SEA Summer School: Pacific Reef Expedition

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General information

SEA Summer Programs 2018: Pacific Reef Expedition Polynesia & Hawaii

Students will have the rare opportunity to contribute to a growing body of knowledge about the susceptibility of remote coral reefs to climate change: an important question, since they support some of the richest diversity of species on the planet.

Unlike other SEA Semester programs, Pacific Reef Expedition does not begin with a shore component at our Woods Hole, Massachusetts campus. Therefore, the program requires participation in and successful completion of four online training modules (live webinars, discussion forums, and associated assignments) prior to sailing. Access the full syllabus below for further details.

After completing the initial online coursework and upon joining the SSV Robert C. Seamans in Tahiti, students will set sail for Hawaii, conducting snorkel-based photographic and visual surveys of the local corals, fish, and invertebrates found among three distinct island atolls along the way. Comparative research of environments that have experienced wide variations in development— Caroline Island (none), Rangiroa (moderate) and Kiritimati (extreme)— will allow students to document and compare the potential effects climate change. Data collected during this voyage could help shed new light on the ability of reefs to endure and adapt to global climate change.

Coursework in Practical Oceanographic Research offers the opportunity to carry out oceanographic research projects while sailing across the Equatorial Pacific. In small teams, students will examine the richness and variety of marine life in coral reef environments at different locations along the cruise track. No science prerequisites – see what field research is all about!

All students will participate as full, working member of the scientific team and sailing crew aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans.



This field-based program for all majors will explore the changing Pacific Ocean environment through science and leadership lenses, including a rare chance to study remote, pristine coral reef ecosystems up close.


Cruise Track: Pape’ete, Tahiti to Honolulu, Hawaii 
Destinations: Pape’ete > Rangiroa > Caroline Island, Kiribati > Kiritimati > Honolulu


April 23 – June 24, 2018

April 23 – May 18: Required Online Coursework
May 23 – June 24: At Sea

Program Highlights

  • Open ocean passage
  • Equatorial crossing
  • Snorkel-based reef surveys
  • Traditional Polynesian and Western navigation methods
  • Hands-on sailing and leadership experience
  • Original data collection and authentic research

Who Should Apply?

This program is ideal for any undergraduate with an interest in the oceans. We welcome students of all majors to apply.

Learning outcome:

Nautical Science (200-level, 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.

Practical Oceanographic Research (200-level, 4 credits)

(Previously titled Practical Oceanography II)
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.

Contact Person: (


The highlighted icons, represent the fields of education (in compliance with ISCED Classification) engaged during this course/programme.

0522 - Conservation and environmental management", "0532 - Physical and chemical oceanography", "1041 - Navigation and seamanship


Venue: SSV Robert C. Seamans
Pape’ete, Tahiti, French Polynesia





Admission to SEA Semester.

Application Procedure:

Application Deadline: Rolling Admissions


Academic level: Master, PhD, Lifelong Learning
Occupations (not validated):
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