Ocean Policy: Marine Protected Areas




Marine protected areas play a vital role in addressing climate change, safeguarding ecosystems, and promoting research and education.

Developing and maintaining MPAs often requires collaboration between governments, local communities, scientists, and conservation organizations. With threats of rising seawater, ocean acidification, and increasing ocean temperatures, MPAs allow researchers to study natural processes to better understand the impacts of human activities. In addition, MPAs can provide local communities to generate revenue through eco-tourism by creating and promoting awareness for the value of their marine ecosystems.

Students participating in this program can expect the following:

  • Conduct research and contribute to on going data sets
  • Contribute to marine conservation and policy efforts
  • Cultivate a comparative approach to understanding marine protected area management strategies

Summer 2024: Tahiti to Fiji

June 10  – July 17, 2024

June 10 – June 18, 2024: Remote shore component in Tahiti

June 19 – July 17, 2024: At sea

Port stops:

Cook Islands, Palmerston, and Vava’u

*Port stops are subject to change

Be sure to check out student blogs from past programs.

Program Blogs

Program Description

Ocean Policy: Marine Protected Areas provides students the opportunity to utilize scientific research to understand evidence-based policies and regulations that guide ocean conservation and management. 

During the shore component in Tahiti, students will learn from local communities and organizations about the ongoing efforts to establish and maintain marine protected areas within the region. Students will examine case studies to better understand how the integration of traditional ecological knowledge provides successful policy frameworks.  

During the sea component, students will gain hands on experience by deploying scientific equipment and analyzing samples in the lab aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Data collected from the voyage will be shared with partner institutions to contribute to their on-going data sets.

Academic Credit

This program carries 11 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

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.

Sample Syllabus

Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor. 
Ocean ecosystem change in the anthropocene: warming, acidification, fisheries depletion, and pollution. Review principles of circulation, seawater chemistry, nutrient dynamics, and biological production to understand causes and consequences of change. Conduct field measurements for contribution to time-series datasets.


Directed Oceanographic Research (300-level, 4 credits)

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.


Practical Oceanographic Research (200-level, 4 credits)

(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.


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.