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SEA Summer Session

Protecting the Phoenix Islands

Journey to "Underwater Eden"... Sail throughout the last coral wilderness on Earth in order to preserve its future. Join a limited group of students alongside world-renowned experts for an unprecedented scientific research voyage to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Explore the world’s largest – and deepest – UNESCO World Heritage Site while creating a policy plan to ensure its protection. An incredible learning opportunity with amazing networking possibilities.

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Overview: Summer 2017 | Protecting the Phoenix Islands

Voyage Map

Click map to enlarge.

Application/Financial Aid Deadline: Closed

Completed applications for admission AND financial aid must be received together in order to be considered.


This 8-week summer session welcomes students to explore one of the last coral wildernesses on Earth through one of two academic tracks: science or policy.


Cruise Track: American Samoa to American Samoa
Destinations: American Samoa > Phoenix Islands Protected Area > American Samoa


June 12 - August 11, 2017

June 12 - 30: On shore in Woods Hole
July 7 - Aug. 11: At sea

Program Highlights

  • Examine impacts of El Niño
  • Contribute data to inform marine conservation policy
  • Study oceanography of tropical oceans
  • Collect baseline data to assess impacts of climate change

Who Should Apply?

This program is ideal for students with an interest in conservation policy and marine science. Students may choose a policy or science track, offering flexibility in project topics and transfer credit. We welcome students of all majors to apply.

Program Description

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A joint effort with the New England Aquarium, this program invites students to explore the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), a tropical ocean wilderness of diverse deep-ocean ecosystems dotted by eight spectacular coral islands. Students join experts from SEA, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the New England Aquarium to conduct research that will assist in the development of an effective conservation plan for the region.

Beginning with a three-week shore component in Woods Hole, students use PIPA as a case study to develop their own research project in either ocean science or conservation policy. They then join the SSV Robert C. Seamans for a five-week research voyage throughout the archipelago.

Students work side by side with experts to collect samples from the marine environment and visit the region's islands and pristine coral reefs. By providing real-time data, student projects will ultimately compose a picture of the state of the ocean for the benefit of the PIPA management office in Kiribati.

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

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Academic Credit

Protecting the Phoenix Islands carries 11 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.

Course Descriptions

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.

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.

Your Choice of Research Course Options:

Advanced Ocean Policy Research (400-level, 4 credits)
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.

-- OR --

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)
(Previously titled Practical Oceanography II)
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.


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"SEA Semester was the perfect environment to learn about a vastly important but often overlooked part of our world, the oceans. The classroom time was very engaging and I learned a great deal in this more traditional academic environment. Of course, the sea component will probably be the most memorable aspect of my undergraduate education."

Evan Oleson
Economics Major
Williams College