What is Stanford@SEA?

This course has been offered biannually for 20 years, with Spring 2024 marking the 11th voyage. To date, 230 Stanford students have previously gone to sea  in this experiential learning environment, which is academically rigorous and develops leadership and teamwork skills. In addition, we guarantee an extraordinary ocean expedition and adventure. The Stanford@SEA class is held for five weeks at Hopkins Marine Station, a Stanford facility in Pacific Grove, CA, on the shores of Monterey Bay. While in residence, students live in a recently renovated Stanford dorm near the station. 

These classes are immediately followed by the shipboard component, which emphasizes student research projects, creating a highly focused learning environment with few distractions.  Once the entire class moves shipboard, the interdependence of the professors and students, who rely upon each other to collect data and to sail the boat safely, enhances the sense of responsibility we all feel toward the learning experience. The trip is led by Professors Barbara Block and Robert Dunbar of Stanford, Professor Jan Witting and Mary Malloy of Sea Education Association, and a Coast Guard certified captain. Shipboard, there are 15 professors, along with a captain and professional sailing and teaching staff of Sea Education Association and Stanford University, which assure safety at sea in the learning environment. During the voyage, faculty to student ratio is two faculty/staff to one student. 

How many students can participate?

We plan to take approximately 18-20 students in 2024. In addition, three Stanford graduate students or former Stanford@SEA Alumni teaching assistants will be aboard the ship. We’re looking for students who are independent and motivated self-starters, and are ready for an educational adventure like no other. Experience at sea is not required. Please keep in mind there are always more applications then bunks on the ship.

What does the semester entail?

You will spend five weeks at Hopkins Marine Station immersed in learning about the ocean environment from some of the world’s top marine biologists and oceanographers. You will also learn the history of Polynesia and study the sailing route, learn about Pacific voyaging cultures. While ashore, students take courses and develop a detailed plan for an independent research project, which they carry out at sea. In addition, weekend field activities are designed to facilitate strong group bonds for the shipboard passage to come.

The courses include:

  • Introduction to Oceanography I (8 units including shipboard portion):  Stanford and SEA faculty teach this basic oceanography survey course intended for students without an advanced background in oceans or marine sciences. It covers biological, geological, and chemical oceanography with attention to general principles of ocean circulation and coral reefs. Topical subjects relevant to the area of the ocean where the sea component will take place are emphasized, such as open ocean oceanography and coral reef biology. If you want to learn how the biosphere works, this class will essentially teach you oceans' and earth history, along with marine science in 10 weeks on land and at sea. Shipboard, all students conduct a research project with up to two other students. 
  • Problems in Oceanography II (8 units). For advanced earth sciences, marine biology, or civil engineering students of the Stanford@SEA 2022 class, Stanford faculty teach a problem-based learning course emphasizing more recent oceanography topics. Students begin the week on a set of papers that provide the opportunity for discussion of key concepts in modern ocean science. Five topics throughout the quarter are introduced in this forum, and student projects result from the immersion approach to the subject matter. At sea, we carry out the Oceanographic Research Techniques portion of both oceanography courses as one class together.For this portion, students conduct the research projects developed during the shore component, while learning how to deploy a variety of advanced oceanographic equipment at sea. Additionally, they collect oceanographic data for their projects, analyze the data obtained, and present their findings orally and in writing before a shipboard team of scientists, staff and other students.

  • Maritime Studies (3 units): This multi-disciplinary course puts the students’ sea experience into the context of humans’ relationship to the ocean. It includes literature, history, legal and political aspects of current marine conservation and management issues. Stanford and SEA faculty teach this course.
  • Nautical Science (5 units, including sea time): This practical course covers principles of physics, astronomy, meteorology and oceanography that comprise navigation and ship handling. The course prepares students to assume sailing responsibilities on the ship. The captain of the Robert C. Seamansteaches this course.
  • Marine Conservation (2 optional units). Professor Block leads this conservation seminar and class on shore, which then continues at sea with weekly lectures. You can enroll for the course or audit it and get 2 additional credits.  Five extraordinary marine conservationists will come visit the class and one visitor will join with us on the sail portion of the trip.

During the five weeks at sea, students continue with Nautical Science II and take increasing responsibility for running the R/V Robert C. Seamans

Do I need to be a science major to apply?

No. We’re interested in students with a diversity of majors; our participants have included students studying earth systems, anthropology, history, English and engineering, international relations and biology. We believe that everyone can benefit from learning about our planet’s oceans, and our integral relationship with them. As a result, we explore science, art, literature, philosophy and political elements of the oceans.

Do I need sailing experience?

No. We will teach you how to sail. 

How do I apply?

The application for Spring 2024 opens November 1, 2023.