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Study Climate Change

SEA Semester: Climate & Society

Examine the intersection of climate change with human society… Explore the social and cultural impacts of climate change while engaging with stakeholders, community leaders, and policymakers addressing these issues at the local and global levels. Spend ample research time on shore in New Zealand on either end of a tall ship sailing voyage throughout its waters.

Overview: Fall 2019 | New Zealand

Voyage Map

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Admissions Deadline: Rolling Admissions


A humanities and social sciences semester at sea that takes a human-centered approach to solving the challenges presented by global climate change.


Cruise Track: Auckland, NZ » Auckland, NZ
Destinations: Auckland › Kermadec Islands › Napier › Great Barrier Island › Auckland


September 23 - December 15, 2019

Sept. 23 - Nov. 1: On shore in Woods Hole
Nov. 6 - 14: On shore in South Island, New Zealand
Nov. 14 - Dec. 15: At sea

Program Highlights

• Examine climate science, policy, and literature in their human social contexts
• Interact with leading researchers and writers in New England and New Zealand
• Explore cities, islands, coastal regions, and glaciers affected by climate change
• Acquire valuable communication skills and participate in digital storytelling

Who Should Apply?

This semester at sea program is designed for non-science majors who are interested in addressing climate change. It allows students with a limited background in the sciences to explore climate-related issues. Open to all majors.

Program Description

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Skills Gained

  • Leadership through shipboard and group project work
  • Ability to effectively communicate to stakeholders, fellow researchers, and the public
  • Partnership-building to develop & improve initiatives such as community resilience and outreach

Finding solutions to the problems brought about by climate change requires going beyond scientific data. We must also consider the possibilities found within social and political institutions, economic systems, cultural practices, and the creative forces of art, literature, and design. The humanities and social sciences contribute to knowledge of how our changing climate impacts human lives and societies, and they play a vital role in building strategies for global climate resilience and adaptation.

This new semester at sea includes initial shore components in Woods Hole and New Zealand, as well as a sailing research voyage roundtrip from Auckland. In Woods Hole, home to world-renowned leaders in climate science, you'll develop your semester-long research project, review essential climate humanities literature, and design a plan for original field research. You’ll meet with climate experts in Boston and the Woods Hole science community to discuss a range of climate related issues including public health, coastal and urban resilience, environmental justice, clean energy, displaced communities, national security, and sustainable design. Dynamic interactive courses in oceanography, communication, and leadership will prepare you for the sailing and field research phase of the program.

You'll then head to the South Island of New Zealand, where you'll visit Westland Tai Poutini and Aoraki Mount Cook National Parks, located in the majestic Southern Alps, to examine the ecological, economic, and cultural effects of a changing environment. You'll trek through New Zealand’s Glacier Country by foot and by kayak, examining the effects of retreating glaciers on coastal, riverine, and wetland habitats and discussing the changing landscape with climate and glacier experts. During this second shore component, you'll collect field research data, record audio stories for a semester-long podcast project, and meet with members of local Māori communities confronting new environmental challenges.

After a week in the Southern Alps, you'll board the SSV Robert C. Seamans in Auckland for a month of sailing, visiting the remote Kermadec Islands, home to a proposed ocean sanctuary, and then south to the Hawke’s Bay Region to examine the effects of climate change on its coastal towns, farmlands, and famous wineries. At sea, you’ll work with fellow students and the shipboard science team to examine the changes to our oceans brought about by shifting climatic conditions, and develop strategies for connecting scientific data to observable climate impacts on human societies. Through daily oceanographic surveys, “classroom” discussions, and navigational training while at sea, you'll gain a unique and valuable perspective of climate change that links oceanic and terrestrial systems.

The semester concludes aboard our ship at Great Barrier Island with a final symposium featuring student presentations of original field research and digital storytelling projects.

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

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Academic Credit

SEA Semester: Climate & Society carries 18 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.

Course Descriptions

Climate, Society and the Humanities (300-level, 4 cr.)

Course description & syllabus coming soon!

Environmental Communication (300-level, 3 cr.)

Course description & syllabus coming soon!

Leadership in a Dynamic Environment (300-level, 3 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor. 
Be an effective leader while leveraging the individual strengths of a team. Use leadership theory and case studies to understand how decisions affect outcomes. Participate as an active member of a ship’s crew, progressively assuming full leadership roles.

The Ocean & Global Change (300-level, 4 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor. 
Ocean ecosystem change in the anthropocene: warming, acidification, fisheries depletion, and pollution. Review principles of circulation, seawater chemistry, nutrient dynamics, and biological production to understand causes and consequences of change. Conduct field measurements for contribution to time-series datasets.

Your Choice of Research Course Options:

Advanced Research Topics (400-level, 4 cr.)
Course description & syllabus coming soon!

-- OR --

Directed Research Topics (300-level, 4 cr.)
Course description & syllabus coming soon!

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 or fax to 800-977-8516.

    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 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 or by fax to 800-977-8516.
  4. Submit two (2) undergraduate academic references
    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.). 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.
  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.