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.
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 Marine Biological Laboratory
The MBL, an affiliate of the University of Chicago, is the oldest private nonprofit marine laboratory in North America, and has served as a home to researchers and students studying both basic biology and the environment for over 128 years. The noted author and scientist, Lewis Thomas, called the MBL “the National Biological Laboratory.” Little wonder – since its founding in 1888, more than 56 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.
The Ecosystems Center
Established in 1975, The Ecosystems Center operates as a collegial association of scientists under the leadership of Interim Director, Dr. Anne Giblin. 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 and Panama.
Discover Woods Hole
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.
Franklin & Marshall Academic Policy
F&M requires all students to enroll in a full course load at the host institution or off-campus study program. You can typically find this information on the program partner's website. In many cases, this will be four or five courses for a semester. Many programs grant course credit in U.S. semester credit hours. Franklin & Marshall will award four F&M course credits for a total of 15 or 16 U.S. semester credit hours. If the total number of credits for your program is more than 16 or less than 15, divide the total number by four to find out how many course credits you will receive (this includes summer study).
Courses on off-campus study programs must be taken for a letter grade, not on a pass/no pass basis. Grades from off-campus study program courses will appear on your Franklin & Marshall transcript, but they will not be calculated into your cumulative GPA.
Courses taken off-campus may be able to satisfy major, minor, language or distribution requirements (Arts, Humanities, Social Science, Non-Western Cultures or Natural Science Lab) in addition to general elective credit. Courses may fulfill more than one requirement. Please note that Franklin & Marshall cannot issue transfer credit for a course taken in a department that is not represented at the College. If a course does not clearly fall under a department, the off-campus study advising staff can help you determine whether or not it can be accepted for credit.
Franklin & Marshall Housing Policy
Housing options during your off-campus study program will vary by program. Some programs may allow students to choose their housing option; other programs require all students to live in a certain type of housing. Typical housing arrangements may include apartments, homestays, or on-campus housing at a local university. Please visit the program homepage to determine your program's housing options or requirements.
Please note that some programs may offer students the option to pursue independent housing (outside of the regular housing options provided by the program). F&M does not allow students to choose independent housing unless there is a significant academic or cultural reason (such as wanting to live in a homestay when only apartment housing is provided). Independent housing carries many risks and F&M and the program provider cannot provide any support to students who pursue independent housing. Students who are interested in pursuing independent housing will need to contact their off-campus study adviser to petition for approval to pursue this option.
Financial Policy, Financial Aid and Scholarships
During the academic year, students will continue to be eligible for financial aid during a term of off-campus study. This includes federal and state loans and Franklin & Marshall merit scholarships and need-based grants. In general, eligibility for financial aid is based on Franklin & Marshall tuition, cost of housing and meals from the off-campus study program, and an allowance for books and personal expenses. Your annual estimated family contribution as generated by your FAFSA will remain the same regardless of program costs. Students who receive Grant-in-Aid benefits will continue to access these benefits for the semester off-campus. This benefit is only available to students of eligible full-time F&M faculty and staff.
Students may be eligible for additional scholarships outside of F&M, please review the Scholarships section of the website for more information.