The Little Offshore Trip That Could

by Evan McAlice, Assistant Director of Admissions & Communications

Greetings, once again, from the SSV Corwith Cramer, where students are currently decorating science project posters and frantically preparing for the pin rail chase. Just earlier today, the Cramer anchored in St. John, and our students spent the morning snorkeling in Waterlemon Cay and learning about the Trans-Atlantic slave trade at the Annaberg Sugar Mill.

While we enjoy the beautiful weather and picturesque scenery, it’s important to reflect on the trials, tribulations, and sacrifices many of our students endured to even reach this point. As per Williams-Mystic tradition, so it seems, it wouldn’t be the beginning of the semester if thorough plans weren’t immediately thrown out the window due to unforeseen circumstances.

The first hurdle our students had to face was a familiar one: the Omicron variant. With students arriving to Mystic at the height of the Omicron surge, and then leaving for the offshore trip just a week later, Williams-Mystic had to quickly devise a game plan to keep everyone safe and healthy. 

That plan: students would take a Covid test immediately upon arrival in Mystic, and once they tested negative, they could move into their respective houses. From there, they would quarantine in their houses for the entire week leading up to offshore. Classes were held on Zoom or outside in the cold January weather. Students drove themselves crazy solving complex jigsaw puzzles. They watched movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, envisioning themselves as those pirates adventuring across the seven seas. 

Miraculously, not only did every student test negative upon arrival, but they remained negative through every PCR and rapid test taken throughout the rest of the week. It was a tremendous triumph for the program – a great sign of things to come, and a testament to S22’s patience and willpower.

But, as one head of the Hydra falls, a second head emerges in its wake. Weather reports warned that a massive snow storm was due to hit New England on Saturday, January 29, the day before our flight from Boston. When our flight was cancelled that Thursday, Williams-Mystic sprang into action. All offshore participants were required to take yet another rapid test to submit for travel clearance, and the Williams-Mystic team worked swiftly to book new flights. As Mystic was plunged underneath two feet of fluffy snow, students spent their snow day shoveling walkways and having snowball fights. They may have lost a day of travel, but spirits remained high.

All rapid tests returned negative, we were cleared to travel, and new flight arrangements were made. No matter how many times outside forces tried to strike us down, we only came back stronger.

On Monday, January 31, students, faculty, and staff left Mystic for Boston, where they would then hop on a 4-hour flight to Miami, followed by a short connecting flight from Miami to St. Croix. The layover in Miami was incredibly short, so the Williams-Mystic crew blazed through the Miami airport at Mach speed, weaving through crowded hallways and terminals. We reached our terminal with a few minutes to spare, taking a sigh of relief – nothing could stop us now.

We board the plane. Many are texting friends and loved ones for the last time before takeoff. Students are bracing themselves for the adventure of a lifetime. We wait. We wait some more. We keep waiting. After nearly an hour of waiting idly on the runway, the pilot’s voice blares over the intercom: “Good evening, folks. Due to a mechanical issue, we are going to have to relocate you to a new plane in a new terminal. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

We frantically gather our belongings, make our way off the plane, and rush to our new terminal… all the way on the other side of the airport. Through elevators, and escalators, and skytrains (oh my), we arrive at our new terminal. We breathe a sigh of relief that we have successfully jumped yet another hurdle, only to look at the screen and realize: our new flight time is 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

After regrouping and reorganizing plans, we decide to make our way back to the previous terminal to collect our boarding passes for tomorrow’s flight. Students use this time waiting in the terminal to bond through enlightening conversations, ice cream bars from the nearby snack bar, and an intensely competitive game of Mafia. 

Meanwhile, the unbelievably hardworking team back in Mystic organized hotel arrangements for our extended stay in Miami. Thanks to their incredible effort, all 21 travelers had a comfy bed to rest in, another hot shower to enjoy before those would become scarce, and once last game of Wordle. As we rode the taxi from the airport to the hotel, the sweet sounds of Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” and Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” bounced off the walls. Despite the commotion and chaos we all endured, nothing was going to break our spirit.

We gather the next morning in the lobby at 5:15, fighting through collective grogginess, and we board yet another taxi back to the airport. Thankfully, the only hurdle we had to face on this leg of the journey was a particularly long line for subpar bagels. We left Miami at 8:00 a.m., landed in St. Croix a few hours later, and we have been living the high life on the Cramer ever since.

To everyone who fought through the destruction of plans made months in advance to make sure we got here, we cannot thank you enough. So much gratitude is also owed to our wonderful class of students, whose eternal optimism and levity during times of uncertainty made this entire journey worth it. The perilous week-long journey to reach the Cramer is merely a small sample of just how bright, enthusiastic, and adaptable our students are, and we can’t wait to see how these qualities continue to shine once we return to shore.

Justin S’22 at the helm

10 Things To Know Before You Go Offshore

by Evan McAlice, Assistant Director of Admissions & Communications

Greetings, readers, from aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer! We set sail from St. Croix just a few days ago and S’22 has already learned so much about what it’s like to be part of a crew – from discovering how certain lines communicate with specific sails, to performing boat watches to make sure everything is ship-shape, to enjoying the sunset on the bow. All of this has been made possible by our Captain, Sean Bercaw, our Chief Scientist, Tim Pusack, and the mates, scientists, engineers, and stewards that keep us afloat.

As many of our students, staff, and faculty have never sailed before, this field seminar is an incredible opportunity to learn the ropes in an open and collaborative setting. As a novice sailor myself, I wanted to share some of the tips that I have found helpful throughout my time on the Cramer. I hope that they can be of good use to any future sailors reading this, as well as our friends from past semesters who want to relive the experience.

1. Keep a positive attitude and an open mind

Being in an environment like the Cramer can be very disorienting for many, so it’s important to remain positive and keep things light. One of the scientists on board (thanks, Kelly!) gave me some great advice – “if you can’t get out of it, get into it.”

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

The crew is very aware that many students are stepping into a brand new environment and learning about a whole new way of life. They are always willing and able to answer any questions, and there is no such thing as a bad question. I was told early on by the scientist leading my watch (hi, Katherine!), “You can ask me the same question 100 times in a row, and I will always be glad that you at least asked.”

3. Always ask for help when you need it

Similarly, knowing when to ask for help is key to being successful aboard the Cramer. Whether you’re hauling lines and need an extra set of hands, or just trying to get below deck and need someone to hold your water bottle. This advice doubles for seasickness – never be too proud to ask for medication, water, saltines, or necessary rest time.

4. Drink lots of water

A great way to fight seasickness and fatigue is to hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate some more. There is plenty of drinking water available on the ship, so you should drink as much as you’d like. When thinking about which water bottle to pack, make sure to choose one that is well-insulated and unique to you. Thermos or Hydroflask-like water bottles are especially ideal, and it’s best if you can tell it’s yours in a crowd. Write your name on it, use plenty of stickers, and make it your own!

5. Seasickness is natural and temporary

For those whose bodies aren’t used to the natural rocking of the boat, seasickness can be intimidating and frustrating. It may be reassuring to know that even the most experienced sailors sometimes get seasick, and your body will adjust to the motions with time and experience. View this as just another step in an otherwise fulfilling offshore experience.

6. Take a moment to look at the stars

During night and dawn watches, you’ll have the opportunity to look at the night sky without any light pollution. Use this as a moment to look at the stars and take in a moment of peace. It’s one of the most stellar sights you’ll ever have the chance to see.

7. Pack baby wipes

Students are encouraged to shower aboard the Cramer every 3 days, which means that sweat tends to accumulate. If you’re ever feeling particularly gross, baby wipes can be incredibly clutch.

8. Do not over-pack

There is often a tendency to try and fit everything you can into your massive duffel bag in an attempt to plan for every possible scenario. Try your best to get out of that mindset and pack only what you believe to be the bare essentials. If you’re having trouble fitting everything into your duffel bag, reorganize and rethink what you may or may not need.

9. Get to know everybody

This point extends to every person you encounter on the ship: the captain, the mates, the engineers, the stewards, and especially your fellow Williams-Mystic sailors. This is an incredible opportunity to meet people from across all walks of life, all of whom have countless fun and interesting stories to tell, so take time to hear them all if you can. The Cramer staff is equally eager to learn about you!

10. Look towards the horizon 

If you’re feeling woozy, look towards the horizon. It’s an easy way to keep yourself stable, even in the rockiest waters.

If you’re reading this and hoping to set sail with us some time in the future, I hope this advice comes in handy. Every offshore experience is different, but the results are the same – it’s an impactful journey that will push you in every conceivable way, but you’ll come out on the other side with great memories and a new perspective.

S’22 aboard the Cramer

Williams-Mystic Associate Professor of Geosciences Lisa Gilbert to Lead Community Workshop for Earth Educators

“The act of coming together could result in a lot of smaller projects that add up to something big. Sometimes when we talk about something being at a national scale, what we’re talking about is a bunch of little things that share a vision.”

At Williams-Mystic, students from a wide range of majors come together to discuss some of today’s most pressing environmental challenges — and to explore, as they go through the semester together, how we can address these challenges. Underlying this approach is the belief that, simply by bringing these students together as part of a close-knit community centered on a single topic, new ideas and approaches can emerge that might never occur otherwise. 

A similar philosophy undergirds The Earth Education for Sustainable Societies Community Workshop, a project led by Lisa Gilbert, Associate Professor of Geosciences and Marine Science at Williams-Mystic, in collaboration with Cathy Manduca (Carleton College), Rachel Teasedale (California State University, Chico), Felicia Davis (Clark Atlanta University), Margie Turin (Columbia University) and others. 

“I see it as a way to, on a national scale, get a lot of different people with different perspectives sharing together about the future of the planet, and the role education has” in that future, Gilbert said of the workshop. 

Held at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota on October 14 to 16, the workshop will welcome educators from a wide variety of institutions: museums, school districts, outreach organizations, colleges, and more. It will be funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation totaling nearly $100,000. Gilbert is the Principal Investigator (PI) on the grant, with Manduca as her co-PI. The workshop will be free to participants, and lodging, meals, and select travel costs will be covered as well. 

With funding secured, Gilbert and her collaborators are now exploring how to reach a wide variety of educators in advance of the August 5 deadline for applying for the workshop. As part of this effort, Gilbert and her collaborators on the project will hold a town hall during the 2019 Earth Educators Rendezvous, a gathering co-hosted by Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee on July 15–19, 2019. The town hall will take place on Wednesday, July 17 at 5:30–6:30 pm. 

The goals of the workshop itself, Gilbert said, are intentionally open-ended. Bring educators together who might not otherwise have met, she believes, and ideas will result that might have been impossible to predict in advance. 

“People live in silos and don’t have many opportunities to come together around the shared goal of equipping students to build a more sustainable future”, Gilbert said. Small-scale partnerships around sustainability education are already happening, but “what would that network look like if we could set it up?”

It’s an approach that comes from Gilbert’s own experiences, both as a geosciences educator and at Williams-Mystic. 

As Gilbert worked on projects seeking to encourage students from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue geosciences, for instance, it became clear to her that such efforts also had to begin earlier than college; these projects had to involve educators working with students throughout their lives, and had to think broadly about how to make students aware of the many forms that careers in sustainability can take.

At the same time, Gilbert herself experienced the power of coming together with a variety of sustainability educators by attending the Earth Educators Rendezvous, a gathering open to a wide range of educators. The Rendezvous began in 2015 as an outgrowth of InTeGrate, another NSF-funded project led by Manduca, along with a large leadership team including Gilbert, that provides tools to sustainability educators. The idea for the community workshop, in turn, arose at the Earth Educators Rendezvous, as attendees discussed how to build on the success of InTeGrate. 

“Through my involvement in that project, I started working with more K-12 teachers,” Gilbert said. “InTeGrate has been very successful and that model could be reimagined at a bigger scale.”

Indeed, Gilbert sees Williams-Mystic as a good example of a model that could be applied elsewhere — particularly the model of situating an experiential higher education program at a sprawling, world-class museum. 

“In the past week, I’ve had meetings in Education, in Exhibits, and at the Sailing Center about different ways in which science is important to a museum. That sort of connection between higher education and the public interface with how we think about the ocean is a really cool model for things that need to be happening at a bigger scale.”

For Gilbert, scaling isn’t necessarily about taking a program that works well at a local, community level and expanding it to a single program with a national reach. Rather, scaling means providing the opportunity for educators to come together, coordinate with one another, and share successful approaches. 

“The act of coming together,” as she put it, “could result in a lot of smaller projects that add up to something big. Sometimes when we talk about something being at a national scale, what we’re talking about is a bunch of little things that share a vision.”

At the end of the day, for Gilbert, the most exciting aspects of the workshop are also those that are the hardest to predict in advance.

“I’m trying to not have a specific idea for how this will go,” she reflected. “It’s a very process-centered outcome of new relationships developing between people and new and unexpected ideas that we can then turn into something coming out of it. I don’t know what those ideas are, I don’t know what those little or large communities are going to look like. What I’m hoping for is inspiration and connectedness, and that those two things together are going to bring out a bunch of new, actionable ideas.”

The Earth Education for Sustainable Societies Community Workshop will be held at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota on October 14–16, 2019. It is open to anyone with interests in sustainability education. There is no registration fee and lodging, meals, and some travel costs are covered. Applications for the workshop are accepted July 1 through August 5, 2019. For more information and to apply, visit

The Town Hall related to the community workshop will take place at 5:30–6:30 pm on Wednesday, July 17 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Town Hall is part of the 2019 Earth Educators Rendezvous; more information can be found at

Then and Now: Lab Manager and Assistant Director of Student Life Laurie Warren (S’89) Reflects on her Time at Williams-Mystic

After working as a bench scientist for more than 17 years, Laurie Warren (S’89) is back at Williams-Mystic as Lab Manager and Assistant Director of Student Life. She says it’s like she never left.

This post was written by S’18 alumna Audra DeLaney. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. 

six college students pose together in an old photo
Laurie Warren (née Wilson) and her S’89 classmates at the Seaport. From left to right: Rob Johnston, Laurie, Margie Butler, Erika Mueller, Wendy Read, and Judith Wright.

It’s January 1989. Now-lab manager Laurie Warren is preparing to participate in the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program, which, at this time, is only eight and a half years old.

“I was a student in the spring of ‘89, which was during my junior year at Mount Holyoke College,” Laurie said. “I found out about the program from poster I saw in my biology department on a cork board.”

Laurie had heard about the program before, but had never taken the time to sit down and learn about all it could offer her.

“Back then, there were a lot of students who did the program through the Twelve College Exchange and I also had an awareness of what it was like to go out to sea because my sister, who is five years older, had done SEA semester on Westward.”

The program Laurie’s sister did was six weeks out at sea. Laurie was more interested in doing the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program because it included only two weeks out at sea.

The S’89 class had the unique experience of being at the crossroads of Williams-Mystic history.

“I was the last class of Ben Labaree, who is the founder. I was Glenn Gordinier and Mary K. Bercaw Edwards’ first class,” Laurie said. “I was at the crossroads. Dennis Nixon was the policy professor but he was on sabbatical. So, we had Ben for both history and policy.”

Laurie remembers going on many field trips for policy class.

“We went to an aquaculture site, a liquid natural gas (LNG) tank exhibit and we did a lot of outreach with quest speakers,” Laurie said.  

Laurie’s Williams-Mystic experience centered on New England, with Mystic Seaport as the focal point.

“It was our campus. We spent a lot of time there. We did a number of material culture projects and got into the collections. At that time, Glenn was not our main professor but he was very involved in the material culture aspect of history class.”

Laurie remembers working on a material culture project about the whale boat.

“A group of us all did it together. One of us did the Cooperage, one did the Morgan, I did the whale boat, and it all connected to whaling.”

Like many Williams-Mystic alumni, Laurie has fond memories from her time on campus and still identifies with her house, Albion.

“It is not the same Albion House that is on campus today. The one I lived in was across the street. I remember Ray Strong, my classmate, was the treasurer of our house. He was an economics major from Middlebury. He used some of our house money to buy stuff to make a tetherball court in the backyard, cement and all. We had a lot of fun.”

Other campus houses have also changed since Laurie’s semester as a student.

“Kemble House was one of the houses. So was Mallory, but it was down the street on the right and now it is owned by an alumna. Johnston House was also here but Carr House was not.”

When asked what her favorite field seminar memory was, Laurie talked about her time as a Williams-Mystic Science TA following her graduation from college.

“When Jim [Carlton] came on board as director, we went on a trip to New York City. We went to a container port there and we also went to Ellis Island. We stayed at Governor’s Island and we slept on the floor in sleeping bags. I remember being on this island and looking at the Manhattan skyline.”

Even after Laurie moved on from working for the program right after college, she was still invited back to go on a number of field seminars.

Laurie also worked on Mystic Seaport’s demonstration squad, led by longtime Williams-Mystic literature professor Mary K. Bercaw Edwards.

After working as a TA, Laurie chose to pursue her passion for marine biology through an internship with the Department of Environmental Protection.

“I did a lobster project with them as an intern and I learned so much about different species and tools used in science research.”

Eventually, Laurie chose to take a position at DeKalb Genetics, a plant genetics lab then based in Mystic.

“I started there and was there for seven years. That is where I got the experience with working in a lab in industry.”

“After seven years there I made the move to go into pharmaceuticals because there was another employer nearby, Pfizer. I was there for 17 years as a biologist.”

Throughout her career, Laurie learned about plant biology. While at DeKalb, she worked on making corn more resistant so farmers could avoid using insecticides on the crop. She also graduated with a Master of Science in cellular and molecular biology while employed at DeKalb. At Pfizer, she worked in a lab that studied early biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease and head trauma.

“A lot of my work was really early discovery work. It was not in clinical with human patients or even with animals. I was doing cell-based work.”

Over 17 years, Laurie move from project to project. She got experience in cardiovascular health and in early safety. The common theme in all areas of her work were biochemistry, proteins, and cells.

After being laid off from Pfizer along with many other employees, Laurie took a year to decide what she was going to do next.

“I had the luxury of a little time to figure things out. I volunteered here a lot and helped work on the reunion last summer.”

Ultimately, she decided to come back to Williams-Mystic, this time as Lab Manager and Assistant Director of Student Life. One of her favorite parts of her job is hanging out with students and having conversations with them about classes, work, and life.

Even though Laurie worked in the field of science for a long time, she tells people it is like she never left Williams-Mystic.

“I was a student and then a TA and then there was a gap of some time but when I started having kids in 2002/2003, I jumped onto the alumni council and I am still there today. I have always felt connected with the program.”

What makes the experience of coming back to Williams-Mystic even more fun for Laurie is that Glenn and Mary K. are still here and Jim Carlton is around every now and then.

“It is such a family atmosphere. The Seaport has always been and will always be a big part of my life.”