SOU-research vessel-semester at sea

SOU student sailing the South Pacific in Semester at Sea

SOU student Fletcher Tague Shell, a junior in the Environmental Science and Policy program, is spending Fall Term sailing the South Pacific on board the tall ship ocean research vessel SSV Robert C. Seamans.

Tague Shell is taking part in a study abroad program designed to explore the complex environmental challenges faced by remote Pacific islanders, and sustainable solutions for their island cultures and ocean ecosystems.

He is among a select group of undergraduates from top U.S. colleges and universities enrolled in “SEA Semester: Sustainability in Polynesian Island Cultures and Ecosystems.” The students are focused on how human societies must adapt and evolve, given limited resources, growing populations, exponential increases in waste generation and climate disruption.

The popular Polynesian Cultures program, now in its eighth year, was developed by Sea Education Association (SEA) faculty in collaboration with academic partners in Tahiti.

The current cohort of students, including Tague Shell, arrived at the end of August for four weeks of preparatory coursework on shore at SEA Semester’s campus in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

The students flew on Sept. 24 from Massachusetts to Pago Pago, American Samoa, to board the SSV Robert C. Seamans – SEA’s state-of-the-art, 134-foot brigantine. The ship is serving as their home, classroom and laboratory for six weeks as they sail to New Zealand, where they will spend an additional week on shore. Their adventures can be tracked on the Sea Currents blog.

The students are sailing to several Pacific island countries, including Tonga and Fiji, for a comparative perspective. Along the way, they are exploring issues of sustainability with local officials and visiting historical, cultural and environmental management sites.

They are using shipboard lab and research facilities to investigate threats to fragile island ecosystems and marine environments.

The program will conclude in early November in Auckland, New Zealand, where the students will compile their research and present their findings.

The SEA’s research vessels have sailed more than a million nautical miles over the past 45 years, educating students about the world’s oceans through its study-abroad program accredited by Boston University. The program is based on Cape Cod in the oceanographic research community of Woods Hole.

SEA was honored in 2016 with the National Science Board’s Public Service Award for its role in promoting the public understanding of science and engineering.