URI student joins SEA Semester to study coral reef ecology on tall ship ocean research voyage

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Woods Hole, Mass. — Dec. 4, 2018 – The Sea Education Association has announced that University of Rhode Island senior marine biology major Sharil Deleon is on an ocean research voyage this fall to study human impact on Caribbean coral reef ecosystems. Through SEA Semester: Caribbean Reef Expedition, which is offered by Sea Education Association, the Central Falls native, together with other students with a variety of academic interests, is conducting guided field research at sea sailing through the Lesser Antilles to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands.

Coral reefs face many threats, including overfishing, reduced water quality and rising temperatures and lower pH caused by climate change. Effective solutions require an understanding of the economic, political and cultural landscape, as well as ocean and climate science. SEA Semester: Caribbean Reef Expedition examines diverse tropical marine ecosystems and the impact of human action upon them. Student research considers how local, academic, governmental and international organizations and businesses are working together to conserve and sustainably manage these ecosystems, which are vital to both healthy oceans and coastal communities.

The class of students from a range of diverse institutions arrived in early October at SEA Semester’s campus in the oceanographic research community of Woods Hole for six weeks of on-shore preparatory coursework. With full access to SEA faculty, guest lecturers and other world-renowned scientific institutions within the village of Woods Hole, students designed original research projects to be completed at sea. The shore component continued with two additional weeks at St. George’s University in Grenada.

After boarding the SSV Corwith Cramer, SEA’s state-of-the-art, 134-foot brigantine, in Grenada, the students set sail Nov. 27. The ship serves as their home, classroom and laboratory. All students are full working members of the ship’s crew, sharing responsibilities for standing watch, processing oceanographic samples, navigating by the stars and participating in around-the-clock operations. Perhaps most importantly, students will learn to challenge themselves and will cultivate new skills in leadership, teamwork and field research.

The Caribbean Reef Exploration program will next be offered in fall 2019 and welcomes undergraduate students of all majors with an interest in the oceans.