Williams-Mystic offers two marine science courses: Oceanographic Processes and Marine Ecology. With no more than 12 students in each course, you’ll receive extensive individualized attention from the faculty. Both humanities and science majors appreciate an introduction to the science of the sea in this small, focused atmosphere, where they work closely with marine scientists on an extensive individual research project that may lead to further research as a senior thesis or at the graduate level.
Oceanographic Processes, taught by Professor Lisa Gilbert, examines coastal and open ocean environmental science issues. Topics such as sea level rise, global warming, coastal erosion and hazards, pollution and nutrient cycling, and fisheries productivity shed light on the critical importance of understanding the human relationship with the sea. The focus of the course is on controlling processes with regional comparisons. Blue water oceanography is conducted in the Atlantic and comparative coastal oceanography includes field studies on the West and Gulf coasts of the US as part of the Williams-Mystic program. Oceanographic Processes also explores the diversity of ocean ecosystems and communities through numerous field studies in New England marine habitats that lead to independent research projects.
Marine Ecology, taught by Professor Jim Carlton, examines the ecology and biology of the marine environment. The class inquires into the processes that control the distribution, abundance, and diversity of marine organisms, while studying the ways in which animals and plants relate to their environment. The wealth of diverse local habitats is explored through field trips and research projects. Quantitative field exercises on rocky shores, in salt marshes, and in estuarine communities are supplemented by a detailed study of other major marine ecosystems. Marine Ecology explores new developments in understanding marine communities, the patterns of ocean productivity and processes that alter nutrient dynamics, biological invasions, and symbiotic associations. Woven through the course is the theme of how human activities impact the delicate balance between organisms and their environment in the world’s oceans.
One of the hallmarks of Williams-Mystic’s marine science curriculum is the independent research, which involves field and laboratory investigations in a superb set of habitat choices: not far from the Williams-Mystic’s marine science laboratory are a wealth of aquatic habitats, which range from sweeping marshes to the open pounding surf of exposed Atlantic beaches. Students explore and launch research projects in marshes, tidepools, estuarine fouling and plankton communities, mudflats, sandflats, and subtidal bottoms, as well as in open marine waters. Our fleet of small research boats also allows you to sample the Mystic River estuary and Fisher’s Island Sound.