Marine Biodiversity and Conservation




Multilateral efforts like the United Nations High Seas Treaty are on the forefront of modern biodiversity protection.

Oceans may contain more than one million species, however, 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, over-fishing, and climate change.  Studying organisms beyond national boundaries is crucial to understanding and conserving our ocean ecosystems.

Students participating in this program can expect the following:

  • Extract, amplify, sequence, and learn bioinformatic pipelines to analyze DNA in the ship’s lab
  • Engage in real-world research on population genomics and contribute to biodiversity conservatio
  • Embark on a blue water adventure sailing from New Zealand to Tahiti


February 19, 2024 – May 18, 2024

February 19, 2024 – March 22, 2024: Shore component in Woods Hole

March 26, 2024 – May 3, 2024: At sea

May 4, 2024 – May 18, 2024: Shore component in Tahiti

Cruise Track: New Zealand to Tahiti

Destinations & Port Stops: Chatham Islands

student scientist
SEA Students aboard a tall ship
SEA Students doing oceanographic field research

Program Description

Using the same portable next generation sequencing platform employed on the International Space Station and in both the Arctic and Antarctic wilderness, students enrolled in SEA’s Marine Biodiversity & Conservation Program learn how to use modern molecular tools to ask and answer ecological and conservation questions as they sail from New Zealand to Tahiti.

Traversing a range of bioregions, including temperate, blue water, and tropical, you’ll collect zooplankton specimens from the mesopelagic (the Ocean Twilight Zone), and conduct group research projects addressing population genomics and biodiversity. You’ll examine how these ecosystems are responding to climate change, and gain an understanding of how such research informs conservation policy.

This is the inaugural voyage of this cruise track for the MBC program and will establish what is planned as a long-term and much needed data set that can help shape conservation in the Pacific.

The program ends in Tahiti with a two-week second shore component and student-led symposium with local stakeholders, scientists, and conservationists.

The Marine Biodiversity & Conservation program is geared toward students interested in in ocean science as a career, as well as those interested in marine ecology and conservation, molecular biology, or environmental marine policy.

Prerequisites are one introductory science course and one 200-level science lab.

Academic Credit

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

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Syllabus for previous years are available for review. Detailed course content for future programs is dependent on cruise track, seasons, port stops, current events and faculty, and will be available closer to the program start date.

Ship at sea
Science on ship

Featured Blog

Elizabeth Siminitus, A Watch, Hamilton College

Hello again, World! We’ve had another great day at sea and a smooth transition into our third phase (Junior Watch Officer) complete with another rotation of the mates and scientists. With all of the novelty of life at sea, it can be easy sometimes to forget about the reason most of us are here: science! I thought I’d use my blog today to share with you some of the excitement and particular challenges of doing science at sea. Every day on watch two people are assigned to lab with our scientist to keep working on projects.

Deployments happen every night watch and morning watch, weather permitting. These include surface deployments: Neuston Net tows and surface stations, as well as wire deployments like CTD and Meter Net tows, which we send down as deep as 450 meters to sample the water and creatures below. These deployments are quite a process to set up because not only do they need to be securely attached to the ship and ready to collect data, they often require sail handling to get the ship hove to or moving at a specific speed. Not to mention, sometimes we’ll do three deployments in one six-hour watch! Once all the gear is safely on board, it’s time to look at what we’ve collected and process it for useful data. On dawn watch and afternoon watch the first task to be completed is usually processing the deployment done by the watch before. This process includes lots of measuring, labeling, and identifying species. Samples also must be identified for PCR.

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