• Create “common experience” for MSSEP Freshmen
    • Engage students in the major in their 1st year
    • Build collective relationship between students and with faculty
  • Introduce students to fieldwork and integrative problem solving
  • Study the complexity of ecosystems through an immersive experience
  • Expose freshmen to a unique locale with a rich history and culture
  • Engage in sustainability
    • Exposure to limited resources
    • Impacts of invasive organisms
    • Conservation in action

About BIOS

  • Ferry Reach, St. George's
  • Labs, research vessels, lecture halls, library
  • Located near coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, and caves


Octopus in waterPeople in aquaculture lab looking in microscope

Kayaks in water from dock

Academic Sampler

  • Coral reef ecology (snorkeling and lab work)
  • Terrestrial plants (hikes) 
  • Geology - caves and corals
  • Mangrove ecology
  • Plankton tows aboard the R/V Stommel
  • Seagrass beds and sea turtles
  • Island history
  • Ecological sustainability

Participants on a hike

Participants planting plants

Group of participants in front of BIOS building

Freshman Experiential Learning Course

MSSEP Freshman Experiential Learning in Bermuda
Wednesday, January 29 - Sunday, February 9, 2020

This experiential field course is designed to train incoming MSSEP cadets in field methods and integrative problem solving related to ecological and environmental sciences. The course will cover topics such as terrestrial and marine ecology, oceanography, preservation of subtropical systems, and island geology. Students will gain an understanding of the scientific method and apply modern scientific techniques in the field from hands-on experience in observing, collecting, and analyzing data through guided scientific excursions and laboratory work. 

The 2020 field course will take place at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) located in Ferry Reach, St. George's Bermuda. BIOS is a world-class ocean research and education facility.
More Information About BIOS

This 12-day field course includes a number of snorkeling excursions (SCUBA certification is not required), hikes throughout various habitats, and collecting and analyzing samples aboard BIOS boats. Lectures, readings and assignments will supplement the field work. Focus will be given to field methodology, organism identifications, geology, and human impact on marine and terrestrial ecosystems.  
   White Ship  with white buildings in background

MS-1311 MSSEP Experiential Learning (3 credits)

Participation is required for all MSSEP freshmen or cadets who transferred to MMA in the Spring of 2019. Cadets will be accompanied by Dr. Heather Burton and Dr. Kristin Osborne, four MSSEP Senior Rates, and BIOS staff. 

Participants must have completed Current Environmental Problems and be in good academic and regimental standing. Participants are required to have medical insurance and a passport that expires after Feb 20, 2020.

Location and Accommodations
All participants will be housed at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS). BIOS is a research and educational institute with residential facilties, a dining commons, lecture halls, state-of-the-art laboratories, and a library. BIOS has several vessels dedicated to oceanographic research. BIOS is located in Ferry Reach, St. George's. Lodging includes bed, linens and a bath towel. Beach towels are not included and are listed in the packing list below. Water conservation will be practiced. Cadets will be responsible for maintaining hygiene of the residential spaces. 

Three meals per day are provided at BIOS with travel lunches included during our field study trips. BIOS staff prepare well balanced, high-quality meals. We encourage cadets to bring snacks.

Special Dietary Requirements
Please alert MMA faculty as soon as possible to any special dietary requirements (e.g, diabetes, lactose intolerance, nut or other food allergies) and note them in the space provided on the participant forms. BIOS can accommodate allergies and intolerances. 

$4532.00. This amount includes all snorkel gear (mask, snorkel, wetsuit, fins, gloves, socks, and hood), room and board, flight (plus one checked bag), island transportation, and three academic credits.

It is suggested students bring $200-$500 for personal, incidental expenses such as souvenirs, a BIOS t-shirt, snacks, and a meal or two in town. 

Dates and transportation
The cohort will travel as a group.  All cadets must return to MMA on Wednesday 29 January 2020 at 1600 for a mandatory briefing and preparing team supplies.  All will be housed on campus that night.  An early morning bus will then transfer the cohort to Logan International Airport in Boston on Thursday 30 January 2020, where we will travel as a group to Bermuda.  The cohort will return to Boston Logan International Airport on Sunday 9 February 2020 at 1307.  Cadets may either be picked up at Logan airport or continue by bus to MMA, where the arrival time on campus will be approximately 1500. 

Bus and Flight Information

  • Thurs Jan 30, 2020 – Bus:  MMA to Boston Logan International (BOS).  Depart 0630. 
    • Flight: BOS to Bermuda (BDA).  Jet Blue flight #203.  Depart BOS at 1030. Arrive BDA at 1337 (local time).  
  • Sun Feb 9, 2020 – Flight: BDA to BOS.  Jet Blue flight #2232/118.  Depart BDA at 0830. Arrive BOS at 1307.  
    • Bus: BOS to MMA.  Arrive at MMA at approximately 1500.

Passports Are Required
Please check the expiration date to make sure it is valid through 02/20/2020.  Non-U.S. citizens should consult with MMA’s Office of International and Multicultural Affairs regarding possible Visa requirements. If you are not a U.S. citizen, then a passport issued by your country of origin is required.  

Students should bring a colored copy of his/her passport in case the original is lost. 

Packing list
View the complete packing list 

Snorkeling equipment
Prior snorkeling experience is not required, however cadets will be using snorkeling equipment for coral reef ecology field work. We will hold snorkeling training and certification on campus during the fall semester.  

Health, Safety and Emergencies

Cadets should arrive in good health with the ability to hike trails of moderate difficulty, tread water for at least 6 minutes and swim 200 m (656 feet) unassisted.  Students with physical limitations and/or disabilities that might impact their ability to participate should notify the faculty as soon as possible.

See the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information on current health conditions in Bermuda.  

Health Insurance
Make sure to carry health insurance while you are participating in the field course. Learn about what medical services are covered, deductibles, and the company's reimbursement policy. You should have your insurance card on you at all times and keep a copy at BIOS. Also make sure to submit a copy of your health insurance card with your Remote Medical Form. Resources:

Health and safety will be the number one priority for all faculty, staff and students.  Field trips expose participants to an element of risk and the potential for injury that may not be present in the classroom. However, through frequent participant education on personal safety and situational awareness, safety preparation by faculty and BIOS staff, and U.S. emergency services availability, risk exposure will be minimized.

Minor injuries can be treated locally with available First Aid equipment. For more serious injuries, individuals will be transported to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.  

Emergency Communication
Faculty and staff will have continuous access to institutional landlines or satellite phones for safety and emergency purposes only. Your emergency contact at Massachusetts Maritime Academy for the program is the MSSEP Department Chair:

Francis J. Veale, Jr., fveale@maritime.edu, cell phone: 508-243-0929.

Personal Communication
BIOS and our field site locations are remote, however, internet coverage is very good. Cell phone service is also available. Please check with your cell phone carrier regarding international calling. With that said, we encourage students to use this as an opportunity to “unplug,” truly live in the moment, and become immersed in the experience with their fellow MSSEP classmates. Therefore, we respectfully ask that calls to individuals be restricted to urgent messages only or to take place during periods of free time.  

We hope you are as excited about this experience as we are! This MSSEP Freshman “common experience” is meant to provide a structured, team-building opportunity away from the MMA campus, so that MSSEP students can study and live together while gaining common, hands-on experiences in environmental studies and ecology. 

Please contact Dr. Heather Burton, the MSSEP Rates, or  Professor Francis Veale, Jr., the MSSEP Chair, if you have any questions or concerns.

Student work

  • Field work participation
  • Scientific field note taking and observations 
  • Team Field Guide Project
    • Ecosystem descriptions
    • Site comparisons
    • Photographs and descriptions of flora and fauna
    • Ecological interactions of subtropical organisms 
  • Study of Bermuda's culture and history
  • Geology of Bermuda
  • Sustainability of the island
  • Personal reflections and journaling