Sewanee students spending semester at sea

ann robinson at the helm
Robinson at the helm

Sewanee students Hannah-Marie Garcia (Environment and Sustainability major), Kaylee Pierson (Natural Resources), and Ann Robinson (Environment and Sustainability), all C’19, are part of a select group of undergraduates from diverse U.S. institutions who are spending this semester sailing through the waters of New Zealand. Their goal is to better understand one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century: human impacts on the environment.

Through SEA Semester: The Global Ocean, a study abroad program offered by Sea Education Association (SEA), these students are exploring first-hand the unique environmental and complex cultural influences that have shaped these islands, all from the unique learning platform of a tall ship.

The class arrived in early September for six weeks of preparatory coursework on shore at SEA Semester’s campus in the oceanographic research community of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. On Nov. 12, the students arrived aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans, SEA’s state-of-the-art 134-foot brigantine, in Auckland, New Zealand, to begin a six-week coastal and blue water voyage.

The health of New Zealand’s ocean, land, and people are inextricably connected. The island nation has made a national commitment to sustainable management of its marine resources, but its innovative policies and conservation efforts at times compete with economic goals. Through planned port stops including Auckland, Napier, and the Kermadec Islands, the students will attempt to understand how centuries of seaborne commerce, fishing, and land development have influenced the natural environment of these coastal zones and offshore waters. They will also examine the relationship between various cultural groups and the ocean environment that surrounds them.

Individual research projects are an integral component of a SEA Semester voyage. The program also focuses on leadership and teamwork skills in a dynamic environment. During the voyage, the SSV Robert C. Seamans will serve as home, classroom, and laboratory. On board, students become full working members of the ship’s crew, sharing responsibilities for standing watch, processing oceanographic samples, navigating by the stars, and participating in round-the-clock operations under the guidance of professional mariners and oceanographers. You can follow their voyage on the SEA Semester blog through Dec. 21.

Sea Education Association is an internationally recognized leader in undergraduate ocean education. For more than 45 years and over one million nautical miles sailed, SEA has educated students about the world’s oceans through its Boston University accredited study abroad program, SEA Semester.