Curriculum

 

Northeastern University Marine Science Center, Nahant, Massachusetts

Students begin the Three Seas program on New England’s Atlantic coast. During the fall semester at Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, students gain the strong foundation needed for subsequent portions of the program in the fundamental areas of marine biology, ecology, and experimental design.

Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center is located on 20 acres at the end of East Point, a rocky point extending into the Atlantic Ocean and has a view of the north shore of Massachusetts and the Boston skyline. No other year-round laboratory on the Atlantic coast of the United States has an exposed rocky ocean frontage like the Marine Science Center; it is exceptional in its close proximity to many Boston area academic and research institutions. Facilities at the MSC include: a flow-through sea water system, research laboratories, offices, library, wet lab with flowing seawater, dive locker, and an interactive micro-computing laboratory with fiber optic Internet capability and WiFi throughout the building. The lab has several small boats for nearshore work.

Though Nahant is situated only 12 miles from a major harbor and city, the prevailing coastal currents provide remarkably clean and stable seawater at East Point. The 9.5 ft. tidal amplitude and undisturbed rocky shoreline provide a great variety of intertidal and subtidal communities ideally suited for investigations of rocky shore ecology. The sheer cliff faces, which extend subtidally to a depth of 40 ft., represent a unique biome. An extensive field trip to Quoddy Head in Cobscook on the Maine coast provides students with the opportunity to observe the variation in New England marine habitats. The Marine Science Center’s proximity to Boston-area universities, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and other research facilities allows students to take advantage of some of the East Coast’s leading resources in the field.

Courses at the Marine Science Center include:

ENVR 5518/5519 Marine Invertebrate Zoology and Botany & Lab 5 cr.
“Zoobots” surveys the major groups of marine invertebrates, algae, and plants, in addition to their ecological roles and relationships. Learn to identify these groups and understand the mechanisms they use to survive and adapt to changing oceans. Topics for discussion include ecological and evolutionary importance, ecosystem engineering, adaptive physiology, and climate change effects. An emphasis will be placed on interrelationships among major taxa. Hands-on learning includes field identification, visits to intertidal and subtidal marine environments, specimen dissection, preparation, and cataloging. Opportunities for improving skills in reading and discussing scientific literature, experimental design, and scientific communication will be emphasized.
Faculty: Dr. Tara Duffy and Dr. Donald Cheney

ENVR 5516/5517 Oceanography & Lab 5 cr.
Provides an integrated overview of physical, chemical, biological, and geological processes operating in the world ocean. Examines how new technologies have allowed stunning insights into global weather and climate, the deep sea, biodiversity, and how the biogeochemistry of the oceans can be measured and understood. This approach, which views the ocean as a “system of systems”, will prepare students for further coursework in marine science, including the emerging discipline of global change.
Faculty: Dr. Mark Patterson and Dr. Justin Ries

BIOL 5521/5522 Experimental Design in Marine Ecology & Lab 5 cr.
Provides the ecological theory and tools necessary for the proper design of ecological experiments and their analysis, using the rocky intertidal zone as a model system. Focuses on experimental design tailored for analysis of variance (ANOVA). Principles of design and analysis will be illustrated with several short and long term class experiments conducted in the rocky intertidal zone.
Faculty: Dr. David Kimbro

ENVR 5520 Ocean and Coastal Sustainability 3 cr.
Provides students with advanced training in the expanding field of sustainability, with a combined focus on the practical aspects of systems management and the theoretical understanding of whole-­‐systems design and resiliency. The goal of this course is to train future leaders capable of creating innovative solutions to sustainability issues at local and global levels. Key interdisciplinary themes discussed will include: the social and political aspects of ocean and coastal sustainability (i.e., education and communication), sustainable development and ecosystem stability, the impacts of climate change on ocean and coastal resilience and the economic and entrepreneurial possibilities in the field of sustainability.
Faculty: Hayley Schiebel

BIOL 5589 Diving Research Methods 2 cr.
A field oriented course designed to introduce students, who are certified SCUBA divers, to current underwater research techniques used in the study of the biology, ecology, and physiology of subtidal marine organisms. Upon successful completion of course students are certified as Scientific Divers by the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS).
Faculty: Liz Magee

BIOL 5103 Marine Biology Careers Seminar 1 cr.
Provides graduate students with information needed to pursue career opportunities in marine biology. Students will construct résumés, contact potential employers for their internships. Invited speakers from academia, government agencies, and private consulting firms will present talks on their work and career track.
Faculty: Liz Magee

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Bocas del Toro, Panama

In January, students travel to Panama on the Caribbean Sea to study tropical biology at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Bocas del Toro Research Station on Isla Colon. This lab is operated by the Smithsonian Institute and located in Almirante Bay, within walking and swimming distance of lagoon, seagrass, and mangrove habitats, providing unlimited access to these marine habitats. Nearby fringing coral reefs provide superb diving and snorkeling. Coral reef ecology, ocean and coastal processes, as well as tropical terrestrial ecology are taught using Panama’s diverse tropical ecosystems and unique geographical location as classroom and laboratory on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. Students also have the opportunity to begin an independent research project. Courses in Panama build upon the strong foundation provided in the fall semester, with an emphasis on field study and experiments. Easy access to the coral reef and a variety of near shore coastal habitats facilitate an experiential learning environment where lecture, lab, and field study are intertwined.

Panama also provides an ideal location for the program’s only non-marine course, Tropical Terrestrial Ecology. An extensive field trip across the country to the Pacific Ocean exposes students to a variety of tropical habitats. We then travel to Central America’s largest island, Coiba, for a week examining Eastern Pacific Coral Reefs as part of our Coral Reef Ecology and Ocean & Coastal Processes courses.

Courses at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute include:

BIOL 5505 Biology of Corals 3 cr.
Focuses on the biology of Scleractinian reef-building corals and associated anthozoans found in coral reef ecosystems. Topics include systematics, anatomy, physiology, and population biology of corals, with an emphasis on the latest techniques employed by coral molecular biologists and physiologists.
Faculty: Dr. Steven Vollmer

BIOL 5507 Biology and Ecology of Fishes 3 cr.
A field, lecture and laboratory course that examines the systematics, functional morphology, behavioral ecology, and community structure of reef fishes. Field and lab experiments focus on morphology, behavior and community ecology of reef fishes.
Faculty: Dr. Adrian Stier and Dr. Jameal Samhouri

BIOL 5513 Tropical Terrestrial Ecology 1 cr.
Introduces students to the flora, fauna and ecosystems of Panama. Includes an extended field trip to over the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean.
Faculty: Dr. Janeene Touchton

BIOL 5519 Ocean & Coastal Processes 2 cr.
Examines the coupling between physical and biological processes on coral reefs and adjacent habitats. Focuses on biophysical, oceanographic and benthic-pelagic processes acting in coral reef and associated nearshore ecosystems. Specific topics will include oceanographic forcing mechanisms, organismal biomechanics, hydrodynamics, and nutrient dynamics.
Faculty: Dr. Mark Patterson and Dr. James Leichter

BIOL 5520 Coral Reef Ecology 2 cr.
Examines the ecology and paleoecology of coral reefs. This course highlights the ecological importance of coral reefs and associated nearshore communities, ecosystem function, changes in reef biotas through geologic time, and the causes and consequences of reef degradation worldwide.
Faculty: Dr. Richard Aronson and William Precht, M.S.

Friday Harbor Laboratories, San Juan Island, Washington

In April, students travel to Friday Harbor Laboratories, the marine research and education facility of the University of Washington, completing the Three Seas program and the first year of the Master of Science in Marine Biology program with field-intensive coursework that explores the pristine rocky intertidal habitats, kelp forests, and oceanic settings in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

Located in the San Juan Archipelago of Puget Sound on San Juan Island, not far from the Canadian border in the northwest corner of Washington, local waters are cold, well-mixed, and quite free from pollution. The marine flora and fauna are exceptionally diverse, with nearly all groups of invertebrates and plants obtainable. Habitats include rocky shores, mud flats, sandy beaches, and a wide range of subtidal environments. The Labs are located on a 484 acre forested biological preserve and convey the outer coast of Washington’s composition of beautiful wave-exposed rocky headlands separated by high-energy sandy beaches and several estuarine systems.

The session at Friday Harbor Laboratories offers specialized courses intended to complete our students’ training in marine biology and ecology. In addition to a continued emphasis on field study as a complement to lecture material, current lab techniques are used to address ecological questions and issues. Students are now well-prepared to explore and appreciate the biological diversity of Pacific Northwest marine ecosystems at a state-of-the-art marine laboratory located within steps of several distinct marine habitats. Students once again have the opportunity to conduct independent research projects.

Courses at Friday Harbor Laboratories include:

BIOL 5509/5510 Marine Birds and Mammals & Lab 3 cr.
A lecture and field course that examines the principles of behavior, evolution, classification, anatomy and physiology of seabirds and marine mammals. Field trips and boat cruises facilitate observations of local marine birds and mammals.
Faculty: W. Breck Tyler, M.S.

BIOL 5527 Marine Conservation Biology 3 cr.
Examine several critical issues facing marine ecosystems, including: invasive species, marine pollution and eutrophication, fisheries impacts, physical alteration of habitats, and global climate change. Field time will be spent surveying habitats within the Friday Harbor Laboratory marine life refuge, and in adjacent habitats outside the reserve as part of a long-term monitoring effort.
Faculty: Dr. Steven Scyphers

BIOL 5529 Physiological and Molecular Marine Ecology 3 cr.
Explores the physiological responses of marine organisms to natural and anthropogenic variation in a variety of environmental factors. Molecular techniques are demonstrated as a means of determining genetic relationships at the species and population level for the study of ecological & evolutionary questions.
Faculty: Dr. Sean Place

Students spend the summer semester in their internship position, but retain full-time student status, and register for:

BIOL 8674 Marine Biology Research Project 1 cr.*
*preserves full-time status

Students continue their internship in the fall semester of the second year, and they continue to retain full-time student status. Students will return to the Marine Science Center late in the fall to present their independent research, submit their research paper, meet with first year students, and attend exit interviews. In the fall semester, students register for:

BIOL 8674 Marine Biology Research Project 1 cr.*
*preserves full-time status