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Physics major embarks on tall ship research expedition to Phoenix Islands

Reed physics major Kevin Freymiller ’17 is currently sailing with Sea Education Association, or SEA Semester, on a rare scientific research voyage to the Phoenix Islands to determine if coral bleaching is affecting the area. Freymiller will join other select undergraduates, SEA faculty members, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientists, and New England Aquarium research divers to gather data on the health of the islands’ coral reef ecosystem.

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) is one of the last remaining coral wildernesses and the largest UNESCO World Heritage site. The eight-week SEA Semester program is the only scientific expedition to the Islands this year. In addition to coral bleaching, the researchers will study the effects of El Niño and the impact of climate change. They will use their findings to create a policy plan to ensure the protection of the area.

The expedition began in Woods Hole, Massachusetts where students completed preparatory coursework and developed their own research projects in ocean science or conservation policy before embarking on the six-week sailing voyage as crewmembers and scientists aboard the tall ship SSV Robert C. Seamans. This 134-foot brigantine has been called the most sophisticated oceanographic research/sailing school vessel ever built in the United States.

To learn more and follow the progress of the voyage visit on the SEA Semester blog and click here to see Kevin's latest entry. The New York Times chronicled the success of the expedition.