Climate & Society

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Islands are bellwethers of global climate change, from shifting coastlines to disruptions to food and water security

Climate change represents the latest phase in a history of anthropogenic change brought about primarily by nations of the global north; “the Anthropocene” links colonialism and capitalism in ways that directly impact the livelihoods of Pacific Islanders. Climate and Society and its courses seek to (1) identify contemporary climate change issues in these island communities through humanities and scientific research; (2) consider the roles of environmental justice, governance, and teambased innovation in providing solutions; and (3) teach students the value of respectful collaboration in the communities they visit along the cruise track.

SPRING 2023: January 5, 2023 – March 23, 2023
FALL 2023: October 1, 2023 – December 23, 2023
student scientist

Spring 2023 Voyage:

Cruise Track: Tahiti to Tahiti

Destinations & Port Stops: Pape’ete (Tahiti), Rangiroa, Nuku Hiva, Fatu Hiva, Mangareva, possibly others. Port stops will be evaluated based on current CDC guidance for COVID-19 travel.

January 5 – February 14, 2023: Shore component in Woods Hole

February 14 – February 24, 2023: Shore component in Tahiti

February 24 – March 23, 2023: At sea

UPCOMING CRUISE TRACKS

FALL 2023
Auckland, NZ to Auckland, NZ

Program Highlights

  • Examine climate science, policy, literature, and leadership in their human social contexts
  • Interact with researchers and writers in New England and French Polynesia
  • Learn how cities, islands, and coastal regions are affected by and adapting to climate change
  • View full program description

Academic Credit

Climate & Society carries 18 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.  View course descriptions & syllabi

Who Should Apply?

Any student, regardless of major, interested in the human dimensions of climate change.

SEA Admissions and Financial Aid staff members offer individual advising and assistance to help students complete the application process. We encourage you to contact one of us to learn if SEA is right for you.

CONTACT ADMISSIONS
SSV Corwith Cramer

“I learned a lot academically, especially in terms of Caribbean culture, scientific methods, and traditional tallship sailing. I also felt that I grew older with my time at SEA, and it made me more confident to tackle college.”

Nino Tomas, SEA Gap Student, Middlebury College “Feb” Admit

Program Description

Finding solutions to the problems brought about by climate change requires going beyond scientific data. We must also consider the possibilities found within social and political institutions, economic systems, cultural practices, and the creative forces of art, literature, and design. The humanities and social sciences contribute to knowledge of how our changing climate impacts human lives and societies, and they play a vital role in building strategies for global climate resilience and adaptation.

Climate and Society features a five-week shore component in Woods Hole and a 10-day shore component in Tahiti, followed by 6 weeks of sailing through the Pacific Islands. In Woods Hole, home to world-renowned leaders in climate science, you will develop your semester-long research project, review essential climate humanities literature, and design a plan for original oceanographic research. You’ll meet with climate experts in the Woods Hole science community to discuss a range of climate related issues including migration and displacement, food and water security, environmental justice, and alternative governance and adaptation strategies. Dynamic interactive courses in oceanography, communication, and leadership will prepare you for the sailing and field research phase of the program.

The sailing component begins in Tahiti, where you will discuss climate change issues and local solutions with marine scientists and community leaders. Islands are bellwethers of global climate change, from shifting coastlines due to rising seas to disruptions to food and water security that are at once familiar and novel to their human communities. Climate change represents the latest phase in a history of anthropogenic change brought about primarily by nations of the global north; “the Anthropocene” links colonialism and capitalism in ways that directly impact the livelihoods of Pacific Islanders. Climate and Society and its courses seek to (1) identify contemporary climate change issues in these island communities through humanities and scientific research; (2) consider the roles of environmental justice, governance, and team-based innovation in providing solutions; and (3) teach students the value of respectful collaboration in the communities they visit along the cruise track.

Continual science research includes marine plastics, seawater chemistry, phytoplankton and zooplankton diversity. Continual humanities research includes human impacts of climate change, sea level change, and local and regional mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Furling jib
Music on the ship

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

Survey of climate literature across humanities and social science disciplines. Explores interpretive and comparative approaches to understanding human-climate interactions in maritime contexts and identifies collaborative potential with the natural sciences. Requires interdisciplinary research, field journal writing, and team projects.

Syllabus

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Junior standing or consent of instructor.
Seminar focusing on communication skills development for environmental scholars. Introduces the field of environmental communication, examines environmental attitudes and behaviors, and develops a toolkit of communications strategies. Includes projects in data visualization, multi-media presentation and digital storytelling.

Syllabus

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor. 
Be an effective leader while leveraging the individual strengths of a team. Use leadership theory and case studies to understand how decisions affect outcomes. Participate as an active member of a ship’s crew, progressively assuming full leadership roles.

Syllabus

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.

Syllabus

Advanced Research Topics (400-level, 4 credits.)
Advanced humanities and social science seminar focusing on contemporary climate-related issues including urban/coastal resilience, poverty and justice, clean energy, human displacement, and national security. Emphasizes case study analysis and research methods. Requires field data collection, research paper and symposium presentation.

Syllabus

Directed Research Topics (300-level, 4 credits.)
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor.

Seminar exploring humanities and social sciences approaches to understanding and resolving contemporary climate-related issues. Development of research and writing skills through analyses of case studies and guided seminar exercises. Requires field data collection, research paper and presentation of results.

Syllabus

Life on Shore

At the beginning of every SEA 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 programs. 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.

C-300 Class at Woods Hole
Volleyball on campus
Student at helm

Life at Sea

While the shore component is one of the hallmarks of SEA programs – 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 programs, you can be confident that the answer is, “Yes!”

The sea component of SEA programs 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

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