Marine Field Courses

The best way to learn marine biology is to get your feet wet… literIMG_3214ally. Or, in the memorable words of 19th C. naturalist, Louis Agassiz, “Study Nature Not Books“. URI offers courses that include field work as well as intense, short-term field courses. Other field courses are offered by marine laboratories around the US that provide invaluable opportunities for experiential learning in marine biology.

Field Courses at URI

Many marine biology courses offered during the academic year at URI include field work, but the following are intense field courses that take place locally, aboard ship, and in the Caribbean, during J-term, Spring Break and Summer Term. 

Coral Reef Conservation and Analysis (NRS 475X, Dr. Forrester [NRS], Anya Hanson [URI Dive Safety Officer]) – J-Term (10 days) – learn about important global marine conservation issues; learn to apply interdisciplinary theory to marine conservation; develop SCUBA skills to put ideas in practice and to solve real conservation problems. Critical analysis of primary literature and local case studies are integrated with daily SCUBA-based investigations. Course held at the CIEE field station on the Caribbean island of Bonaire.  See:

Marine Invertebrates of Southern New England (BIO 355) – Summer Term – 4 weeks – students study invertebrate diversity in their Rhode Island backyard where considerable local biodiversity is challenged by coastal development and the effects of climate change.

Short Cruise-Based Courses aboard the R/V Endeavor -occasional courses offered by faculty in CELS and GSO that incorporate a cruise on URI’s research vessel, the R/V Endeavor; these will be announced on a semester-by-semester basis.

Summer Field Courses at Other Institutions

Students interested in taking courses at other institutions need to submit a “Pre-approval of Transfer Credit” form to insure acceptance of transfer credit and to request that pertinent courses count as Marine Biology electives (MBio majors), or other course requirements for your major. 

Shoals Marine Laboratory (SML;  Univ. New Hampshire and Cornell Univ.; on Appledore Island, in the Gulf of Maine, off Portsmouth, NH). A wide range of courses are offered each summer. Only one course may be taken at a time (courses are full-time activities, and are one week to one month in length), but courses may be taken sequentially. Academic credit is transferable.  SML also offers research internships in marine biology, engineering and sustainability. Financial aid (SML scholarships and internships) is available via application. Consult the SML website for more information. Several URI students are going to SML in Summer 2016.

SEA Semester (Sea Education Association, Woods Hole MA). SEA Semester programs are comprised of courses designed to explore specific ocean-related themes using cross-disciplinary approaches in oceanography, marine and environmental science, and maritime studies.  Working cruises aboard tall ships in the Atlantic Ocean (SSV Corwith Cramer) or Pacific Ocean (SSV Robert C. Seamans) take students to New Zealand, Hawaii, the Caribbean or Europe.  SEA Semester programs (see: include up to 16 credits (transfer credit from Boston University) and may be applied towards any major. URI financial aid is applied to the costs of SEA Semester during the academic year, and additional scholarships are provided by SEA to URI students. Several URI students do a SEA Semester program each year. 

Friday Harbor Laboratories (FHL; University of Washington Marine Laboratory, San Juan Island in Puget Sound, WA). Several different courses and apprenticeships in marine biology are offered in the fall, spring and summer quarters. U. Washington is on a quarter system (3 quarters/academic year + summer).  Financial aid is available.  Consult the FHL website for more information about particular courses.

Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB; University of Oregon, Charleston, OR) – offers a wide range of courses in the Fall, Spring, or Summer (a full semester, or 2 to 8 weeks in length) and weekend workshops on special topics. Financial aid is available. Consult the OIMB website for more information about particular courses.

Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL; Woods Hole, MA). Summer courses have been offered at the MBL for over 125 years! Today, these courses are for advanced graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. However, undergraduates may participate in the MBL’s Fall Semester in Environmental Science (via transfer credit from Brown University) or as undergraduate research interns. For other undergraduate opportunities at the MBL, click here.

For information about courses at other Marine Laboratories in the US, see links on the website of the National Association of Marine Laboratories. (Click on “Courses” for a remarkable list of courses offered by all members of the Association).

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