Semester Program Details

Academics, Independent Research, Fieldwork, and Beyond

The Changing Oceans academic program consists of four courses that each last about four weeks and cover academic topics such as biological oceanography, the ocean environment, and biogeochemistry. The program also includes one semester-long field course in which students participate in weekly research cruises through the Gulf of Maine and Damariscotta River estuary to collect research samples.

The Changing Oceans semester program features courses accredited by Colby College (click on the course title to see the syllabus from the past years):

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 state-of-the-art East Boothbay campus, where students are embedded in the laboratories of Senior Research Scientists. Students 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 student research symposium, held the final week of the program. This experience provides them with training in science and, for many, their first published scientific citation.

Research Cruise

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. Data collected on these cruises are added to a long-term time series data collection.

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.

Many possibilities exist for ongoing interaction with Bigelow Laboratory after the conclusion of the semester program, including continued project work with Senior Research Scientist mentors, future internships, opportunities for senior research projects in collaboration with the Laboratory, and recommendations or advice for future academic pursuits from field veterans.

Changing Oceans participants have a track record of success. Most go on to graduate school or work in ocean-related positions. Recent graduates have, for example, enrolled in Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment graduate program in coastal management, been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Tromso, Norway, and joined the Peace Corps in the Philippines doing coastal research work, while others have returned to Bigelow Laboratory to continue doing hands-on research that they learned to love during their 14-week fall semester experience.

Grades and Credits

Students earn 16 credits from Colby College 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.

Life in East Boothbay and Off-campus Excursions

Students participating in the program are housed at the Graham Shimmield Residence Hall, overlooking the Damariscotta River. The new 15,000-square-foot eco-friendly facility on our campus, is located just a short walk from our laboratory. Energy efficiency, ease of maintenance, and respect for the surrounding environment are all embodied by the modern design, which blurs the lines between the indoor and outdoor spaces.

The two-story structure houses a communal fully equipped kitchen and social area, adaptable meeting space, recreation areas, fitness room, laundry facilities, and wireless Internet access.

Students are given a food stipend and are responsible for their own meals. Membership to the local YMCA is provided, with access to its Olympic-size swimming pool, indoor track, racquetball, squash and tennis courts, and weight and cardio exercise facilities. East Boothbay is a small, rural community in Midcoast Maine. It offers plenty of outdoor activities with unparalleled vistas of the rugged Maine coast. Hiking trails are abundant and within close proximity to the Laboratory.

Off-campus excursions and field trips to various locations in Maine that are relevant to ocean science and policy are another important component of the Changing Oceans curriculum. These extracurricular activities help students understand commercial, political, and career connections to ocean science. Excursions range from exploring the tides in Cobscook Bay and discussing efforts to harness them for electricity generation, to visiting the Reversing Falls in the Bay of Fundy, to investigating the local island ecosystems with an overnight kayaking trip out of Boothbay Harbor. During the semester, students and their mentors also visit local fisheries and the Department of Marine Research, as well as commercial fishing and processing operations in Portland, Maine.