To Live Deliberately: Two Weeks Exploring Marine Habitats with COSA

by Andrew Madanjian

Growing up, my family was not the “outdoorsy” type. I’ve always loved going to the beach, but aside from that I’ve been more comfortable indoors—movie theaters, art museums, book stores. Although I’m now a fourth year biology major, for most of my youth I was averse to exploring nature and getting dirty. I begin my post with this preface to accentuate how exhilarating it was to host 30 high school students in a two week, hands-on marine science based summer program. The Coastal Ocean Science Academy, COSA, has been going on at Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center for the past 11 years, giving high school students the chance to go out into the field, learn about marine ecosystems, and present their findings.

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COSA students don’t mind getting dirty in their pursuit of science. Photo by Emily Duwan

Although all of the COSA students had a great deal of fun and made countless memories, they didn’t signup for a lightweight summertime diversion. This program is an academically astute, research-heavy two weeks of trekking into the field for data reconnaissance and conducting experiments using the same gear as the professors and graduate students at the MSC. These COSA students did not hesitate to douse themselves in mud at salt marshes in Salem, weather torrential rain on Misery Island, tow a seining net in the ocean at Gloucester, and dissect otoliths from striped bass—students eagerly did this and more in their pursuit of science.

After their work in the field, in less than one week these students tirelessly compiled their data, designed and completed a research project, and (with the confidence and poise of those much older) presented their research to an audience of their parents, their peers and their COSA instructors.

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COSA students presented their research to an audience of their peers, their instructors, and their parents. Photo by Emily Duwan

I’d like to say that I would have loved COSA when I was a high school student, but I’m not entirely sure that would be true. These students possessed more than curiosity—they possessed daring, ambition, and commitment to endure literal blood and sweat to achieve answers. COSA was not only a formative two weeks for 30 aspiring scientists—it was an encouraging glimpse at the upcoming generation of people who are undaunted to studying and protecting marine life.

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