Bowdoin is set to launch a pilot program for a fieldwork-based Marine Science semester, held at the College’s Coastal Studies Center on Orr’s Island, in Fall 2014. Spearheaded by Assistant Professor of Biology and Director of the Marine Lab Dave Carlon, this project aims to provide a small cohort of students with an immersive scientific experience. Carlon also seeks to better utilize Bowdoin’s lab facility in Harpswell.

The Coastal Studies Center, just a 25 minute drive from campus, is a 118-acre site that houses a research pier and dock, a 1,700 square foot wet lab, a terrestrial lab, and a farmhouse. Students participating in the Marine Science Semester Program would live on campus and commute back and forth everyday.

For Carlon, the concept of an immersive fieldwork-driven semester is familiar—he is a graduate of Boston University’s Marine Program, which culminates in a semester-long residency at the university’s facility in Woods Hole, Mass.

“For me, it’s personal of course—it was a very formative experience because it really gave me my first taste for how science actually works and how it’s a process of discovery and not just a bunch of stuff that’s already been done,” said Carlon.

The courses that will be offered in Bowdon’s pilot program are Dimensions of Marine Biodiversity, Benthic Ecology, Biological Oceanography, and Molecular Evolution and Ecology of Marine Organisms. The class on biodiversity will be taught by Carlon and the Molecular Evolution class will be taught by next year’s Doherty Postdoctoral Fellow.  The two other courses may be taught by new hires.

Students  who participate are expected to have a strong base in biology and earth sciences.  
Though a small portion of Bowdoin students have been to the Coastal Studies Center, many are not aware it exists. The Marine Science Semester hopes to change that. 

“This is a great combination of an extraordinary facility and location and a group of faculty members saying, ‘How do we maximize that opportunity for our students?’” said Dean of Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd.

Another reason this program may appeal to students is its travel component.  During the first module, Carlon’s course on biodiversity, students will travel to Baja California to study the rich variety of marine life in tropical waters.

Currently, those in charge of the program are attempting to compile a list of students who are academically eligible to participate. While the wet lab on Orr’s Island can accommodate up to 20 people, the target number of participants is between 12-20. 

Tuition will not be different for the Marine Science Semester.   

Drew Villeneuve, a sophomore who is double majoring in biology and French, said he intends to sign up for the program; he cited the Coastal Studies Center as a reason why he came to the College.

“I really enjoy marine biology. It’s what I’m trying to focus on and I’m very excited we’re going to have this option because we don’t really have anything that’s focused on marine biology,” said Villeneuve.