This study at sea semester attracts students from all majors who are interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of our world’s oceans. It is also open to gap year/winter start students who have graduated from high school but not yet matriculated at a college or university.
Gain a comprehensive understanding of the world’s oceans
Make a long, blue-water sailing passage
Take your learning out of the classroom and into the field
Develop new skills in leadership, teamwork, and research
Understanding the oceans is an essential component of appreciating how the world works and how we relate to it as human beings. The sea is so complex that it is impossible to comprehend from the perspective of a single academic discipline. With that in mind, this interdisciplinary program combines insights from oceanography, the humanities, and the social sciences with practical skills in seamanship, allowing students to deepen their awareness of and appreciation for the ocean through hands-on research and personal experience. In this semester, students will address and answer some of the most pressing global questions related to the ocean environment.
During an initial 4-week shore component in Woods Hole, academic coursework will prepare students for their research voyage from California to Hawai'i. With full access to SEA faculty, guest lecturers, and the world-renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/Marine Biological Laboratory Library, students will design original research projects to be completed at sea. Maritime Studies coursework will complement this research by offering a wider historical and social perspective on the impact of humans on the world’s oceans, and on the experience of going to sea. Finally, Nautical Science coursework will introduce practical seamanship skills and the theoretical background necessary to for students safely operate a tall ship at sea.
As full, working members of the scientific team and sailing crew aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans, students will then spend the next seven weeks at sea managing shipboard operations, navigating by the stars, analyzing oceanographic samples, while making a blue-ocean passage in the North Pacific Ocean. Perhaps most importantly, students will learn to challenge themselves and will develop new skills in leadership, teamwork, and research.
Academic Coursework & Credit
SEA Semester: Ocean Exploration offers 17 credits from Boston University. Courses are as follows:
Oceanography (200-level, 3 credits) Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Explore how interconnected ocean characteristics (bathymetry, seawater chemistry, biological diversity) and processes (plate tectonics, surface and deep-water circulation, biological production) shape global patterns across multiple scales. Discuss destination-specific environmental issues and hot topics in marine research.
Maritime Studies (200-level, 3 credits) Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Relationship between humans and the sea. History, literature and art of our maritime heritage. Ships as agents of contact change. Political and economic challenges of contemporary marine affairs. Destination-specific focus.
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.
Oceanographic Field Methods (200-level, 4 credits) Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Exposure to basic oceanographic sampling methods. Participate in shipboard laboratory operations to gain experience with deployment of modern oceanographic equipment and collection of scientific data at sea. Emphasis on practicing consistent methods and ensuring data fidelity.
Choice of Research Courses (choose one):
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) 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.