Applications are now open for 2024 Spring Semester and summer courses! Fall Semester applications open in early 2024, stay tuned!
Salish Sea Sciences connects high school students with mentors and peers across a range of disciplines in a stunning maritime setting, forging career pathways that take students where they want to go. Contact us to inquire and start the application process.
Each year, scientists from around the world convene in the San Juan Islands of Washington State to pursue research interests in diverse fields including genomics, biomechanics, ecology, physiology, water chemistry, epidemiology, and megafauna—to name just a few. Many of these scientists are looking forward to sharing their research with motivated high school students whose questions and supervised projects contribute to active inquiries.
A local scientific treasure...
For over 20 years, local high school students have had access the UW Friday Harbor Laboratories, the SeaDoc Society, San Juan County Land Bank, US National Parks Service, and other scientific organizations investigating the incredible water, land, flora, and fauna of the Salish Sea.
...now a global opportunity
Salish Sea Sciences extends this opportunity to motivated science students everywhere, offering a rare chance for high school students to participate with real science and working scientists in a range of hands-on projects—the equivalent to over 200 instructional classroom hours in marine biology, environmental science, and leadership.
Develop your scientific literacy.
Learn from working research scientists.
Participate in active investigations.
Experience the scientific life.
A three-phase program
Phase one: scientific processes
Activities include interactions with scientists, data-collection and analysis, and exposure to an array of research disciplines, projects, field sites, labs, methodologies, and data sets.
Phase two: 4-day/3-night boat-based expedition
Students practice leadership and collaboration while navigating the inland waters of the Salish Sea, exploring island habitats only accessible by small crafts or by private invitation.
Phase three: independent project
Students design their own investigations, combining their ideas and analyses of data collected earlier in the program to create pilot study posters for presentation to their peers, mentors, and guests at the end of session barbecue bash.
Thank you for facilitating such an AMAZING learning experience for our daughter. She was transformed by her time with you. I knew it was going to be a remarkable experience, but had no idea it was going to be that remarkable! —Parent
A typical day
Way beyond the classroom
Throughout the program, our team of instructors and mentors encourage students to build on their knowledge toward new observations with potential to open new lines of inquiry. Our experience over the years proves that motivated high school students, under the guidance of mentors, ask questions that can open new inroads to scientific knowledge.
...I learned more about science and the acquisition of knowledge in those 26 days than I did throughout middle and high school. Furthermore, the knowledge I now have about the diversity of foci in the realm of science has helped me choose a school and delve into what I truly wish to study. —Eric S.
Ecology & Conservation is an intensive two-week immersion into environmental science, marine ecology, and conservation operated in conjunction with investigators from local organizations, such as the University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories, the SeaDoc Society, the US National Parks Service, Friends of the San Juans, San Juan County Land Bank, SMU Consulting/University of St. Andrews, and the Whale Museum.
Here on San Juan Island—at the heart of the Salish Sea—the mountains, forests, rivers, estuaries, shore lands, and waters are our classroom. Combined, these forces tell a complex story of life support that defines the Pacific Northwest.
Evidence-based, creative solutions
Professional research scientists, ecologists, policy-makers, and environmental advocates engage our students, guiding them toward a deep understanding of natural systems, the causes and impacts of climate change, conservation and mitigation efforts, and environmental policy and law. Students gain the knowledge, skills, and career awareness they will need to advance evidence-based, creative solutions toward sustainability in their home communities and the larger world.
Endangered species of the San Juan archipelago
Ship noise impact and mitigation
Environmental dispute analysis and policy
Fresh and salt water quality assessment
Field studies, observation, interpretation
A three-phase program
Phase one: environmental science and coastal ecology
Activities include interaction with research scientists and ecologists affiliated with University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories and the US National Parks Service in the field, skill development with methodologies and data sets, and an in-depth examination of the Salish Sea ecosystem, including a 3-day/2-night kayak expedition to explore island habitats accessible only by boat.
Phase two: conservation and mitigation
The Salish Sea ecosystem is unique to the planet. As climate change, broadly, and human impact, regionally, test the sustainability of that ecosystem—no more obviously than the severe decline in salmon, especially chinook, and the near extinction of the Southern Resident killer whale—many individuals and organizations have risen to the task of finding solutions through science, conservation, and law. Many work here in the San Juan Islands. Students learn from and engage with the SeaDoc Society of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Friends of the San Juans, the Whale Museum, and the Center for Whale Research.
Phase three: individual projects and presentations
Students design their own take-away projects to bring back home to their communities. Students establish their take-away question and project during phase one, but have time with their mentors to shape those projects during phase three. The program culminates with student presentations to their peers, mentors, families, and guests at the end of session barbecue bash.
A typical day
A social mix
Often, tonight's dinner guest will be tomorrow's field or studio host, making it easy for students to engage with professionals on a personal level, as colleagues, sharing conversation, meals, career directions, field and lab experience, and asking questions in an informal low-pressure context.
Thank you again for feeding our daughter's passion at Salish Sea Sciences. Salish was the highlight of her summer. I think it also gave her the confidence to get herself an internship at UCSB Marine Science Institute this year. She fell in love with the San Juan Islands and everything she did there. As a result, we were in the Northwest doing college tours! —Parent
The Salish Semester provides motivated high school juniors interested in science with an opportunity to step away from regular school into an in-depth semester-long journey to learn from the Salish Sea, its creatures, and its people. Based at the UW Friday Harbor Labs and conducted in concert with local scientists, students can dive into marine science while keeping up with coursework in their other subject areas.
Limited to 18 motivated high school juniors
Science emphasis with support for all subjects
Includes terrestrial and boat-based expeditions
Salish Sea Sciences is pleased to be in partnership with the Northwest Maritime Center and others to help students learn outdoor leadership while practicing ship-based scientific inquiry. For three weeks at the heart of the semester, students will visit areas of scientific and cultural significance and collect data while learning from the Salish Sea and its peoples.
Real research, real relationships
The curriculum is interdisciplinary, immersive, and experiential, mentored by semester-school staff in coordination with professionals in multiple areas of inquiry, careers, and points of view. The touchstone of the program is the life sciences, with a focus on the marine sciences particularly. Students situate their scientific work within the larger scope of the place, learning the history and culture of the Salish Sea and how to assess and potentially mitigate the "wicked problems" of human impact. Block scheduling facilitates this in-depth, blended approach.
Critical thinking, analysis, and problem solving
The semester program follows an arc from exposure to expertise: throughout the semester, students share a common course structure, thematic content, and research opportunities. By week five, each student will have identified a core question for individual pursuit. That question will drive the remainder of their semester's work, leading them to complete a scientific research paper and project poster, a paper providing historical, political, economic or cultural analysis of a related issue, a TED talk-styled community presentation, and a communications, educational or other form of public engagement as related to the student's interest.
Empowering the leaders of tomorrow
The core of the program is research, whether in field or lab science or in the social sciences and humanities. That research includes the opportunity to work alongside professional scientist mentors and learn the basics of statistics, meet with and interview city, county, and state representatives and learn from stakeholders representing such diverse interests as housing, fisheries, energy production or conservation, and discover the diverse and rich history of the peoples of the coastal Northwest.
Marine Field & Lab Science (Science)
Wicked Problems: Humans in the Maritime Environment (History)
The Salish Sea: Cultural Perspectives (English)
Math Maintenance (Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, AB/BC Calculus)
Spanish Maintenance (Spanish 3, Spanish 4, AP Spanish)
Partial credit in Leadership
Partial credit in Physical Education
Support for select Advanced Placement courses (APs), including AP Environmental Science and AP US History, maintenance of languages other than Spanish, college and career counseling, guidance for individual capstone projects, and support for other academic areas will be arranged on an individual basis per session with staff, qualified local tutors, and sending school.
Co-curricular and after school activities
Other activities include theater, kayaking, hiking, beach walking, bonfires, sailing, canoe paddles, ice cream outings, Farmer's Market Saturday, Pelindaba Lavendar Farm, Visits to Roche Harbor, Contra Dancing, pick-up sports, jogging, music, jigsaw puzzles, card games, and board games.