northeastern university seal

Explore Three Different Ecosystems

Students begin the Three Seas Program at Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, on New England’s Atlantic coast. Students gain the strong foundation needed for subsequent portions of the program in the fundamental areas of research diving, marine biology, ecology, oceanography, and experimental design. Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center is located on 20 acres at the end of East Point, a rocky point extending into the Atlantic Ocean that has a view of the north shore of Massachusetts and the Boston skyline. Though Nahant is situated only 12 miles from a major harbor and city, the prevailing coastal currents provide remarkably clean and stable seawater at East Point. The 9.5 ft. tidal amplitude and undisturbed rocky shoreline provide a great variety of intertidal and subtidal communities ideally suited for investigations of rocky shore ecology. The sheer cliff faces, which extend subtidally to a depth of 40 ft., represent a unique biome.

No other year-round laboratory on the Atlantic coast of the United States has an exposed rocky ocean frontage like the Marine Science Center; it is exceptional in its close proximity to many Boston area academic and research institutions. Facilities at the MSC include: a flow-through sea water system, research laboratories, offices, wet lab with flowing seawater, dive locker, dedicated classroom space, and greenhouse. The lab has several small boats for nearshore work.


Students travel to Panama on the Caribbean Sea to study tropical marine sciences at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Bocas del Toro Research Station on Isla Colon. Students are fully immersed in Panama’s diverse tropical ecosystems and unique geographical location. The institute is within walking and swimming distance of lagoon, coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove habitats. Nearby fringing coral reefs provide superb diving and snorkeling opportunities. Students complete coursework in coral reef ecology, ocean and coastal processes, as well as tropical terrestrial ecology utilizing Smithsonian’s classrooms, wet and dry laboratories, dive lockers, and research vessels.


Students also travel to Friday Harbor Laboratories,the marine research and education facility of the University of Washington. Here students conduct field-intensive coursework that explores the pristine rocky intertidal habitats, kelp forests, and oceanic settings in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

Located in the San Juan Archipelago of Puget Sound on San Juan Island local waters are cold and well-mixed. The marine flora and fauna are exceptionally diverse. Habitats include rocky shores, mud flats, sandy beaches, and a wide range of subtidal environments. The labs are located on a 484 acre forested biological preserve on the outer coast of Washington’s wave-exposed rocky headlands, high-energy sandy beaches, and estuarine systems.