Marine Biodiversity & 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 conservation
  • Embark on a blue water adventure sailing from New Zealand to Tahiti

Spring 2025:

February 26 – May 27, 2025

February 26 – April 2, 2025: On campus in Woods Hole, MA

April 3 – May 13, 2025: At sea

May 13 – May 27, 2025: Remote shore component in Tahiti

Port stops:

Port stops are not guaranteed and will be evaluated based on weather conditions closer to the sea component.

Be sure to check out student blogs from past Marine Biodiversity & Conservation programs.

Program Blogs

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, students will collect zooplankton specimens from the mesopelagic (the Ocean Twilight Zone), and conduct group research projects addressing population genomics and biodiversity. Students will examine how these ecosystems are responding to climate change, and gain an understanding of how such research informs conservation policy.

The MBC program along this cruise track 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

This program carries 18 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Syllabi 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.


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