Ocean Exploration: Plastics Expedition

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FINANCIAL AID & COSTS

PROGRAM BLOGS

CONTACT ADMISSIONS

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Hands-on research of critical issues facing our oceans…

Designed for students of any major who are interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of our world’s oceans while acquiring first-hand experience in field-research and sailing aboard a tall ship. Students earn 10 semester-hour credits for successful completion.

SUMMER 2022: June 13, 2022 – July 24, 2022
SEA plastics

Summer 2022 Voyage:

Cruise Track: Honolulu, HI to San Diego, CA

Destinations & Port Stops: No planned port stops at this time but this will be evaluated based on current CDC guidance for COVID-19 travel.

June 13, 2022 – June 23, 2022: Shore component in Woods Hole

June 25, 2022 – July 24, 2022: At sea

Program Highlights

  • Develop lifelong skills in leadership, teamwork, communication, and critical thinking.
  • Conduct field research on marine plastics while gathering real-time data that contributes to a global understanding of our oceans.
  • View full program description

Academic Credit

Ocean Exploration: Plastics Expedition carries 10 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.  View course descriptions & syllabi

Who Should Apply?

This semester at sea 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.

This program is designed for students of any major who are interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of our world’s oceans while acquiring first-hand experience in field-research and sailing aboard a tall ship. Students earn 10 semester-hour credits for successful completion.

CONTACT ADMISSIONS
Robert C Seamans
Students on ship

“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

Understanding the oceans is an essential aspect 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 semester combines insights from oceanography 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, especially related to marine plastics.

This program offers students a deeper understanding of the complex marine environment through field-based research, a sailing adventure aboard a tall ship, and innumerable opportunities for skill-building, leadership development, and personal growth both onshore and at sea. This program emphasizes the collection and analysis of data related to marine plastics research.

The Plastics Expedition begins with a 11-day shore component in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. During this time, you will undertake coursework with SEA faculty that will prepare you academically and practically for the second part of your experience at sea. You’ll develop a research project, explore the connections between humans and the ocean, and learn the principles necessary to crew a tall ship. You will develop and practice scientific survey skills in local environments and learn about marine plastics research.

Following the shore component, you will board the SSV Robert C. Seamans for a 30-day voyage sailing from Honolulu Hawai’i to San Diego, California. This voyage traverses key portions of the North Pacific Gyre, known for its accumulations of marine plastics and debris. Because of this unique cruise track, students will gain first-hand experience with marine plastics research and sampling techniques.

Cramer Sargasso Sea

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

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.

Syllabus

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor. 
Comparative and issue-driven introduction to managing human uses and conserving coastal and ocean places and resources.  Explore concepts of technology, governance, sector and ecosystem management, and marine protected areas through expert content lectures, topical seminars, and field trips.

Syllabus

(Previously titled Practical Oceanography II)
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Introduction to oceanographic research. Design a collaborative, hypothesis-driven project following the scientific process. Collect original data. Conduct analysis and interpretation, then prepare a written report and oral presentation.

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

* Due to COVID19, some programs in 2021 – 2022 may reduce or omit port stops.

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2022-03-16T12:29:48-05:00
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