Coastal Environmental Ecology [CRN 77195]

Discipline: Natural Resources
Instructor: Kennedy
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 1210
End: 1330
Field Work: Day 6 - Sunday, 6 November | Brazil Download Syllabus

As human populations increase, more people are migrating to the world’s coasts. Their residential and industrial wastes foul beaches, agriculture causes fertilizer and sediment to run into the sea, aquaculture ponds replace wave-buffering mangrove forests, and harvesters deplete fish and shellfish stocks. Climate change raises sea levels, alters distributions of plants and animals, and may modify patterns of storms and precipitation. Alien species piggyback on commercial shipping as globalization increases. This course will build on the unprecedented opportunity offered by Semester at Sea to see firsthand the results of such human actions on coastal habitats worldwide. You will learn about three key drivers of change in coastal systems — human population growth, global climate change, and wide-ranging industrial fisheries — and how these drivers affect the nations on our itinerary. You will encounter natural and disturbed habitats and ecosystems as you visit various ports and will learn of efforts to prevent or ameliorate environmental damage. You will think critically about the problems facing poorer marine nations in their efforts to provide for their citizens and of richer marine nations in dealing with their wastes and with the effects of their economic activities.


  • To understand the role of human population growth and climate change in altering coastal systems.
  • To explore the effects of human activities such as fishing, aquaculture, land development, farming, and international commerce on the coastal environment, both at regional and global levels.
  • To learn about the efforts of conservation or restoration agencies to prevent or correct the effects of coastal pollution and habitat disturbance.

Field Work

Country: Brazil
Day: 6 - Sunday, 6 November

Located 80 kilometers north of Salvador on the coast, Praia do Forte is a small fishing village that takes its name from a fortified manor built in 1552 by the Portuguese settler, Garcia D'Avila. The region includes remnants of once abundant Atlantic Forest, restinga, and mangrove ecosystems. The Tamar Sea Turtle Project is located within the village. In class before Salvador, Dr. Kennedy will provide descriptive materials on local plants and animals to prepare us for what we hope to experience. We will head north from Salvador and stop along the way to view and learn about the tropical mangrove ecosystem, so prevalent along the eastern seaboard. We will determine what species of mangrove are in the region and hope to see associated invertebrates, birds, and perhaps mammals. We continue to Sapiranga Forest to explore the delicate restinga vegetation on a short walk through the forest to experience the plants and animals of the region, which has been heavily deforested. We then continue on to the village where, if tidal conditions allow, we will explore the seashore tide pools for corals and associated invertebrates and fish. Lunch will be served in the Praia do Forte village followed by a visit to the Marine Turtle Research and Preservation Project, including a video display of the project, nesting sites, tanks, and educational exhibits. Set up in 1980, Praia do Forte is now the national center for this project, which is funded by the World Wildlife Fund. The project’s primary objective is to protect the Brazilian sea turtle population in areas with significant nesting by curtailing poaching of eggs and adult turtles and by establishing protected hatcheries. Students should bring shoes and clothing that can get wet or muddy during explorations of the mangrove and tide pools. Also bring sunscreen, a head covering to protect from the tropical sun, insect repellant, and some sort of note book for making observations. Learning objectives:

  1. Explore mangrove forests along the way to the Praia do Forte village
  2. View remnants of the once-verdant Atlantic Forest in Reserva Sapiranga and efforts to restore it
  3. Learn about the TAMAR turtle restoration project.
  4. Explore intertidal region near the restoration project