The Core Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems Courses
The SES program emphasizes learning by doing – students spend over 20 hours each week in the lab and field investigating forests, ponds and estuaries on Cape Cod. Virtually all ecosystems have been impacted by human activity, and so this is also a curriculum about how human-caused changes in the environment are affecting the globe.

Identifying species after a sein

Identifying fish and invertebrate species after deploying a beach seine

Core course lectures cover both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems from the point of view of biogeochemistry and important ecological processes. Course research takes place in local ecosystems — ponds and estuaries within the Waquoit Bay watershed adjacent to Vineyard Sound, West Falmouth Harbor on Buzzards Bay, and grassland, forest and suburban sites in the towns of Mashpee and Falmouth. Read more about the four credit aquatic course and the terrestrial course.

Forest quadrat identifications

Forest quadrat identifications

In addition to the Core Courses, SES students take one four credit elective which meets twice a week. The elective is intended to deepen understanding in a specific sub-discipline of ecosystems science. Choose from Mathematical Modeling or Microbial Methods.

2016 Microbial SES students collect samples for their colunms. Credit: J. Vallino.

2016 Microbial Methods SES students and TA collect samples from Little Sippewisset Marsh for their Winogradsky Columns. Credit: Joe Vallino.


Independent Research Projects
The structured laboratory experiences and techniques of the core courses and electives set the stage for the most rewarding part of the SES program, the Independent Research Projects (4 credit course). During the last five weeks of the course, students will be able to devote full time to a project of their choosing. Previous Projects



Credit: Sarah Messenger

Science Writing Seminar
SES students all take part in a one credit seminar that introduces the art of science writing. This is taught by Lonny Lipssett, a former editor of Oceanus, and several professional science journalists with the goal of illustrating how the results of scientific investigations can be transmitted to the larger reading audience in ways that catch their interest and educate. Students will write a profile of one of the distinguished scientists based on an interview. Each year we invite special guests such as the award winning writer and radio producer, Jim Metzner, to teach a seminar and meet with students one-on-one to share their experience and expertise. With this and other programs at the Marine Biological Laboratory, we hope to begin training a new generation of writers conversant in science who can communicate about critical environmental issues with the public.

Because of the diversity of curricula at the schools participating in the Environmental Science Consortium, we are providing a description of the knowledge we hope students will have, rather than specific course requirements. We have grouped these under three categories: Biological Science, Chemistry and Mathematics. Students who are deficient in a given area may still qualify for entrance in the program at the discretion of the on-campus advisor and selection committee.