Colby at Bigelow Laboratory

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Changing Oceans: A new Colby Program

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, in East Boothbay, Maine, offers a semester-in-residence program for Colby College students interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of oceanography and hands-on research experience through immersion in a professional laboratory environment.  Available in fall only, the intensive research experience is focused on ocean science within a changing global climate, and covers topics such as microbial oceanography, marine biogeochemistry, the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle, molecular approaches to biological oceanography, and pelagic ecology; implications for public policy are explored within each of these topics. This unique program is a must for any student interested in becoming a marine scientist.

Bigelow’s community of scientists conduct basic research on the biological, chemical and physical processes of the oceans, and is internationally recognized for its unique blend of cross-disciplinary research.  All classes and lab activities in the semester program will be delivered by world-renowned Bigelow Senior Research Scientists and Research Scientists, who have extensive undergraduate teaching and mentoring experience.  Small class sizes and an emphasis on research in the lab and field ensure that students receive individual attention and plenty of hands-on research experience. 

Available fall semester only. (Students enrolling in this fall program are automatically granted a full year of off-campus study without petition, if they so choose).


The program features the following courses:

•    Ocean-Atmosphere-Geosphere Interactions (4 credits)
•    Ecology and Evolution in a Dynamic Ocean Environment (4 credits)
•    Ocean Biogeochemistry on a Changing Planet (4 credits)
•    Field Methods: Life on the Ocean Wave (4 credits)

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 new East Boothbay campus, where students are embedded in the laboratories of Senior Research Scientists.  Students also complete an independent research project of their own design, which includes the development of a research plan, experiments and analysis, under the guidance of a faculty mentor.  This research is the basis for a paper and poster, and students present their work at a Student Research Symposium, held the final week of the program.

Laboratory work is complemented by time in the field; students field-work (on-site from the Laboratory’s dock) and at sea through a series of daylong research cruises in the Gulf of Maine.  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.

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.

View a video illustrating the exciting work students can do on the Colby at Bigelow program.

Read a participating student's blog about Colby at Bigelow Laboratory.

For more information, view the Colby at Bigelow Laboratory webpage.

Program Offerings

  • Take four courses focused on ocean science, climate change, and marine policy
  • Design and conduct an independent research project in ocean science
  • Develop research skills in the classroom and through lab and field components.
  • Live on-site at Bigelow Lab in East Boothbay, Maine

Grades and Credits

Students earn 16 credits 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.


Program participants live dormitory-style in the Lab’s McKee House, a fully furnished house on Ocean Point Road, located at the entrance to the Bigelow campus.  Students are responsible for their own meals and are provided full kitchen facilities. 

Program Schedule


Program Fees

The fees for Colby programs abroad are equivalent to the comprehensive fees for Colby College. (Please note that program fees are also subject to any annual comprehensive fee increases.) Students are billed by Colby, and are exempt from the $1000 study abroad fee. The fee covers: tuition, room, board or a board allowance, excursions, and roundtrip airfare and transfers to program sites. Books, meals during vacation periods, insurance, laundry expenses, and personal travel are not included. A forfeitable deposit of $500 is due at the time of acceptance.


Juniors with a minimum G.P.A. of 3.0 who have taken at least three lab science courses and one semester each of chemistry, biology and pre-calculus/calculus are eligible to participate.

To Apply

Colby programs off-campus are open to any student, regardless of major, who meets the specific program requirements outlined above. 

Colby students should follow the Colby Application for Approval process.