This study at sea 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.
Develop skills in molecular ecology including DNA extraction and sequencing
Present science and policy research at a final professional symposium
Apply natural resource economics to help inform conservation efforts
Propose marine spatial planning options
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, but is threatened by pollution, habitat destruction, fishing, and climate change. In recognition, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Strategic Plan (2011-2020) calls for 10% of ocean area to be protected by 2020. Currently, less than 3% is protected. While much of the protected area is restricted to national waters – within 200 miles of the coast – more than half of the ocean area lies beyond national jurisdiction. This bias reflects the complexity of weaving together appropriate protection measures for the high seas from the existing international regulatory framework.
The Sargasso Sea ecosystem, at the center of the North Atlantic gyre, has been identified as an area of particular importance for conservation of marine biodiversity. In addition to hosting a variety of endemic species, the Sargasso Sea ecosystem supports a number of endangered or threatened migratory species, including fish, turtles, birds and cetaceans. In March 2014, the Hamilton Declaration, an agreement to establish and actively participate in the Sargasso Sea Commission to forward conservation of the Sargasso Sea region, was signed by Bermuda, the United States, and other supporting nations. Original research conducted by students during this project-based applied science and policy study abroad at sea program directly contributes to this ongoing international effort.
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 Key West, FL 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 weeklong 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 approaches. The program concludes with a capstone experience. Students will share their scientific research and conservation 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.
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 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, 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:
SEA Semester: Marine Biodiversity & Conservation offers 18 credits from Boston University. Courses are as follows:
Advanced Topics in Biological Oceanography: Biodiversity (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.
Ocean Science and Public Policy (300-level, 3 credits) 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.
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.
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.
Nautical Science (200-level, 3 credits) 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.