cosa64The Coastal Ocean Science Academy (COSA) is a marine science summer day program that aims to introduce and connect young people to local marine and coastal habitats and the factors that shape them. The program is based at MSC’s campus on the rocky shore of Nahant, but includes off-site field trips to field locations both on and off the water. A 2016 program flyer can be downloaded here.

Program Descriptions and Application Materials

All programs run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day (note change in end-time from previous years), and they begin/end each day at the Marine Science Center in Nahant.  Click on the link below to access the registration pack for the program(s) you are interested in.

COSA Littorina – Middle School Program

2014-07-22 10.31.33The Littorina program exposes students entering seventh and eighth grades to local coastal and marine habitats, including the sandy beach, rocky shore, open water/harbor, and coastal wetlands. This is a one-week, field-trip based program where students will learn how to keep a field notebook and take basic measurements of weather, water quality, and biodiversity in different coastal habitats, all the while exploring the relationship between these parameters. Participation will well-equip students to enter the research/project-based Coastal Ocean Science Academy for high schoolers in the future. The Middle School Program runs from Monday, July 11 through Friday, July 15, 2016. Maximum group size is 20.

COSA Chondrus – First-time High School students

cosa56Students enrolled in this introductory marine biology program will learn about coastal and marine habitats and develop basic research skills. Topics covered include identifying and classifying marine organisms, monitoring water quality, measuring species richness and diversity, and analyzing survey results. Students will also explore threats to coastal and marine resources. Field studies take place at a salt marsh, sandy beach, rocky shore, and on open water. The High School Program runs Monday through Friday from August 8-19, 2016. Maximum group size is 20.

COSA Pagurus – Returning High School students

Building on knowledge learned in Chondrus, Pagurus students will deepen their knowledge of local coastal ecology and habitats through student-led field investigation. Staff will facilitate student inquiry and research in topics of their own choosing.  Ample access to field sites for data collection will be provided, as well as guidance in developing sound research questions, methodologies, analyzing data, and presenting results. The High School Program runs Monday through Friday from August 8-19, 2016. It is possible that Pagurus students will return to field sites previously visited (which is what scientists do!) Pagurus students will play a role in explaining fieldwork protocols to Chondrus students, but they will also have some separate opportunities presented at a level that assumes their prior knowledge and advanced interest in marine science.

Screenshot 2015-09-11 11.31.29In 2015, with support from the MSC’s Helmuth Lab, students in COSA Pagurus partnered with girls from the Beach Sisters program to produce an interactive virtual tour of the Forest River Conservation Area in Salem.  Students conducted field data and collected other assets to annotate the “canvas” of several high resolution images.  The final product can be viewed here, and you can read a news article about it here.

Daily Shuttle to/from the Marine Science Center (optional)

For those without transportation to Nahant, a daily shuttle van to the MSC is available from 3 MBTA stations – Ruggles, Wonderland, or Lynn/Central Square – for an additional fee (see Fees below). The shuttle will depart from Boston at 7:30 a.m. and return to Boston at 4:30 p.m., making stops at Lynn and Wonderland on the way to and from Nahant. Space on the shuttle is limited, so participants needing this option are encouraged to apply early.


Our program goals are aligned with national efforts to create and foster diversity in the pursuit of academic and career opportunities related to STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math). To address this, a limited number of full and partial scholarships are available for participants from income-eligible families based on the National School Lunch Program eligibility thresholds. Scholarship applicants will be asked to submit documentation of eligibility for Free or Reduced Price School Meals with their application.

Applicants that do not have this documentation (e.g., homeschooling families) but meet the federal income thresholds, or returning students who entered the COSA scholarship program under different eligibility terms who feel they no longer qualify based on the 2016 eligibility requirements should contact Val Perini at Scholarship materials must be received by May 16, 2016. Notification of scholarship awards will begin on June 1, 2016, and will continue until all scholarship funds are disbursed.

Fees, Payments, and Deadlines

Instructions on how to remit a deposit and payments can be found in the application packs (see links above). Fees include all equipment, student materials, t-shirt, transportation to off-site field locations, entry for all fee-based field experiences, daily lunch, and snacks.

Applications are due by June 24, 2016. Participants will be accepted on a rolling basis until all slots are filled. Scholarship applications must be received by May 16, 2016, and notification of scholarship awards will begin by June 1, 2016.

  • Middle School Program: 2016 fees are $500 for the 5-day program plus $50 for optional shuttle service.
  • High School Program: 2016 fees are $1000 for the 10-day program plus $100 for optional shuttle service.


Sponsorship Opportunities

Many students across our region wish to participate in COSA but are unable due to their financial circumstances. Thanks to the generous support of individual donors, we are able to offer some scholarships. Please consider making a gift to the COSA Scholarship Fund today by visiting our Support the MSC page or contacting Carole McCauley at or 781.581.7370, x321.


Please contact Val Perini at or call 781.581.7370, x373 with general questions about the program.