Marine Semester

Offered every fall semester since 1985, and open to both BU students and visiting students from other institutions, the Marine Semester provides hands-on laboratory and field experience for both undergraduate and graduate students. Unlike the typical college semester, students enroll in only one course per block (selected from among 4 different offerings)–each block is typically 18-20 days. This format gives students the time they need to concentrate exclusively on one subject and complete their own research projects. Courses take place on-campus in our Marine Research Teaching Lab and off-campus at field sites in New England and Belize (Central America).


Marine Science majors are required to participate in at least one Marine Semester. If a student’s schedule permits, participation in additional Marine Semesters is encouraged. Prerequisites for the Marine Semester are:

  • EE 144 and BI 260 required for all Marine Science Majors, recommended for all applicants
  • One Statistics Course (MA 115, MA 213, or equivalent)
  • Preference for admission into the Marine Semester will be given to Marine Science majors.

To view the Marine Semester Prerequisites & Application, click here.

Marine Semester Field Sites

In September and October, Marine Semester courses utilize field sites along the Massachusetts coastline, from Cape Ann in the north to Cape Cod in the south. Students study the physical evolution of the shoreline at Plum Island, part of the national Long Term Ecological Network.  They traverse the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary aboard the Auk, a 50-ft NOAA research vessel. They explore the ins and outs of the Boston waterfront, analyzing how urban development impacts marine ecology. And they travel the shoreline of Cape Cod, investigating how nutrient loading from human activity impacts the biogeochemistry of the marine environment.

In November and December, BUMP students take lab-based courses, such as Marine Genomics or Marine Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or can choose to head to Belize. This small English-speaking nation on the Caribbean coast of Central America is a stable democracy that has done an exemplary job of conserving its natural resources (e.g., the world’s only park specifically designed to protect jaguars) and historical legacy (e.g., the extensive Mayan ruins). In Belize, Marine Program students spend 10-14 days snorkeling along the world’s second longest barrier reef, where they conduct their own research on a range of topics, such as the behavior of reef fishes, the regeneration of a damaged coral reef, or the diversity of marine invertebrates living on the submerged roots of mangrove trees.


Note: Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, BI 569 Tropical Marine Invertebrates and BI/EE 539 Coral Reef Dynamics will not be going to Belize this year.


Marine Semester Courses – Offered Fall 2021

Block 1: September 7 – 29

(MR533) Scientific Diving

(BI/EE523) Marine Urban Ecology

(EE 544) Coastal Sedimentology

(BI546) Marine Megafaunal Ecology

Block 2: September 30 – October 25

(EE543) Estuaries and Nearshore Systems

(EE/BI591) Bio-optical Oceanography

(EE542) Coastal Ecosystems

(BI 531) Ichthyology

Block 3: October 26 – November 18

(BI569) Tropical Marine Invertebrates

(BI/EE578) Marine Geographic Information Systems

(MR548Marine Microbe Microscopy

Block 4: November 19 – December 17

(BI/ES 539) Coral Reef Dynamics

(ES/BI593) Marine Physiology and Climate Change

(MR 5XX) Quantitative Fisheries Analysis (New course!)


Marine Semester Courses – Recently offered

(MR 529) Tropical Marine Fisheries

(BI547) Marine Invertebrates of the New England Coast

(BI 541) Coral Reef Restoration and Resilience

(ES/BI558) Coastal Biogeochemistry

(MR510) Marine Science Policy, Resource Management, and Public Debate

(BI550) Marine Genomics

(ES557) Oceanography of Stellwagen Bank