, A. Knap, M. Lomas, S. McKenna, M. Miller, P. Miller, F. Ming, R. Moffitt, N. Nelson, L. Parson, A. Peters, J. Pitt, P. Rouja, J. Roberts, J. Roberts, D. Seigel, A. Siuda*, D. Steinberg, A. Stevenson, V. Sumaila, W. Swartz, S. Thorrold, T. Trott and V. Vats, 2011. The protection and management of the Sargasso Sea: the golden floating rainforest of the Atlantic Ocean. Summary Science and Supporting Evidence Case. Sargasso Sea Alliance, 44 pp.
The Nature Conservancy, 2007. Exploring a new strategy for marine protection: an analysis of laws, policies, and practices related to private conservation of tidelands in Massachusetts. Boston, MA. 28 pp. (E. J. Bryant*, co-author)
Bryant, E. J.* and K. M. Fletcher, 2006. Exploring a new strategy for marine protection: private conservation of tidelands in Massachusetts. Ocean and Coastal Law Journal 12.
* SEA faculty and staff
^ SEA Semester alumnus
Here’s to policy!Posted on: July 31, 2019
By: Henry Bell, Vice-Chief of Policy
As we guide our steadfast sailing vessel across the watery expanse of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, shipboard life teems with energy and excitement. A squall rips through the rigging on dawn watch as we scramble to strike the mains’l. Large, translucent lobster larvae and unidentified purple jellyfish are pulled up from the deep in our net towsRead More
Marine Spatial Planning UpdatePosted on: December 14, 2017
By: S-276 Conservation and Management Class
As ocean resources gain value to various different groups, a variety of stakeholders are vying for access and control of these ocean goods. Interested stakeholders range from fisherman to recreational users, conservationists, and industries such as shipping and oil acquisition. As the limited oceanic space becomes congested with these different interests, comprehensive planning is needed in order for them to co-exist safely across the marine environment.Read More
Snorkeling is school, right?Posted on: October 05, 2017
By: Amy Green, C Watch, Boston University
Today was our first full day in Tonga! We spent the night tied up at the harbor in Neiafu after getting a chance to explore the town. Students stood hour long watches throughout the night, which was our first ‘opportunity’ to monitor the ship without the supervision of the staff. A.K.A the staff finally got a full night’s sleep.
This morning we were able to sleep in!Read More
Science and Policy Meet in BermudaPosted on: May 14, 2017
By: Mark Howard Long, Ph. D., Associate Professor, History & Social Science
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 Semester 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.Read More
PIPA student profiled in Brown University’s “News from Brown”Posted on: August 18, 2016
SEA Semester in the News
In summer at sea, adventurous student continues a personal academic journey
By David Orenstein
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Peter Baek traces his inspiration as a scientist, pre-med student and explorer to a beloved movie.
“Ever since watching ‘Finding Nemo’ with my grandpa and dad, our love for fish and the ocean blossomed as every shelf around the house became occupied with aquariums,” said Baek, a rising sophomore at Brown University. “My fascination with fish ultimately led to my interest in science as I continued to get deeper into the water chemistry and biology of fish keeping. The passing of my grandpa from laryngeal cancer, however, transformed my interest of science to something deeper — the desire to pursue a career in oncology in dedication to my grandpa.”