This study at sea program is appropriate for students in any major who wish to understand the legacies of colonization alongside the modern issues of environmental change and sustainability in small nations and territories.
Analyze cultural connections to the environment
Compare and contrast multiple colonial legacies
Conduct marine mammal acoustic research during the peak of whale breeding season
Visit a variety of off-the-beaten-path islands, including Cuba
Few places on Earth can compare with the natural beauty and cultural diversity of the Caribbean Islands, making the region a favored tourist destination for much of the developed world. However, moving beyond the glossy veneer of the pristine beaches, reefs, and resorts highlighted in tourist brochures, students in this program will experience the multiple and varied sides of the Caribbean—a blend of African, colonial European, and indigenous culture creating a unique economic, political, and social heritage. The Caribbean has experienced one of the greatest environmental and human transformations of all time. The conquest of indigenous cultures, exploitation of natural resources, and development of slave plantation systems have left a very visible legacy, yet each island embodies its own resilient and hopeful community striving toward responsible economic growth, social justice, and sustainable use of valued natural resources.
Over the course of this comparative study abroad at sea semester, students will initially be introduced to the Caribbean through first-hand historical accounts ranging from travel journals and illustrations to navigational charts and ships’ logbooks. At sea, they will have opportunities to confer with local experts and citizens, participate in collaborative coral reef surveys, and engage in their own field-based observations during several multi-day port stops at selected islands. Each stop is planned to allow students to delve deeper into the unique cultural and physical environments and to deepen their knowledge of issues of sustainability in the Caribbean.
Past student research projects have explored topics including fisheries management, coral reef biodiversity, ecotourism, cruise ship pollution, and gender in postcolonial societies. Students will document and reflect upon their individual journeys in field journals complete with gesture drawings, watercolor, photography, and narratives.
Academic Coursework & Credit
SEA Semester: Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean offers 17 credits from Boston University. Courses are as follows:
Maritime History and Culture (300-level, 4 credits) Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor.
Explore impacts of European maritime ventures on the societies they contacted in the Atlantic or Pacific, with focus on the resulting social, political, economic, and cultural changes. Investigate responses documented in the post-Colonial literature of indigenous people.
Marine Environmental History (300-level, 4 credits) Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor.
Employ methods and sources of historians and social scientists. Examine the role of human societies in coastal and open ocean environmental change. Issues include resource conservation, overfishing, pollution, invasive species, and climate change.
Maritime Studies (200-level, 3 credits) Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Relationship between humans and the sea. History, literature and art of our maritime heritage. Ships as agents of contact change. Political and economic challenges of contemporary marine affairs. Destination-specific focus.
Nautical Science (200-level, 3 credits) Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
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.
Oceanography (200-level, 3 credits) Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Explore how interconnected ocean characteristics (bathymetry, seawater chemistry, biological diversity) and processes (plate tectonics, surface and deep-water circulation, biological production) shape global patterns across multiple scales. Discuss destination-specific environmental issues and hot topics in marine research.