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The Semester in Environmental Science is a 15-week fall semester at the Ecosystems Center of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The curriculum provides an intensive field and laboratory-based introduction to ecosystem science and the biogeochemistry of coastal forests, freshwater ponds and estuaries.

More than 60 colleges participating in the MBL consortium in Environmental Science have approved SES for credit. Students from non-affiliated colleges and universities may receive credit through Brown University, with which the MBL is affiliated in other academic programs.

Scientists at the Ecosystems Center serve as faculty for the program. In addition to teaching fundamentals of ecosystems science, they discuss their current research, which touches on important issues of global change.

The curriculum leads students to develop research questions of their own. Equipped with new knowledge and techniques learned in the first weeks of the semester, they pursue independent research during the last six weeks of the program. SES students report their findings at a final symposium that is open to the entire Woods Hole scientific community, a world center for marine and environmental sciences.

The SES has recently received a grant from the Davis Educational Foundation to re-establish the SES Faculty Fellowship Program. This allows a faculty member on a sabbatical to come to Woods Hole during the fall semester. Details >>>
"My experience at Woods Hole was a big part of what influenced me to continue my education…It was amazing to live in a community of scientists where everyone is working together producing research. The SES program is a truly unique opportunity for undergrads combining classes, research and community."

Lynn Diener, Bard College '98, SES '97, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin 2005, Assistant Professor, Edgewater College


The MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in North America, and has served as a home to researchers and students studying both basic biology and the environment for over 110 years. The noted author and scientist, Lewis Thomas, called the MBL "the National Biological Laboratory." Little wonder - since its founding in 1888, more than 50 Nobel Laureates have conducted research at the MBL. Today about 250 scientists, technicians, and support staff occupy the lab year round. In the summer, the lab population swells to over 1000 as students and investigators from more than 400 educational and research institutions representing over 70 countries come to MBL for the summer season.

Discovering the MBL

Established in 1975, The Ecosystems Center operates as a collegial association of scientists under the leadership of director Hugh Ducklow. Because the complex nature of modern ecosystems research requires a multidisiplinary and collaborative approach, center scientists work together on projects, as well as with investigators from other centers at the MBL and from other institutions, combining expertise from a wide range of disciplines. Together, they conduct research to answer a variety of questions at field sites ranging from Arctic Alaska to Antarctica, Sweden and Russia to Brazil, and from the temperate forests of New England to the estuaries of the eastern United States.
Ecosystems Center website >>

It is no accident that the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is located in Woods Hole on Cape Cod. To the north of the Cape, cold Gulf of Maine waters support fauna characteristic of the Boreal biogeographical province, while south of the Cape, warm Gulf Stream waters sustain fauna typical of the Virginian province. Situated at the boundary between these two biogeographic provinces, a great diversity of marine organisms are within easy access of the lab. Little wonder Woods Hole has become a mecca for marine and environmental sciences and is home to nearly a dozen scientific research and academic institutions, including the MBL, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA/NMFS), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the Sea Education Association (SEA), the U.S. Geological Survey and the Woods Hole Research Center.

More about Woods Hole >>
VISIT Woods Hole and SES 
~ Directions to Woods Hole with MapQuest
~ Driving Directions
~ Interactive map of the MBL and Woods Hole
~ MBL Campus Map (.pdf)
~ Highway Map
Welcome to Woods Hole (.pdf) - Informational Brochure
Additional Travel Information
Logan Airport - Boston, MA - 75 miles
T.F. Green Airport - Providence, RI - 76 miles
Peter Pan/Bonanza Bus Lines - Schedule
The Breeze - Local bus service
Steamship Authority - Woods Hole to Martha's Vineyard
Falmouth Chamber of Commerce - Town of Falmouth Information
Local Hotels - Includes both Woods Hole and Falmouth
Currency Conversion - Daily currency table