Marine Biodiversity & Conservation






Be part of a professional effort to protect the world’s oceans…

  • Embark on a blue water adventure sailing from Tahiti to Hawai’i
  • Engage in real-world research on biodiversity and marine conservation
  • Learn cutting-edge technology to collect and analyze biological data
SPRING 2023: February 15, 2023 – May 14, 2023

SPRING 2023 Voyage:

Cruise Track: Pape’ete, Tahiti to Honolulu, HI

Destinations & Port Stops: This is an open-ocean voyage without port stops.

February 15, 2023 – March 30, 2023: Shore component in Woods Hole

March 30, 2023 – May 14, 2023: At sea

Program Highlights

  • Develop skills in measuring marine productivity, biodiversity and marine spatial planning
  • Employ effective/persuasive communication techniques and strategies at a professional symposium
  • Explore real-world interactions between science, conservation, environmental justice, and marine policy
  • View full program description

Academic Credit

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

Unparalleled Resume-Building Opportunities

MBC Alumni Present at the United Nations’ Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development Meeting

SEA Collaborating with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to Study Ocean’s Twilight Zone

More research highlights

Who Should Apply?

This study abroad program attracts upper-level science students interested in complementing marine science research with the wisdom, concepts, and skills necessary to operate effectively within the world of public policy. Motivated students interested in science who have completed only introductory-level science coursework are also encouraged to apply, as arrangements to accommodate them may be possible through elective course enrollment.

Prerequisites: A minimum of three lab science courses (at least one at the 300-level) or permission from the SEA faculty.

SEA 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.

Students on Ship
Cramer sailing
Sea turtle

“Welcome aboard. Within these 40 meters, the 32 of us will live, work, and study for five weeks with nothing but blue in sight. You will repeat to yourself, “Ship, shipmate, self.” Most of all, you will gain a kind of strength and appreciation for life not attainable on dry land.”

Jana Maravi, Rochester Institute of Technology

Program Description

  • Marine ecological field sampling across a diverse array of coastal and offshore habitats
  • Statistical analysis, data visualization, and molecular lab work and DNA sequence analysis
  • Marine spatial planning and stakeholder engagement
  • Science communication and designing an environmental movement
  • Public speaking and leadership development

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 COP15 meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity promoted a global initiative to designate 30% of Earth’s ocean area as protected areas by 2030. Currently, less than 8% 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.

Preparation in Woods Hole
Students will build a conceptual framework in marine ecology, governance and conservation while honing practical skills. Global and regional patterns of marine biodiversity are examined through literature review. Connections between biodiversity, ecosystem function, and conservation are explored during interdisciplinary seminar discussion sessions. Underlying principles and current research applications in population genetics and phylogenetics are taught by experts in the field. Field research is central to the study of marine biodiversity. Students leverage hands-on laboratory experience to learn current techniques for assessing marine biodiversity using both morphological and molecular methods in preparation for fieldwork at sea.

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.

Ship at sea
Science on ship

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.

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

Research & Symposium Highlights

Sample Student Research Projects:
A Marine Management Proposal for the Sargasso Sea
Students Seek the story of Sargassum through scientific inquiry within the Sargasso Sea

Past Symposium Participants:
Vera Agostini, The Nature Conservancy (YouTube)
Adam Baske, Pew Environmental Group
Sylvia Earle, Sylvia Earle Alliance/Mission Blue (YouTube)
David Freestone, Sargasso Sea Alliance (YouTube)
Annette Govindarajan, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Meaghan Jeans, New England Aquarium
Jack Kittinger, Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, Conservation International
Caleb McClennen, Wildlife Conservation Society

Student Research Posters:


Latest News

Go to Top