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).

Prerequisites for the Marine Semester are:

  • Marine Science Intro Courses: EE 144 and BI 260 required for all Marine Science Majors, recommended for all applicants
  • Statistics: MA 115, MA 213, or equivalent)
  • Biology: BI 107 and BI 108 or equivalents required for all Marine Science Majors, recommended for all applicants
  • Chemistry: CH 101 and CH 102 or equivalents required for all Marine Science Majors, recommended for all applicants
  • Swimming proficiency (recommended – see below for details)

Applications for Fall 2023 are now closed. Please contact Julia Hammer Mendez at with any questions. More information can be found here.

Marine Semester Field Sites

In September and October, Marine Semester courses utilize field sites along the Massachusetts coastline, from the Maine coastline 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 on campus, 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 12 days snorkeling along the world’s second longest barrier reef, where they conduct their own research on a range of topics, such as the reef fishes, seagrass meadows, the regeneration of a damaged coral reef, or the diversity of marine invertebrates living on the submerged roots of mangrove trees.

Swimming Proficiency

Snorkeling for class requires strong swimming skills. If you are enrolled in Coastal Ecosystems (EE 542) or any of the Belize courses, there is a snorkeling component. We highly recommend that you begin to work on your swimming when first thinking about taking the Marine Semester. There is a swimming evaluation that all students will be asked to complete the spring before their Marine Semester. This evaluation is useful in assessing your skills and will give you time to work on skills that you may need. For the swim evaluation you will be asked to:

  • Complete a 200 yd swim
  • Tread water for 5 minutes

If you need to take swimming lessons, you can enroll at FitRec. More information can be found here.



Marine Semester Courses – Offered Fall 2023

Block 1

(EE543) Estuaries and Nearshore Systems

(EE 544) Coastal Sedimentology

(BI546) Marine Megafaunal Ecology

(EE558) Coastal Biogeochemistry

Block 2

(BI/EE523) Marine Urban Ecology

(EE/BI591) Bio-optical Oceanography

(EE542) Coastal Ecosystems

(BI 531) Ichthyology

Block 3

(BI/EE593) Marine Physiology and Climate Change

(BI 541) Coral Reef Restoration and Resilience

(BI/EE 562) Tropical Seagrass Ecology

(MR 521) Quantitative Fisheries Analysis

Block 4

(BI548Marine Microbe Microscopy

(BI 511) Coral Reef Fishes/Scientific Diving

(BI569) Tropical Marine Invertebrates

(BI/EE578) Marine Geographic Information Systems


Marine Semester Courses – Recently offered

(BI547) Marine Invertebrates of the New England Coast

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

(EE557) Oceanography of Stellwagen Bank

(BI/EE 539) Coral Reef Dynamics

(MR 529) Tropical Marine Fisheries

(MR533) Scientific Diving