Florida’s Indian River Lagoon

Amanda Nickeson | 11/2020

Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch  Oceanographic Institute  is searching for mates that can help steer a vital program back on course and preserve our oceans’ health by inspiring and educating our youth. With the pristine shores of Florida’s  Indian River Lagoon  as  the program’s backyard,  FAU’s  Semester by the Sea program  conducted  at Harbor Branch was an unforgettable experience. “This program is crucial to keeping youth involved with the sciences and improving humans’ relationship with the Earth and its oceans,” said Zack Nilles, Semester By the Sea ‘14.   


Semester By The Sea began in 2001 and presented an incredible opportunity for students to get their feet wet in the field of ocean science— and was one of the few programs of its kind in the U.S. “I greatly valued the ability to both learn from and work closely with experts from a variety of fields. I also enjoyed the many hands-on activities, which included laboratory experiments, field studies, and a scientific cruise aboard a research vessel!” said Gabby Barbarite, Ph.D., Semester By the Sea ‘08. For budding marine scientists, the program’s highlight was the opportunity to get out into the field and apply their lessons firsthand. The possibilities are endless, with 4,300 plus species of plants and animals that call the Indian River Lagoon and watershed home, including 50 species considered threatened or endangered. 


“As environmental changes increasingly put our oceans’ future—and our corner of paradise—at risk, educating and supporting the next generation of marine scientists is more important than ever,” said FAU Harbor Branch Executive Director Jim Sullivan. Over four months, Semester By The Sea provided students with a broad understanding of coastal, nearshore, and oceanographic science, along with the research and inquiry skills necessary for excelling in graduate programs, providing a strong foundation for a career in marine biology. It’s truly a semester that students never forget. For nearly 20 years, the immersive program instilled a passion for ocean science in more than 400 undergraduate students. Program alumni have gone on to graduate programs and professional careers in marine science—paths only made possible by Semester by the Sea. “The experience and meaningful connections that I gained during this program have inspired, prepared, and supported me as I have advanced through my career,” added Barbarite. 


Unfortunately, Semester By The Sea is on hold due to budget constraints. FAU Harbor Branch is currently seeking community supporters to resurrect this innovative program. For more information, contact  FAU Harbor Branch Director of Development  Amanda Nickeson at  412-296-1852.