Christopher Driscoll ’18 Conducts Research on Changes to Ocean Environment

November 7, 2017

This fall, Environmental Science major Christopher Driscoll ’18 is participating in Stonehill’s SEA Semester program, and sailing 1,500 nautical miles from Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to Grenada, in the Lesser Antilles. While at sea, he will study some of the most pressing global questions related to the marine environment.

“As an environmental science major, you can’t just learn the topics in a lecture setting. You have to go out and get your hands dirty,” said Driscoll. “SEA Semester is giving me the opportunity to go out and apply the critical thinking skills that Stonehill has taught me in a real world scenario.”

Sea Education Association (SEA) Semester’s Ocean Exploration is an interdisciplinary program that encourages students from a variety of academic disciplines and institutions to come together to gain a better understanding of the complexity of the ocean. The program combines oceanography, the humanities and the social sciences with practical skills in seamanship. This allows students to deepen their awareness and appreciation of the ocean through hands-on research and personal experience.

In early September, a class of 13 students arrived at SEA’s campus in Woods Hole for six weeks of on-shore preparatory coursework. They then boarded the SSV Corwith Cramer, SEA’s state-of-the-art 134-foot brigantine, on October 20. The tall ship now serves as their home, classroom and laboratory for the next month as they travel through the Sargasso Sea to the Caribbean.

Students design and conduct original research projects that explore a historical and social perspective on the impact of humans on the world’s oceans. Maritime and nautical studies coursework as well as practical seamanship skills complement their research projects.

On board, all students become full working members of the ship’s crew, sharing responsibilities for standing watch, processing oceanographic samples, learning to navigate by the stars and participating in round-the-clock operations.

“On deck we call the setting and striking of sails,” said Driscoll. “We are starting to learn to call gybes for when we get on station for deploying our research equipment.”

Students also analyze oceanographic samples as they make a blue-water sailing passage in the North Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps most importantly, students will learn to challenge themselves and will cultivate new skills in leadership, teamwork and field research.

“Everything you do has to be done fast and correctly because if you take too long, you can get into trouble,” said Driscoll. “That’s the reason critical thinking and leadership skills are so important. You need to be ready for anything.”

Driscoll will remain at sea until November 20.