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Caribbean Reef Expedition

SEA Semester: Caribbean Reef Expedition

Take a multi-pronged approach to effective reef conservation… Chronicle the state of coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean in response to human impacts. Develop and refine snorkel-based reef survey techniques while documenting the effects of environmental change. Assess the effectiveness of Caribbean reef management strategies and contribute to local conservation policy efforts.

Fall 2020 | Caribbean

Voyage Map

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Application Deadline: Rolling Admissions

SEA Fall Program Planning: COVID-19 

What?

This year’s 8-week Caribbean Reef Expedition will take gap students and college students to the northernmost reef ecosystem within the Caribbean: the Florida Reef Tract. The program will be centered around understanding human relationships with and impacts on the Florida Reef Tract, the 3rd largest barrier reef ecosystem in the world. After two weeks of remote learning, we will spend two weeks in the lower Florida Keys developing and refining snorkel-based survey techniques, learn about GIS-based habitat mapping of reefs, mangroves and seagrass ecosystems, and engage in coral conservation and reef restoration efforts with local scientists. The last half of the program will be spent aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer, learning new complementary skills in a variety of oceanographic sampling techniques (and sailing!). Combining all these skills, we will chronicle environmental changes around southern Florida during this 30-day sailing expedition.

Where?

Cruise Track: Key West, FL » Key West, FL
Destinations: No anticipated port stops.

When?

October 26 - December 23, 2020

Credit Bearing Program Option

Oct. 26 - Nov. 6: Online
Nov. 10 - Nov. 23: Shore Component (Florida)
Nov. 23 - Dec. 23: At sea

Program Cost: $15,000

Non-credit Bearing Program Option

Nov 10 - Nov 23: Shore Component (Florida)
Nov 23 - Dec 23: At sea

Program Cost: $11,000

Program Highlights

  • Develop and refine snorkel-based reef survey techniques
  • Conduct on-site research in the Florida Keys, the world's third largest barrier reef system
  • Contribute to marine conservation policy efforts

Who Should Apply?

This hands-on coral reef studies program is ideal for gap and undergraduate students with an interest in conservation policy and/or marine ecosystems. Students will approach solutions to effective reef management in the context of history, policy, and science. We welcome students of all majors to apply.

Program Description

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Skills Gained

  • Practical experience in oceanographic data collection, analysis, and reporting
  • Effective team leadership and membership, particularly environmental leadership
  • Policy evaluation and critique
  • Collaborative research and writing, including a peer revision process

Thriving, successful island communities depend on healthy oceans – and healthy coral reefs. Nowhere is this more apparent coral reefs. Throughout history, reefs and their linked ecosystems have protected islands and provided food for growing human populations. Today, they also attract tourists and drive economic development.

But coral reefs face many threats, including overfishing, reduced water quality, and rising temperatures and lower pH caused by climate change. Effective solutions require an understanding of the economic, political, and cultural landscape, as well as ocean and climate science.

Through online coursework and field work in the Florida Keys, followed by a research voyage at sea, students in this semester will study tropical marine ecosystems, their diverse marine life inhabitants, and the impact of human actions upon them. Through this lens, you’ll examine how local, academic, governmental, and international organizations and businesses are working together to conserve and sustainably manage coral reef ecosystems.

Life on Shore

Please note: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic Caribbean Reef Expedition during the fall of 2020 will not have a shore component in Woods Hole. The program will begin with 2 weeks of online coursework followed by 2 weeks at a field station in the lower Florida Keys within driving distance to the SSV Corwith Cramer. We will develop and refine snorkel-based survey techniques, learn about GIS-based habitat mapping of reefs, mangroves and seagrass ecosystems, and engage in coral conservation and reef restoration efforts with local scientists.

Life at Sea

While the shore component is one of the hallmarks of SEA Semester – providing important preparation for a successful ocean voyage – not surprisingly, students look forward to the day they ship out.

As your time in Woods Hole comes to an end, you’ll feel a mix of excitement and perhaps some trepidation as well. You and your shipmates may ask, “Can we really do this?” Because of the intentional design of all SEA Semester programs, you can be confident that the answer is, “Yes!”

The sea component of SEA Semester immediately immerses you in applying practically what you have just learned in the classroom on shore. As you set sail, you take on three roles: student, crewmember, and researcher. Life at sea is full as you take ocean measurements and samples; participate in classes; stand a watch as part of an around-the-clock schedule, on deck and in lab; and assist with navigation, engineering, meal preparation, and cleaning. Depending on the voyage, you may also make port calls – an opportunity to break from the rhythm of life at sea and to visit a foreign destination, not as a tourist, but as a working sailor and researcher.

Privacy and sleep are both limited aboard ship, yet there is always time for personal reflection. Teamwork takes precedence as you assume increasing levels of responsibility for the well-being of your shipmates and the ship itself. “Ship, shipmate, self” will be your new mantra, representing a shift in priorities for all on board. A phased leadership approach over the course of your time at sea will allow you to gradually assume the majority of shipboard responsibilities under the watchful eye of the professional crew. Near the end of every program, each student will lead a complete watch cycle as part of a rewarding final capstone experience.

When you step off one of our ships, you’ll take away academic credits, self-confidence, lifelong friends, a toolbox of skills and knowledge, and a sense of direction that will serve you far beyond your voyage.

"Life at sea is concentrated: every moment holds more substance, texture, and complexity than I am ever aware of on land. Tapping in to the rhythms of a ship, you slip like a cog into a well-oiled machine: each part has purpose, and together things run smoothly. This environment is one where actions have meaning, repercussions are real, and each moment teaches the meaning and value of hard work done well. At sea I learn that I am capable of much more than I give myself credit for.” SARAH WHITCHER, Clark University, Biology Major

Vidoes: At Sea

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

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Academic Credit

Please note SEA Semester: Caribbean Reef Expedition in Fall 2020 carries 12 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.

Please note: SEA Semester: Caribbean Reef Expedition in Fall 2021 carries 18 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.

Your Choice of Field Method Courses:

Advanced Oceanographic Field Methods (300-level, 4 credits)
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Three lab science courses (one at the 300-level or higher) or consent of instructor.
Tools and techniques of the oceanographer. Participate in shipboard laboratory operations to gain experience with deployment of modern oceanographic equipment and collection of scientific data at sea. Emphasis on sampling plan design, advanced laboratory sample processing methods, and robust data analysis.

-- OR --

Oceanographic Field Methods (200-level, 4 credits)
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Exposure to basic oceanographic sampling methods. Participate in shipboard laboratory operations to gain experience with deployment of modern oceanographic equipment and collection of scientific data at sea. Emphasis on practicing consistent methods and ensuring data fidelity.

Your Choice of Research Courses:

Directed Oceanographic Research (300-level, 4 credits)
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Three lab science courses (one at the 300-level or higher) or consent of instructor.
Design and conduct original oceanographic research. Collect data and analyze samples. Compile results in peer-reviewed manuscript format and share during oral or poster presentation session. Emphasis on development of research skills and written/oral communication abilities.

-- OR --

Practical Oceanographic Research (200-level, 4 credits)
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Introduction to oceanographic research. Design a collaborative, hypothesis-driven project following the scientific process. Collect original data. Conduct analysis and interpretation, then prepare a written report and oral presentation.

Syllabi

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How to Apply

  1. Complete an application form
    Apply online. (Note: the application fee is waived for students from affiliated institutions. Contact your Admissions Counselor for the code!)
  2. Submit two writing samples (500-750 words each)

    List your full name on each. Submit via email to admission@sea.edu or fax to 857-386-7986.

    1. Two-part essay (500-750 words): Why have you chosen to apply to SEA Semester and what do you expect to gain from your experience? How will the SEA Semester program to which you're applying (The Global Ocean, Oceans & Climate, etc.) complement your education? Be sure to address both questions.
    2. Academic writing sample of your own choosing (2-4 page excerpt if longer than 4 pages). This should be a reflection of your best written work from a recent course, and on a topic applicable to your SEA Semester program of interest (science, history, environmental studies, literature, etc.). Please include your name and the context of the sample (course title and brief description of the assignment). Poetry or college entrance essays may be submitted only as a secondary sample.
  3. Request and submit transcripts
    Official college transcripts are required for all applicants. E-transcripts must be emailed to admission@sea.edu. Hard copies must remain sealed and be sent directly from your institution to:

         SEA Office of Admissions
         P.O. Box 6
         Woods Hole, MA 02543

    High school transcripts are required for students who have not yet completed two years of college. They may be unofficial and submitted via email to admission@sea.edu or by fax to 857-386-7986.
  4. Submit two (2) undergraduate academic references
    The online application will provide a link to email the reference form to your professors directly. If you require a PDF version, please click here.

    Both should be from undergraduate level instructors; at least one should be from an instructor (i.e. professor, academic advisor) who has taught you within the past year. We also welcome additional references (i.e. coach, academic, personal, etc.). Letters of reference will only be accepted as supplemental to the online form.
  5. Schedule an interview with your Admissions Counselor
    Interviews may be conducted over the phone or in person, depending on the Counselor’s schedule. Topics of conversation may include life at your college/university, academic and extracurricular interests, transition from high school to college, your expectations for life at SEA, and how you learned about our program. The interview is also a great opportunity for you to ask questions about SEA.
  6. Submit the Student Participation Approval Form to the appropriate authority (study abroad office or academic advisor) on your campus
    This form is accessible through our online system and ensures that you go through the appropriate channels at your school for off-campus study approval (if applicable) and credit transfer. If you're not sure who to contact on your campus, ask your SEA Admissions Counselor.

​Apply for a Passport: Please note that all SEA Semester students must have a valid passport - NOT a Passport Card - before joining the program.

Apply for Financial Aid: If you plan to apply for need-based financial aid, download a financial aid application (pdf) and submit it with your application for admission.