former seachange students in class


The program includes coursework and research at the Laboratory’s state-of-the-art East Boothbay campus, where you’ll be embedded in the laboratories of senior research scientists. Throughout the semester, you’ll spend time in the classroom, field, and laboratory to gain experience with cutting-edge oceanographic techniques – including genomic tools, remote sensing, single-cell analysis, and monoclonal culture studies.

All students complete 4 courses. Three of these are traditional courses and include a lecture and lab component. The fourth course introduces students to research methods and includes 6 research cruises, a data analysis project, and an independent research project where students work with a faculty mentor to develop a research plan, experiments, and analysis. Students present their data project at a poster symposium at Bigelow in November and their independent research at a research symposium in the final week of the program.

The Sea Change Semester provides a transformative research experience and, for many students, their first published scientific citation.

Program Credit

Upon successful completion of the program, you will receive 16 transferable semester credits from Colby College.

2024 Courses

• The Ocean Environment: A Cross-Disciplinary Foundation (ES383, 4 credits)

The study of marine systems requires an understanding of multiple intersecting disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and human systems. This course will set the stage to cover how these processes interact to create a variety of marine systems, from estuaries to the open ocean to the sea floor. The course will introduce modern methods of ocean observing, including data collection and analysis in the R programming environment. Students will become proficient in using the primary scientific literature to inform their research and understanding, and build an understanding of how oceanic processes link to human activities, such as policy, geoengineering, and sustainability.

The ocean is comprised of connected biological networks, from microorganisms to whales. Chemical and physical processes and interactions between biotic and abiotic components fuel this engine. The course will explore diversity and biological activities of oceanic life, with emphasis on microbial aspects, across contrasting ecosystems (open oceans, deep-sea, coral reefs). We will address topics that drive research, including: the role of diversity and interactions in sustaining healthy ecosystems, climate change, and human impacts. Students will gain a working knowledge and skill set such that they can participate in oceanographic cruises and analyze data from complex sampling programs

The ocean plays a key role in mediating climate and supporting Earth's life. In this course, students will build on topics covered in previous Bigelow courses to explore the biological, chemical, and physical processes that affect the cycling of elements in the ocean, e.g. photosynthesis and respiration, oxidation-reduction (redox) reactions, calcification and silicification, and ocean-sediment interactions, with emphasis on processes that directly affect global climate. The role of humans will be addressed through topics such as ocean acidification, coastal eutrophication and hypoxia, marine pollution, and geoengineering. Laboratory activities will investigate carbonate chemistry, redox reactions, metabolic energy transfer, and carbon cycling. In an extended laboratory activity students will work with Bigelow’s communication professionals to compose short videos to explain ocean biogeochemistry topics.

This course is designed to expose students to oceanographic research through field work and two projects. The field component includes 6 research cruises where students will collect physical (temperature, light penetration), chemical (macro-nutrient) and biological (bacterial, phytoplankton and zooplankton) data at 4 stations from within the Damariscotta River Estuary to the open ocean. Students will process, analyze, and interpret the oceanographic data they collect in the first project for this course, and present it in a poster session at Bigelow. For the second project, students will work with a faculty mentor to develop an independent research project that includes designing and executing a plan with experiments and data analysis. There will be 4 “Roundtable on Research” meetings led by course instructors, culminating in a scientific talk at a research symposium. By the end of the semester, students will have experienced the full range of activities involved in oceanographic research.

Class Format

All 4 courses will take place over the duration of the 14 weeks, meeting at least once per week. ES383, BI384, and CH385 have traditional lecture and lab components with lectures typically scheduled in the morning and labs in the afternoon. These courses will likely wrap up prior to Thanksgiving break. The field course (BI386) meets weekly for research cruises, sample analyses, and data analysis. Independent research will take place weekly throughout the semester. After Thanksgiving break, most days are dedicated to independent research.

Dr. Christoph Aeppli at a whiteboard

Throughout the semester you will learn foundational concepts in ocean science. You will have the opportunity to apply this knowledge in various ways. For example, you will practice reading, discussing, and synthesizing scientific literature, you will deepen your scientific writing skills through proposals and lab reports, you will learn how to collect data on an oceanographic research vessel and analyze the data using R, and you will develop confidence conducting experiments in a laboratory setting.

We use traditional evaluation tools to assess your learning, including quizzes, tests, reports, and presentations. All students will be given a standard letter grade (A-F).