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  • Locations: Lyttleton, New Zealand; Multiple, Multiple; Papeete, French Polynesia; Raiatea, French Polynesia; Woods Hole, United States
  • Program Terms: SpringSemester(W/Sp)
  • Homepage: Click to visit
  • Program Sponsor: SEA Semester 
Dates / Deadlines:

There are currently no active application cycles for this program.
Program Information:
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Who Should Apply?

SEA Semester: Oceans & Climate is a good fit for upper-level science students who are passionate about environmental change and interested in developing a better understanding of public policy.

Prerequisite: To be eligible, students must have taken at least three lab science courses (one at the 300-level or higher) or received permission from SEA faculty.

Program Highlights

  • Interface with leading climate science experts in Woods Hole
  • Conduct baseline climate research
  • Examine regional and international policy efforts
  • Make a long, blue-water sailing passage from New Zealand to Tahiti

Program Description

Understanding climate change and its associated impacts is the critical scientific challenge of today, and the timely application of this knowledge to public policy is crucial to the future of our planet. This intensive semester invites upper-level science students to develop their understanding of the ocean’s role in climate dynamics and the global carbon cycle while working at the research forefront in under-examined areas of the open sea. From natural climate variability to recent anthropogenic influences to the uncertainties of tomorrow, students develop a strong foundation in global oceanographic processes while examining climate-related phenomena along their cruise track.

Natural hazards and climate-driven changes threaten Pacific island nations, including both New Zealand and French Polynesia. Adapting to these challenges is imperative, and nascent mitigation and sustainability strategies in use on islands offer real opportunities for evaluation and improvement. In this program, students consider policies at regional to international scales, first identifying energy, fresh water, coastal ecosystem, and other resources at risk from climate change, and then comparing scenarios and possibilities across locations. Integrating inquiry, analysis and communication, students will shape place-based policy recommendations, leveraging existing climate response strategies while experiencing various roles integral to stewarding our increasingly complex global environment.

Join this exciting New Zealand to Tahiti voyage, one of SEA’s longest sailing passages, to conduct baseline climate research on the rarely studied sub-Antarctic and subtropical waters of the remote South Pacific. Travel along the edge of the Southern Ocean, a region key to climate science because its dynamic ocean circulation and abundant biological productivity provide a major opportunity for carbon exchange between atmosphere and deep ocean. It’s a true blue-water cruise, reaching over 1,000 nautical miles from land in every direction! At stops in the Chatham Islands and French Polynesia, engage with local communities and investigate climate adaptation and sustainability questions raised during the shore component.

At program’s end, students explore long term ecological and climate research efforts throughout the Society Island archipelago and present their scientific findings during a multi-day, second shore component in Tahiti.

Academic Coursework & Credit

SEA Semester: Oceans & Climate offers 18 credits from Boston University. Courses are as follows:

Oceans in the Global Carbon Cycle (4 credits)
Ocean as carbon source and sink. Examine global-scale flux patterns and carbon storage mechanisms, from solubility/biological pumps to geo-engineering. Explore buffering capacity and mitigation strategies in the face of anthropogenic carbon cycle perturbations. Oral presentation and written research proposal required.

Ocean Science and Public Policy (3 credits)
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.

Nautical Science (3 credits)
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 Oceanographic Field Methods (4 credits)
Tools and techniques of the oceanographer. Participate in shipboard laboratory operations to gain experience with deployment of modern oceanographic equipment and collection of scientific data at sea. Emphasis on sampling plan design, advanced laboratory sample processing methods, and robust data analysis.

Directed Oceanographic Research (4 credits)
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.




Financial Aid

UW students on semester programs automatically receive $2,500 off the program price. In addition, every year, SEA Semester awards more than $1 million in need-based aid and scholarships to students of diverse academic, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. Explore more at the SEA Semester website.