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.
SEA Semester: Protecting the Phoenix Islands
Admission Application Deadline: Rolling
Financial Aid Application Deadline: April 1, 2022
This 8-week summer at sea welcomes students to explore one of the last coral wildernesses on Earth through one of two academic tracks: science or policy.
Cruise Track: Honolulu, Hawai'i » American Samoa
Destinations: Honolulu > Phoenix Islands Protected Area > American Samoa
When?June 6 - August 11, 2022
June 6 - 24: On shore in Woods Hole
July 3 - Aug. 11: At sea
• 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 summer study abroad 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.
- Critically evaluate coastal and marine policy documents
- Communicate and network effectively in professional management or conservation settings
- Identify significant relationships between economic forces, technology, and ecological sustainability
- Ocean literacy and stewardship
Sail throughout the last coral wilderness on Earth in order to preserve its future. A joint effort with international collaborators, this program invites students to explore the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), a tropical ocean expanse of diverse deep-ocean ecosystems dotted by eight spectacular coral atolls. You'll conduct research that will assist in the ongoing development of an effective conservation plan for the region. SEA's expeditions have been the only oceanographic surveys within PIPA, and you'll add the next chapter to the knowledge of the ocean inside its boundaries.
Beginning with a three-week shore component in Woods Hole, you'll use PIPA as a case study to develop your own research project in either ocean science or conservation policy. You’ll then join the SSV Robert C. Seamans for a five-week research voyage throughout the archipelago, which includes an equatorial crossing.
Using the ship's sophisticated oceanographic tools to explore the area, the results of your voyage will add to SEA's five-year data set exploring how the ocean in PIPA might be changing in this time of warming global climates and rising sea levels. You and your shipmates will collect samples from the marine environment and visit the region’s islands and pristine coral reefs. By providing real-time data, your projects will ultimately compose a picture of the state of the ocean for the benefit of the PIPA management office in Kiribati.
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.
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
Protecting the Phoenix Islands carries 11 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.
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.
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.
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.
- The Ocean and Global Change
- Toward a Sustainable Ocean: Conservation & Management
- Advanced Ocean Policy Research --or--
- Directed Oceanographic Research --or--
- Practical Oceanographic Research
These syllabi are examples of the type of work done in each course but not necessarily specific to this instance of Protecting the Phoenix Islands.
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. Use either red button below to upload both your essay and your writing sample.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 should be uploaded using the link below.
P.O. Box 6
Woods Hole, MA 02543
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.
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.