bigelow-student-in-lab-verticalThe Changing Oceans program comprises 14 weeks of intense research. Focused on ocean science within a changing global climate, the program 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 topic.

The semester combines course work, fieldwork, and research at Bigelow’s state-of-the-art campus, where students are immersed in senior research scientists’ laboratories. Students work closely with scientists using cutting-edge oceanographic techniques and complete a culminating independent research project of their own design.



The program comprises four courses that last about four weeks each and cover academic topics such as biological oceanography, the ocean environment, and biogeochemistry. The experience also includes one semester-long field course in which students participate in weekly research cruises. Courses are interdisciplinary and hands-on and include discussions on local and global public policy and current events.

  • The Ocean Environment: Setting the Scene (4 credits)
  • Biological Oceanography in a Changing Ocean (4 credits)
  • Ocean Biogeochemistry on a Changing Planet (4 credits)
  • Oceanographic Field Methods: Life on the Ocean Wave (4 credits)

Research: In the Lab and at Sea

Research: In the Lab and at Sea

Throughout the semester, students work with cultured and field-collected microbes and use advanced oceanographic techniques, including genomic tools, remote sensing, single-cell analysis, and monoclonal culture studies.

Laboratory work is complemented in the field—on site from the laboratory’s dock and at sea through a series of daylong research cruises in the Gulf of Maine and Damariscotta River estuary. 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.

Independent Research Project

Independent Research Project

All students complete an independent research project, which includes the development of a research plan, experiments, and analysis, all under the guidance of a faculty mentor. This research is the basis for a paper and poster, and students present their work at a research symposium in the final week of the program. The experience provides training in science and, for many, their first published scientific citation.

Research projects can be developed in a number of areas:

  • Microbial oceanography
  • Marine biogeochemistry
  • The ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle
  • Molecular approaches to biological oceanography
  • Pelagic ecology
  • Marine biotechnology

Past research projects have included the following:

Sonia Vargas ’15
Mentor: Peter Countway
Project Title: Spatial and Temporal Distribution of Pseudo-nitzschia in the Gulf of Maine

Sarabeth George ’15
Mentors: David Emerson and Benjamin Twining
Project Title: Bioavailability of Biogenic Iron Oxyhydroxides to Marine Phytoplankton

Maeve McGovern ’14
Mentor: Cynthia Heil
Project Title: Pseudo‐nitzschia spp.: Bloom Dynamics and Domoic Acid Production in the Gulf of Maine

Julia Middleton ’15
Mentor: Nick Record
Project Title: Marine Viral Interactions and the Effect of Bacterial Colloid Debris on Populations in a Model System

Jonah Belk ’15
Mentors: José Antonio Fernández Robledo and Joaquín Martínez Martínez
Project Title: Detection and Isolation of Viruses in Perkinsus Species

Savannah Judge ’15
Mentor: Willie Wilson
Project Title: Algae and Education: A Versatile Tool for the Classroom

Grace Reville ’14
Mentor: Cynthia Heil
Project Title: Light and Nutrient Ecology of Potentially Toxic Pseudo-nitzschia spp. in the Gulf of Maine

Kathryn Moore ’14
Mentor: Steve Archer
Project Title: Characterization of the Sea Surface Microlayer in the Gulf of Maine

Marianne Ferguson ’14
Mentor: Peter Countway
Project Title: Using Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction to Detect the Presence of the Potentially Toxic Diatom Pseudo-nitzschia in the Gulf of Maine

Josephine Liang ’14
Mentor: Beth Orcutt
Project Title: Investigation on the Effect of Crude Oil on Marine Sediment Microbes