SEA Class S-306.

Students Sail South Pacific to Study Island Cultures, Ecosystems, and Environmental Issues

This fall, a select group of college students is sailing the South Pacific aboard the tall ship ocean research vessel SSV Robert C. Seamans to explore the complex environmental challenges faced by remote Pacific islanders, and explore sustainable solutions for island cultures and ocean ecosystems. The students, enrolled in Sustainability in Polynesian Island Cultures and Ecosystems, a study abroad program offered by Sea Education Association (SEA), will examine the complex relationships between political structures, culture, and the natural environment as they study issues of colonial conflict, cultural identity, and environmental justice.

After a highly selective application process, the program began with five weeks of preparatory coursework on shore at the SEA campus in the oceanographic research community of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. There, students were introduced to the history, culture, and geography of remote Pacific Islands. A visiting scholar from Tahiti shared her work on environmental science, Pacific Island voyaging and navigation, and traditional art, food, and cultural practices.

The students then flew to Papeete, Tahiti for a ten-day second shore component.  On Nov. 20th, they traveled to the island of Huahine, where they will soon board the SSV Robert C. Seamans, SEA’s state-of-the-art 134-foot brigantine. The ship will serve as their home, classroom, and laboratory for the next four weeks as they voyage through French Polynesia.

All students are full working members of the ship’s crew, sharing responsibilities for standing watch, processing oceanographic samples, navigating by the stars, and participating in round-the-clock operations. Perhaps most importantly, students learn to challenge themselves and cultivate new skills in leadership, teamwork, and field research.

The program will immerse students in collaborative relationships with communities and agencies in the region working for environmental sustainability. They will explore this issue with local officials and residents while visiting historical, cultural, agricultural, and environmental management sites, and investigate the complex factors that threaten fragile island ecosystems and the surrounding marine environment in an effort to pursue a more sustainable relationship with our oceans. An integral part of the program’s curriculum involves developing skills to persuasively communicate ideas and facts about sustainability.

Track the voyage on the SEA Currents blog now through Dec. 23.

About Sea Education Association
Sea Education Association (SEA) is an internationally recognized leader in undergraduate, gap year, and high school ocean education. For 50 years and more than one million nautical miles sailed, SEA has educated students about the world’s oceans through its Boston University-accredited study abroad program. SEA is based on Cape Cod in the oceanographic research community of Woods Hole, Massachusetts and has two research vessels: the SSV Corwith Cramer, operating in the Atlantic Ocean, and the SSV Robert C. Seamans, operating in the Pacific.

Contact: Douglas Karlson, Director of Communications | 508-444-1918 | |

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