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Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

SEA Semester: Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Be part of a professional effort to sustainably manage Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) of the United States and the Gulf Stream current... Participate in real-time, real-world research related to marine productivity, fisheries, biodiversity and related 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 coastal waters of the eastern US and the Gulf Stream: an unbelievable networking opportunity.

Previous Résumé-Building Opportunities

MBC Alumni Present at the United Nations' Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development Meeting
SEA Collaborating with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to Study Ocean's Twilight Zone

Spring 2021 | Large Marine Ecosystems of the US

Voyage Map

Click map to enlarge.

Application Deadline: Rolling Admissions

What?

An integrated semester at sea program that applies well-established biodiversity research to place-based resource management in the coastal and open ocean. Students will contribute to a comparative biodiversity analysis of tropical and temperate, coastal and pelagic habitats that compose two of the world’s most productive Large Marine Ecosystems. Communicate and engage with local stakeholders, science institutions, and environmental organizations that contribute directly to the sustainable management and marine spatial planning decisions of the US exclusive economic zone. Students will then present their research findings and marine management recommendations to a panel of invited experts as part of a formal, professional symposium.

Where?

Cruise Track: Florida Keys » Woods Hole, MA
Destinations: Florida Keys > Gulf Stream > Chesapeake Bay > Hudson River sub-marine Canyon > New England Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument > Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Cruise destinations subject to change.

When?

March 22 - June 12, 2021

March 22 - April 9: Shore I in Woods Hole
April 13 – May 20: At sea
May 24 – June 11: Shore II in Woods Hole

Program Highlights

  • Develop skills in measuring marine productivity, biodiversity and marine spatial planning
  • Employ effective/persuasive communication techniques and strategies at a professional symposium
  • Leverage scientific data and coastal zone management concepts to inform conservation efforts
  • Explore real-world interactions between science, conservation, environmental justice, and marine policy

Who Should Apply?

This study abroad program attracts upper-level science students interested in complementing marine science research with the wisdom, concepts, and skills necessary to operate effectively within the world of public policy. Motivated students interested in science who have completed only introductory level science coursework are also encouraged to apply, as arrangements to accommodate them may be possible through elective course enrollment.

Prerequisites: A minimum of three lab science courses (at least one at the 300-level) or permission from the SEA faculty. Not sure if you qualify? Contact your Admissions Counselor.

Program Description

Photo of SEA Semester

Skills Gained

  • Marine ecological field sampling across a diverse array of coastal and offshore habitats
  • Statistical analysis, GIS mapping and data visualization
  • Marine spatial planning and stakeholder engagement
  • Science communication and designing an environmental movement
  • Public speaking and leadership development

Oceans are the new frontier of conservation. Scientists estimate that oceans contain more than one million species and report that less than one-quarter of these have been identified. Marine biodiversity has the potential to transform medicine, industry, environmental remediation, and energy production; and productive coastal ecosystems provide food resources for 100’s of millions of people worldwide. As articulated in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (#14), human health is inextricably tied to effective management of marine resources. In recognition, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Strategic Plan (2011-2020) called for 10% of ocean area to be protected by 2020 but humanity has fallen short of this goal. There is much work yet to be done and we need your help.

In spring 2021 Marine Biodiversity and Conservation students will focus their attention on the Southeast and Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) along the US east coast; ocean ecosystems and resources shared with our international neighbors the Bahamas and Canada, respectively. These ecosystems include 100s of important fisheries species including snapper, grouper, and spiny lobster to the south and cod, scallop, and American lobster to the north that support coastal economies and food supplies worldwide. However, both LMEs are threatened by coastal pollution, habitat destruction, unsustainable fishing practices and climate change.

Regional research highlights will include the famed Gulf Stream current and enigmatic Sargassum algae to the south, the historic fishing areas of Chesapeake Bay and Georges Bank to the north, and migrating, endangered Right whales and offshore energy exploration and development that compete for space and protection in both regions.

Original research conducted by students during this project-based applied science and policy semester at sea program directly contributes to ongoing efforts to properly manage multiple stakeholder needs of these important marine resources.

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, mapping and statistical techniques for measuring biodiversity as well as practical seamanship will prepare students for the research cruise.

At Sea in the Large Marine Ecosystems
The Florida Keys to Woods Hole, MA research cruise allows for first-hand exploration of this important coastal and near-coastal environment and western Sargasso Sea. In addition to measuring biodiversity for their research projects, students will collect archive samples for the global marine biodiversity assessment effort.

On Shore II - Analysis & Symposium in Woods Hole
Students will complete scientific data analysis and synthesis of conservation approaches. The program concludes with a capstone experience. Students will share their scientific research and conservation strategies for the SE and NE Large Marine Ecosystems with 8-10 experts in national and international marine conservation science and policy during a one-day professional Large Marine Ecosystem Symposium convened on the SEA campus.

Beyond building content knowledge and practical skills in conservation science and management, a critical goal of this program is to introduce undergraduates to the breadth of career paths available in ocean stewardship, from research science to natural resource economics and policy 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, Florida Keys 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.

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

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Academic Credit

SEA Semester: Marine Biodiversity & Conservation carries 18 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.

Course Descriptions

Advanced Topics in Biological Oceanography (400-level, 4 credits)

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.

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.

Environmental Communication (300-level, 3 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Junior standing or consent of instructor.
Seminar focusing on communication skills development for environmental scholars. Introduces the field of environmental communication, examines environmental attitudes and behaviors, and develops a toolkit of communications strategies. Includes projects in data visualization, multi-media presentation and digital storytelling.

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.

Toward a Sustainable Ocean: Conservation & Management (300-level, 3 credits)

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor. 
Comparative and issue-driven introduction to managing human uses and conserving coastal and ocean places and resources.  Explore concepts of technology, governance, sector and ecosystem management, and marine protected areas through expert content lectures, topical seminars, and field trips.

Syllabi

Life on Shore

Photo of SEA Semester

At the beginning of every SEA Semester program, up to 25 students from various institutions across the U.S. — and often the world — come together on SEA’s residential campus in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on scenic Cape Cod, just down the road from the village of Woods Hole, a world-renowned hub of oceanographic research and discovery.

During this initial shore component, you’ll undertake coursework with SEA faculty that will prepare you personally, academically, and practically for the second part of your experience at sea. You’ll develop an original research project, explore the connections between humans and the ocean, and learn the principles necessary to crew a tall ship. You’ll also have access to some of the world’s foremost scientists and policymakers addressing the leading environmental questions of today.

Living in fully furnished private cottages on our campus, you’ll share all of the responsibilities of community living including grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning. From day one, your class will begin building skills in teamwork, communication, and collaboration, all of which will prepare you for the demands of living and working together at sea. Everyone will play a role in meal planning, provisioning (each house gets a pre-paid grocery card on a weekly basis), and meal prep, which is a great opportunity to hone your organizational and budgeting skills – not to mention putting your culinary skills to the test!

Morning and afternoon classes take place a short walk away from the cottages in the main academic building, the Madden Center. This facility also hosts the library, computer lab, science lab, faculty offices, and is home to the SEA administrative offices. A midday break allows time for lunch, a pickup game of frisbee, soccer, or volleyball, or a run along the local beach. Then it’s back to the classroom. The course schedule is intensive, with academic activities scheduled from roughly 9am to 4pm, Monday through Friday. Evenings and weekends are usually free, though sometimes community activities are organized by your faculty or the Head Resident on campus.

The shore component is one of the hallmarks of SEA Semester. It prepares you to be effective in your roles as researcher, crewmember, and shipmate at sea, and equips you with the tools to embark upon a successful ocean voyage.

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

Past Symposium Highlights

Sample Student Research Posters

Notable Past Participants:

Vera Agostini, The Nature Conservancy  View 2014 Talk
Adam Baske, Pew Environmental Group 
Sylvia Earle, Sylvia Earle Alliance/Mission Blue View 2014 Talk
David Freestone, Sargasso Sea Alliance View 2014 Talk
Annette Govindarajan, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 
Meaghan Jeans*, New England Aquarium 
Jack Kittinger, Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, Conservation International 
Caleb McClennen*, Wildlife Conservation Society 

*Denotes SEA Semester alumni

Life on Shore

At the beginning of every SEA Semester program, up to 25 students from various institutions across the U.S. — and often the world — come together on SEA’s residential campus in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on scenic Cape Cod, just down the road from the village of Woods Hole, a world-renowned hub of oceanographic research and discovery.

During this initial shore component, you’ll undertake coursework with SEA faculty that will prepare you personally, academically, and practically for the second part of your experience at sea. You’ll develop an original research project, explore the connections between humans and the ocean, and learn the principles necessary to crew a tall ship. You’ll also have access to some of the world’s foremost scientists and policymakers addressing the leading environmental questions of today.

Living in fully furnished private cottages on our campus, you’ll share all of the responsibilities of community living including grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning. From day one, your class will begin building skills in teamwork, communication, and collaboration, all of which will prepare you for the demands of living and working together at sea. Everyone will play a role in meal planning, provisioning (each house gets a pre-paid grocery card on a weekly basis), and meal prep, which is a great opportunity to hone your organizational and budgeting skills – not to mention putting your culinary skills to the test!

Morning and afternoon classes take place a short walk away from the cottages in the main academic building, the Madden Center. This facility also hosts the library, computer lab, science lab, faculty offices, and is home to the SEA administrative offices. A midday break allows time for lunch, a pickup game of frisbee, soccer, or volleyball, or a run along the local beach. Then it’s back to the classroom. The course schedule is intensive, with academic activities scheduled from roughly 9am to 4pm, Monday through Friday. Evenings and weekends are usually free, though sometimes community activities are organized by your faculty or the Head Resident on campus.

The shore component is one of the hallmarks of SEA Semester. It prepares you to be effective in your roles as researcher, crewmember, and shipmate at sea, and equips you with the tools to embark upon a successful ocean voyage.

Photo Gallery

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.