Elliot Hayne ’20, a geosciences major, sailed with SEA Semester on a scientific research voyage to the remote Phoenix Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Hayne conducted 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, about which little is known. An expanse of ocean about the size of California, it is the largest – and deepest – UNESCO World Heritage site, with eight spectacular and fauna-rich coral atolls.
Through an eight-week summer program, Hayne collected samples from marine environments to assess the effects of climate change, including coral bleaching. His project’s real-time data will help the PIPA program better manage the ecosystem.
The program began in June at SEA Semester’s campus in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where the Hayne and his fellow students completed preparatory coursework and developed their own research projects in ocean science and conservation policy.
In July, the class began a five-week sailing voyage as active crew members and scientists aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans, owned and operated by Sea Education Association. This 134-foot brigantine is the most sophisticated oceanographic research/sailing school vessel ever built in the United States.
From Pago Pago, American Samoa, they sailed approximately 2,000 nautical miles across open ocean to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area where they spent three weeks conducting their research. The expedition ended back in American Samoa in August.
According to Paul Joyce, SEA Dean, “PIPA is one very few regions on Earth where scientists can study an intact ecosystem and its response to climate change. At SEA, we’re therefore extremely grateful to have the opportunity once again to work with the government of Kiribati and with our scientific partners to study this extremely isolated and important island nation, which can serve as a climate change benchmark on a global scale.”