Bigelow Labs


Whether you’re interested in oceans, laboratory science generally, or environmental policy, the Colby and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences partnership offers unique and intense opportunities that can put you on track for the most competitive graduate programs and research experiences in the world. 

Relationships created through the Colby-Bigelow partnership present opportunities for select students to sign on as research assistants aboard some of America’s leading oceanographic research vessels. Additionally, Bigelow Laboratory offers summer research internships based at the lab on the coast of Maine. Please reach out to Prof. D. Whitney King for additional information.


Bigelow Labs

Bigelow Lab is a world leader in marine and climate change research, and, as one of the world’s ecosystems most affected by climate change, the Gulf of Maine is a natural laboratory. Visit the Bigelow Laboratory website to learn more. 


Sea Change Semester Program– An Intellectually Intense Academic Research Experience

Colby’s partnership with the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine, includes a semester-in-residence program for students interested in gaining a sophisticated understanding of oceanography and hands-on research experience through immersion in a professional laboratory environment. Students engage in significant oceanographic and climate change research, working alongside Bigelow’s senior research scientists who study three core areas: marine microbiology and blue biotechnology, ocean biogeochemistry and climate change, and ocean health and marine ecosystem function. 

The Sea Change program (offered fall semester) is intellectually intense, truly immersive, and life changing for Colby-Bigelow students. A highly individualized mentorship experience that provides broad training as a research scientist, the program gives a unique advantage to any student interested in pursuing graduate work in marine, environmental, and biological sciences at the nation’s top universities. 

The semester combines course work, fieldwork, and research at Bigelow’s state-of-the-art campus, where students are immersed in senior research scientists’ laboratories. Students work closely with scientists using cutting-edge oceanographic techniques and complete a culminating independent research project of their own design. 


The program is comprised of four courses that last about four weeks each and cover academic topics such as biological oceanography, the ocean environment, and biogeochemistry. The experience also includes one semester long field course in which students participate in weekly research cruises. Courses are interdisciplinary and hands-on and include discussions on local and global public policy and current events. 

  • The Ocean Environment: A Cross-Disciplinary Foundation (ES383, 4 credits) 
  • Biological Oceanography: Diversity and Function of Life in Marine Ecosystems (BI384, 4 credits) 
  • Ocean Biogeochemistry on a Changing Planet (CH385, 4 credits)
  • Oceanographic Field Methods and Independent Research (BI386, 4 credits)

Independent Research Project

All students complete an independent research project, which includes the development of a research plan, experiments, and analysis, all under the guidance of a faculty mentor. This research is the basis for a paper and poster, and students present their work at a research symposium in the final week of the program. The experience provides training in science and, for many, their first published scientific citation.

Research: In the Lab and at Sea

Throughout the semester, students work with cultured and field-collected microbes and use advanced oceanographic techniques, including genomic tools, remote sensing, single-cell analysis, and monoclonal culture studies. Laboratory work is completed int he field– on site from the laboratory’s dock and at sea through a series of daylong research cruises in the Gulf of Maine and Damariscotta River estuary. While at sea, students use a full range of physical, chemical, and biological oceanographic instruments to collect water samples and environmental data for analysis and synthesis in the lab. 

Grades and Credits

Students earn 16 credits through four four-credit courses. Credits toward Colby biology, environmental studies, chemistry, and geology majors have been pre-approved. 

Grades are determined by Bigelow faculty and will be factored into the Colby GPA. 


Students participating in the Sea Change program live in the Graham Shimmield Residence Hall located just a short walk from the laboratory. The Graham Shimmield Residence Hall has a fully equipped kitchen, dormitory and apartment-style bedrooms, study space,  fitness room, laundry facilities, and WiFi. 

Students receive a food stipend and a membership to the local YMCA, providing them with access to its Olympic-size swimming pool, indoor track, racquetball, squash and tennis courts, and weight and cardio exercise facilities. 

Social Life & Extracurriuclars

Off-campus excursions and field trips relevant to ocean science and policy are an important component of the Sea Change curriculum. They help students understand commercial, political, and career connections to ocean science.

Excursions range from exploring the tides in Cobscook Bay and discussing efforts to harness them for electricity generation, to visiting reversing falls in the Bay of Fundy, to investigating local island ecosystems on an overnight kayaking trip. Students and mentors also visit local fisheries and the Department of Marine Research, as well as commercial fishing and processing operations in Portland.

Over the semester, students become part of the Bigelow community. They attend seminars by invited scientists, and they interact with other marine science laboratories and scientists in Maine. These opportunities provide networking, special training, and exposure to career options within the diverse field of oceanography.

East Boothbay is a small community in midcoast Maine. It offers plenty of outdoor activities with vistas of the rugged coastline. Hiking trails are abundant near the laboratory.

Program Fees

The fee for Colby programs off-campus is equivalent to the comprehensive fee for Colby. (Program fees are also subject to any annual comprehensive fee increases). Students are billed by Colby and are exempt from the $1,500 study abroad fee. The fee covers tuition, room, a board allowance, and excursions. Books, insurance, laundry expenses, and personal travel are not included. A forfeitable deposit of $500 is due at the time of acceptance.


Juniors with a minimum GPA of 3.0 who have taken at least three lab science courses and one semester each of chemistry, biology, and precalculus/calculus are eligible to apply. Some exceptionally prepared sophomores may also be eligible on a case-by-case basis. 

Students in all academic disciplines who meet the program requirements and are interested in hands-on lab work and ocean science or policy are welcome to apply. Desirable applicants will have a genuine curiosity about how the ocean works and how scientists unravel its many mysteries. 

Students who have participated in the program have had a variety of majors, including chemistry, psychology, art, biology, STS, geology, and environmental science. 


Colby students would apply to the Bigelow program through the “Colby Application for Approval” process, overseen by Off-Campus study.

Students at other colleges or universities should contact Benjamin Twining, Director of Research and Education at Bigelow Laboratory.

Innovate Maine Fellowship Transformation Session

Grossman 100
(207) 859-4500
[email protected]

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