Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

Ocean Life, Planet Health

Colby College Partnerships

Changing Oceans

A new Bigelow Laboratory/Colby College Program

Louisa Walker & Dr. Pete Countway

Bigelow Laboratory offers a semester-in-residence program for Colby College students interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of oceanography and hands-on research experience through immersion in a professional laboratory environment.  Available in fall semester only, the intensive research experience is focused on ocean science within a changing global climate, and covers topics such as microbial oceanography, marine biogeochemistry, the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle, molecular approaches to biological oceanography, and pelagic ecology; implications for public policy are explored within each of these topics. This unique program is a must for any student interested in the marine sciences, as well as students looking for a research-intensive experience during their undergraduate training.

Bigelow’s community of scientists conduct basic research on the biological, chemical and physical processes of the oceans, and is internationally recognized for its unique blend of cross-disciplinary research.  All classes and lab activities in the semester program will be delivered by world-renowned Bigelow Senior Research Scientists and Research Scientists, who have extensive undergraduate teaching and mentoring experience.  Small class sizes and an emphasis on research in the lab and field ensure that students receive individual attention and plenty of hands-on research experience. 

Available fall semester only.  Participation in this program does not preclude students from also participating in a semester program abroad in the spring. 


The Fall 2013 program featured the following courses (click on the course title to see syllabus):

•    The Ocean Environment: Setting the Scene (4 credits)
•    Biological Oceanography in a Changing Ocean (4 credits)
•    Ocean Biogeochemistry on a Changing Planet (4 credits)
•    Oceanographic Field Methods: Life on the Ocean Wave (4 credits)

Throughout the semester, students spend time in the classroom, field and laboratory and are exposed to modern, cutting-edge oceanographic techniques including genomic tools, remote sensing, single-cell analysis, and monoclonal culture studies.  The semester includes coursework and research at the Laboratory’s new East Boothbay campus, where students are embedded in the laboratories of Senior Research Scientists.  Students also complete an independent research project, which includes the development of a research plan, experiments and analysis, under the guidance of a faculty mentor.  Students present their work at a research symposium, held the final week of the program.

Laboratory work is complemented by time in the field.  Students participate in 6 day-long research cruises in the Gulf of Maine, supplemented with regular sampling of local waters.  While at sea, students use a full range of physical, chemical and biological oceanographic instruments to collect water samples and environmental data for analysis and synthesis in the lab.

Coursework and independent research is enhanced by student participation in the Bigelow community, attendance at seminars by invited scientists, and interactions with other marine science laboratories and scientists in Maine, providing training, networking and exposure to the career options within the diverse field of oceanography.

image004.jpgProgram Offerings

  • Take four courses focused on ocean science, climate change, and marine policy
  • Design and conduct an independent research project in ocean science
  • Develop research skills in the classroom and through lab and field components.
  • Live on-site in East Boothbay, Maine

Grades and Credits

Students earn 16 credits through four, 4-credit courses.  Courses are interdisciplinary and hands-on and include discussions on local and global public policy and current events.  Grades are determined by Bigelow faculty and factor into the Colby GPA.


Program participants live dormitory-style in the Laboratory’s McKee House, a fully furnished house on Ocean Point Road, located at the entrance to the Bigelow campus.  Students are responsible for their own meals and are provided full kitchen facilities. 

Current Program Schedule

September 4 - December 14, 2013

Program Fees

The fees for Colby programs abroad are equivalent to the comprehensive fees for Colby College. (Please note that program fees are also subject to any annual comprehensive fee increases.) Students are billed by Colby, and are exempt from the $1000 study abroad fee. The fee covers tuition, room and a food allowance. Books, meals during vacation periods, insurance, and personal travel are not included. A forfeitable deposit of $500 is due at the time of acceptance.


Juniors with a minimum G.P.A. of 3.0 who have taken at least three lab science courses and one semester each of chemistry, biology and pre-calculus/calculus are eligible to participate.

Students interested in studying on this program will also be permitted to study abroad for another semester (exempt from a petition). 

To Apply

If interested, Colby students should contact the Colby Campus of Off-Campus Study and follow the Colby Application for Approval process.