Bowdoin Coastal Studies Semester

The Bowdoin Coastal Studies Semester (BCSS) is a fall semester intensive immersion experience in marine and coastal studies field work, lab work, and independent research sharply focused on the changing environments in the Gulf of Maine. The semester also includes a humanities course that enables students to connect with their coastal environment through a different lens.

The Program

The BCSS is designed to immerse students in a place-based learning experience that supports both disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to the exploration of coastal concerns in the Gulf of Maine. As one of the most rapidly warming bodies of water in the world, the Gulf of Maine, with its varied ecosystems and coastal communities, offers students the opportunity to see first-hand how climate change is impacting our world and to develop the skills to identify underlying problems and potential solutions

Students take four courses taught in parallel at the Schiller Coastal Studies Center in Harpswell, Maine. This format allows students and faculty to work across courses to identify emerging themes and pathways for collaborative inquiry. 

We welcome students from all disciplines who are keen to experience coastal studies in action. The semester is available to Bowdoin students and non-Bowdoin students who are enrolled in colleges that participate in the 12-College Exchange Program. For 12-College participants, consult your institutional guidelines for the application process, as well as the BCSS Program Director, Holly Parker.

Field Work

Hands-on field work and sophisticated laboratory science are a central to the BCSS. During the semester, students will compare and investigate different coastal ecosystems in the Gulf of Maine. From salt marshes to rocky intertidal zones, students will collect data and samples to deepen their understanding of the Gulf’s natural history. In 2023, the BCSS will visit Hurricane Island off Rockland, Maine, and Bowdoin’s Kent Island in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada. Additional trips may include Monhegan Island and Malaga Island, as well as visits to active ecosystem restoration and aquaculture projects in Maine’s Indigenous Tribal communities. Finally, the BCSS students will engage with the people of the place, with guest speakers ranging from aquaculturists, members of the lobstering industry, policy makers, artists, and neighbors from our own island community.  

Independent Research

Each BCSS student will engage in a semester long research project as part of the experiential research course. Students are encouraged to follow their own passions and curiosity to develop an area of focus, conduct a scientific literature review, and design and carry out their project. Students are guided and supported not only by their instructors, but by their peers as they develop a community of practice and inquiry. This capstone experience is celebrated with oral presentations at the conclusion of the semester.