Ocean Exploration: Environmental Justice in the Caribbean






Environmental justice is a key issue affecting island populations.

  • Learn practical seamanship skills as you sail the Caribbean with multiple port stops
  • Develop a unique oceanographic and humanities-focused research project
  • Interact with local communities and explore issues such as food security, deforestation, and coral reef degradation
SPRING 2023: January 2, 2024 – March 17, 2024
Students on ship

Spring 2024 Voyage:

Cruise Track: St. Croix, USVI to Key West

Destinations & Port Stops: St. John, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica (Port stops subject to current CDC guidance for COVID-19 travel.)

January 2, 2024 – February 9, 2024: Shore component in Woods Hole

February 11, 2024 – March 17, 2024: At sea

Program Highlights

  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of the world’s oceans
  • Explore environmental issues from scientific and social perspectives
  • Take your learning out of the classroom and into the field
  • Develop new skills in leadership, teamwork, and research
  • View full program descriptionView full program description

Academic Credit

Ocean Exploration carries 17 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.  View course descriptions & syllabi

Who Should Apply?

This program is open to matriculated college students of all majors as well as gap year/winter start students who have graduated from high school but not yet matriculated at a college or university. This program offers a full semester of college credit.

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.


“In the little amount that we have been in the program, we have been sponges absorbing incredible amounts of knowledge. The challenges we face, the hard work, the different work hours, the classes, the research projects and the boat life during our SEA Semester are all incredible life and educational lessons, which I believe will bring us far as ocean advocates and scientists.”

Mareike Duffing Romero, Humboldt State University

Program Description

Ocean environmental justice in the Caribbean is a social equity issue that ranges, for example, from food security to deforestation, and from displacement from coastal lands to coral degradation resulting from both the historic plantation system and modern examples of resource extraction in the region. In this program, explore the ocean as framed by these environmental justice issues, and the connected climate justice and social justice issues, and broaden your understanding of the ways in which the ocean impacts larger social structures.

Understanding the oceans is an essential component of appreciating how the world works and how we relate to it as human beings. The sea is so complex that it is impossible to comprehend from the perspective of a single academic discipline. With that in mind, this interdisciplinary program combines insights from oceanography, the humanities, and the social sciences with practical skills in seamanship, allowing students to deepen their awareness of and appreciation for the ocean through hands-on research and personal experience. In this semester, students will address and answer some of the most pressing global questions related to environmental justice through a maritime and oceanographic lens.

During an initial six-week shore component in Woods Hole, academic coursework will prepare students for their research voyage. With full access to SEA faculty, guest lecturers, and the world-renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/Marine Biological Laboratory Library, students will design original research projects to be completed during the seagoing portion of the program to better understand the physics, chemistry, and biology of the ocean system. Maritime Studies coursework will complement this research by offering a wider historical, economic, and social perspective on human interactions with the world’s oceans and the shaping force of the oceans on human societies .

Finally, Nautical Science coursework will introduce practical seamanship skills and the theoretical background necessary to for students safely operate a tall ship at sea. As full, working members of the scientific team and sailing crew aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer, students will then spend the next six weeks at sea managing shipboard operations, navigating by the stars, analyzing oceanographic samples, and visiting ports-of-call in the Caribbean Basin. Perhaps most importantly, students will learn to challenge themselves and will develop new skills in leadership, teamwork, and research.

Students on ship
Students on ship

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
To understand environmental justice from an ocean perspective, it is essential to explore the relationship between humans and the sea. History, literature, and art are all components of maritime heritage and can inform a broader understanding of the context for contemporary marine policies. Maritime workers frequently acted as agents of change, sometimes leading to drastic cultural, economic, and social disruption. This humanities course will help inform your own seagoing experiences and gprovide insightinto how maritime workers shaped societies worldwide.


Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Learn the fundamentals of navigation, safety, weather, sailing theory, and engineering to ensure that you become a functioning member of the shipboard community There are no passengers on SEA’s vessels, and Nautical Science will prepare you to be an active crewmember.


Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
To understand contemporary ocean issues, it is critical to understand the chemical, physical, geological and biological processes in the ocean environment. Bathymetry, plate tectonics, and biological productivity all play roles in the larger planetary system in which we all reside.


(Previously titled Practical Oceanography I)
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Learn about the most current oceanographic equipment, techniques, and methodology to become an active member of the shipboard science community. This course trains you in the hard skills necessary to fully understand the ocean environment and better understand the interdisciplinary nature of the sea.
(Previously titled Practical Oceanography II)
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Design a collaborative scientific project or experiment driven by your intellectual curiosity. Working as a team, create a hypothesis, collect data, analyze results, and present your findings about your project to the shipboard community.


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.

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

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. On this voyage, you will get to experience the thrill of the open sea, and the joy of making landfall in ports-of-call along the way.

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 credit, self-confidence, lifelong friends, a toolbox of skills and knowledge, and a sense of direction that will serve you far beyond your voyage


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