By Emma Macmillan

The University of Chicago’s partnership with the Marine Biological Laboratory has made possible a new educational opportunity for students studying environmental science.

UChicago students now can attend the Marine Biological Laboratory’s Semester in Environmental Science, a 15-week course taught each autumn at the Ecosystems Center in Woods Hole, Mass. SES courses are now cross-listed in UChicago’s course catalog, allowing students to easily participate in the program.

The Semester in Environmental Science is now in its 18th year at the MBL and draws students from more than 60 colleges around the nation. Taught by research faculty at the MBL’s Ecosystems Center and Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, the curriculum provides an intensive field- and laboratory-based introduction to ecosystems science and the biogeochemistry of coastal forests, freshwater ponds and estuaries, studied in the context of global change and rising sea levels.

“There is an immediate connection between discussion of principles of ecology and the observation of those principles out in the field,” said Laurens Mets, associate professor in molecular genetics and cell biology. “There is really no other way to learn so clearly the rigors and rewards of careful observation, backed up by continual assessment of your understanding through exposure to the living material itself.”

Elisabeth Moyer, associate professor in geophysical sciences, has been working with faculty members to better meet the needs of students studying environmental science and to update the major requirements to serve students who work at the intersection of biology, chemistry and geophysical sciences.

One advantage the Semester in Environmental Science offers, Moyer said, is a focus on environmental biology and geochemistry in a single integrated program. Another advantage is the intensely focused and residential nature of the program.

“The Semester in Environmental science at MBL won’t just be an educational resource, but also a way to build community within the environmental science major,” Moyer said. “And when students return from MBL, they can continue their research with UChicago faculty.”…

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