Be part of a professional effort to protect the Sargasso Sea... Participate in real-time, real-world research related to biodiversity and conservation efforts in this challenging research semester. Use cutting-edge technology to collect and analyze data while sailing north to bring the SSV Corwith Cramer back home to Woods Hole. Close out your semester with a formal symposium, presenting your research to a panel of scientific and policy experts to fill in the gaps of scientific knowledge related to the Sargasso Sea: an unbelievable networking opportunity.
SEA Semester: Marine Biodiversity & Conservation
Application deadline: Rolling Admissions
An integrated semester at sea program that applies modern biodiversity research to place-based resource management in the coastal and open ocean. Students will conduct authentic biodiversity and policy research that contributes directly to the international effort to conserve the Sargasso Sea. They will then present their research findings and policy recommendations to a panel of invited experts as part of a formal, professional symposium.
Cruise Track: St. Croix » New York City
Destinations: St. Croix > Bermuda (7-day stop) > New York City
Port stops subject to change.
When?March 23 – June 13, 2020
March 23 – April 17: Shore I in Woods Hole
April 21 – May 21: At sea
May 21 – June 13: Shore II in Woods Hole
Note: This program is designed to take the place of a full spring term on your home campus. While it's an especially good fit for trimester/quarter students, many semester students take advantage of the opportunity to conduct an internship or travel between the end of their fall semester and the start of this program.
• Develop skills in molecular ecology
• Present at a culminating professional symposium
• Use scientific data to inform conservation efforts
• Explore real-world interactions between science, policy, conservation, and law
Who Should Apply?
This semester attracts upper-level science students interested in complementing marine science research with the wisdom, concepts and skills necessary to effectively operate within the world of public policy. To be eligible, students must have taken at least three lab science courses (one at 300-level or higher) or received permission from SEA faculty.
Watch Dr. Sylvia Earle speak at the 2014 Sargasso Sea Symposium:
- DNA extraction, sequencing, and molecular analysis techniques
- Marine spatial planning
- Science communication
- Public speaking by way of a formal, professional symposium
Marine biodiversity is the cornerstone of ecosystem resilience and stability, and is key to ecological health. However, it’s threatened by pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing, and climate change. Areas of particular concern include regions of the high seas beyond national jurisdiction and lacking regulatory, political, or legal protection. One such area is the Sargasso Sea ecosystem at the center of the North Atlantic gyre. This region harbors a uniquely diverse ecosystem associated with floating seaweed known as Sargassum, flourishing amidst the ‘blue desert’ of this nutrient-poor area.
Original research by SEA Semester students has directly contributed to international efforts to conserve the Sargasso Sea. You’ll continue that research, conducting a hands-on assessment of marine biodiversity using cutting-edge morphological, molecular, and statistical analyses. Beyond gaining knowledge and practical skills in conservation science and policy, you’ll be introduced to the career paths available in ocean stewardship, from marine science to conservation law to public outreach. This semester offers direct interaction with experts in the fi eld through which you will begin to form professional relationships; potential internship mentors, graduate school advisors, employers, and colleagues.
On Shore I - Preparation in Woods Hole
Students will build a conceptual framework in marine ecology, governance and conservation while honing practical skills. Place-based conservation planning begins understanding how to identify and value important "natural capital" and "ecosystem services" that link humans to the ocean environment. Training in morphological, molecular and statistical techniques for measuring biodiversity as well as practical seamanship will prepare students for the research cruise.
At Sea in the Sargasso
The St. Croix to New York, NY research cruise allows for first-hand exploration of this abstract open ocean environment. In addition to measuring biodiversity for their research projects, students will collect archive samples for the global marine biodiversity assessment effort. A week-long port stop in Bermuda also provides essential context and access for conservation policy research.
On Shore II - Analysis & Symposium in Woods Hole
Students will complete scientific data analysis and synthesis of conservation plans. The program concludes with a capstone experience. Students will share their scientific research and protection strategies for the Sargasso Sea high seas region with 10-12 experts in national and international marine conservation science and policy during a one-day professional Sargasso Sea Symposium convened on the SEA campus (see below for past participants).
Beyond building content knowledge and practical skills in conservation science and policy, a critical goal of this program is to introduce undergraduates to the breadth of career paths available in ocean stewardship, from research science to conservation law to public outreach. Students connect directly with a wide array of conservation professionals through guest lectures at SEA, visits to research facilities and institutions in Cape Cod, Bermuda and New York City, and through participation in the Symposium. These encounters provide opportunities for students to begin to form professional relationships with potential internship mentors, graduate school advisors, employers and colleagues.
Special Program Features
Students will acquire practical science and policy research skills, including:
- Ecological statistics
- Conservation planning
- Microscopy and morphological taxonomy
- DNA extraction
- Fingerprinting [ARISA, RFLP]
- Phylogenetic probes [Fluorescence In-Situ Hybridization; FISH]
- Natural resource economics
- Marine Spatial Planning
- Stakeholder research
Please note that this is an example itinerary, based on previous voyages, and is subject to change, availability, and confirmation of all components.
St. Georges, Bermuda
Arrive in in Bermuda, clear customs, furl and dress the ship. Step foot on dry land for the first time after nearly 3 weeks at sea.
North Rock coral reef, Bermuda
Tour the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo. Attend a lionfish lecture and dissection in the morning, before snorkeling at two coral reef locations in the afternoon. BBQ for dinner accompanied by a Sargasso Sea Stakeholder discussion.
Tobacco Bay Beach, Bermuda
Start the day with a tour of Bermuda Radio, where they transmit and receive important maritime information, ranging from weather updates, incoming and outgoing vessels, safe travel routes, possible distress calls and even keep track of marine protected areas, to ensure that these areas are not impacted by human activity. Free time in the afternoon allows for shopping, exploring, and swimming.
Underwater glider, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science
Visit the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science (BIOS), responsible for the Bermuda Atlantic Time Series program, the longest running aquatic time series in the world. After a break for lunch, meet with local fishermen to discuss to current social and political positions of those directly involved in the fishing community in Bermuda.
Beach clean-up, Bermuda
Several guest speakers visit the ship to discuss marine conservation policy and politics in Bermuda. Hear from members of the Sargasso Sea Commission, an international group attempting to create conservation policy in the Sargasso Sea. Help these conservation efforts by participating in the beach clean-up in the afternoon.
Enjoy a full day off to explore Bermuda. Visit Crystal Cave, swim in an elevated salt water pool in the jungle, hike Abbot Cliffs and sample as much frozen yogurt as possible.
St. Georges Harbor, Bermuda
The final morning in port is spent as a field day, readying the Corwith Cramer for sea. Take departure late morning and begin sailing north for New York City.
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
2017 Student Press Releases & Closing Statement
- Symposium Agenda
- Leptocephali PressRelease
- Hydroid Press Release
- Mobile Fauna Press Release
- Sargassum Press Release
- Closing statement delivered by Annabelle Leahy, a sophomore at Carleton College. View Statement
2015 Student Presentations: “A Marine Management Proposal for the Sargasso Sea”
The 20 advanced undergraduate students of the Marine Biodiversity & Conservation program completed a high seas management proposal for the Sargasso Sea, a North Atlantic region increasingly recognized for its strong ecological importance and economic impact. The students’ recommendations are based on three months of work, involving science and policy research, a five-week research cruise through the Sargasso Sea, and interactions with stakeholders, science experts, and policy experts.
- Intro to Sargasso Sea Management Proposal View Talk
- Governance Context and Proposed Management Areas View Talk
- Sargasso Sea Conservation Targets View Talk
- Sargasso Sea Conservation Stressors View Talk
- Human Uses of the Sargasso Sea - Fishing View Talk
- Human Uses of the Sargasso Sea - Shipping View Talk
- Download the 2015 Management Proposal (5.8MB)
Biodiversity Research Posters
Past Invited Sargasso Sea Symposium Participants:
Tundi Agardy, Forest Trends Association (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) View 2015 Talk | View 2013 Talk
Vera Agostini, The Nature Conservancy (2014) View 2014 Talk
Linda Amaral-Zettler, Marine Biological Laboratory/Brown University (2012, 2013, 2014)
Adam Baske, Pew Environmental Group (2012)
Leo Blanco-Bercial, University of Connecticut (2014)
Ann Bucklin, University of Connecticut (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
Billy Causey, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (2015) View 2015 Talk
Tracy Dalton, University of Rhode Island (2015)
Dan Distel, Ocean Genome Legacy Foundation/Northeastern University (2012, 2015)
Sylvia Earle, Sylvia Earle Alliance/Mission Blue (2014) View 2014 Talk
David Freestone, Sargasso Sea Alliance (2012, 2014) View 2014 Talk
Steve Gephard, CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (2013)
Kristina Gjerde, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme (2014)
Annette Govindarajan, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (2013, 2014, 2015)
John Hanning*, Archimedes Aerospace (2014, 2015) View 2014 Talk
Meaghan Jeans*, New England Aquarium (2014, 2015)
Brenda Jensen, Hawaii Pacific University (2013) View 2013 Talk
Jack Kittinger, Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, Conservation International (2013)
Joel Llopiz, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (2015)
Rod Mather, University of Rhode Island (2013)
Caleb McClennen*, Wildlife Conservation Society (2012, 2013, 2014)
Chris McGuire*, The Nature Conservancy (2013, 2014, 2015)
Clare Morall, St. George’s University, Grenada (2012)
Erik Olsen, Institute of Marine Research, Norway/Guest Investigator Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (2014)
Steve Olsen, University of Rhode Island (2013)
Robbie Smith, Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo (2013, 2015) View 2015 Talk | View 2013 Talk
Paul Snelgrove, Memorial University (2012)
Andrew Solow, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (2012)
Heather Tausig, New England Aquarium (2012)
Simon Thorrold, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (2012, 2015) View 2015 Talk
Ole Varmer, NOAA Office of the General Counsel (2012)
Jaqueline Webb, University of Rhode Island (2015)
*Denotes SEA Semester alumni
SEA Semester: Marine Biodiversity & Conservation carries 18 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Junior standing or consent of instructor.
Advanced policy research focusing on a topic of current importance (may include fisheries, biodiversity, marine spatial planning, and cultural heritage). Emphasis on theoretical concepts, research methods, and communication skills. Requires critical review paper, original research, final report and presentation.
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Three lab science courses (one at the 300-level or higher) or consent of instructor.
In-depth treatment of a single topic in biological oceanography. Extensive review of classical and contemporary literature. Introduction and practice of current laboratory techniques. Oral presentation and written research proposal required. Topics may include marine plankton ecology, marine biodiversity, and satellite oceanography.
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.
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Learn the fundamentals of sailing ship operation, in preparation for direct application at sea. Navigation (piloting, celestial and electronic), weather, engineering systems, safety, and sail theory. Participate as an active member of the ship’s crew on an offshore voyage.
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor.
Culture, history, political systems and science can shape ocean policy. Practice current strategies to build, analyze, and communicate about diverse policy issues. Examine the power, use and limitations of science and the scientist's voice in determining ocean policy.
Complete an application form
Apply online. (Note: the application fee is waived for students from affiliated institutions. Contact your Admissions Counselor for the code!)
Submit two writing samples (500-750 words each)
List your full name on each. Submit via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 800-977-8516.
- 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.
- 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.
Request and submit transcripts
Official college transcripts are required for all applicants. E-transcripts must be emailed to email@example.com. Hard copies must remain sealed and be sent directly from your institution to:
SEA Office of AdmissionsHigh school transcripts are required for students who have not yet completed two years of college. They may be unofficial and submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax to 800-977-8516.
P.O. Box 6
Woods Hole, MA 02543
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.
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.
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.