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ESF Student Participates in SEA Semester

Mary Zarba conducts research aimed at protecting rare coral wilderness
7/26/2019

College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) student Mary Zarba is currently sailing with SEA Semester on a scientific research voyage to the remote Phoenix Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Zarba, a environmental science major, is one of a select group of undergraduates from diverse colleges and universities conducting research that will assist in the ongoing development of an effective conservation plan for the region.

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) is one of the last remaining coral wildernesses on Earth. An expanse of ocean about the size of California, it is the largest - and deepest - UNESCO World Heritage site, with eight fauna-rich coral atolls.

Through an eight-week SEA Semester summer program called Protecting the Phoenix Islands, Zarba will collect samples from the marine environment to assess the effects of climate change, including coral bleaching. By providing real-time data, student projects will compose a picture of the state of the ocean for the benefit of the PIPA management office in Kiribati.

The program began June 10 at SEA Semester's campus in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where the students completed preparatory coursework and developed their research projects in ocean science and conservation policy.

The class is in the midst of their five-week sailing voyage as active crewmembers and scientists aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans, owned and operated by Sea Education Association.

From Pago Pago, American Samoa, they are sailing approximately 2,000 nautical miles across open ocean to the PIPA where they will spend three weeks conducting their research. The expedition ends back in American Samoa Aug. 12.