Life on Mount Desert Rock: Experiencing Marine Mammals in their Environment  

July 5–16, 2016

Marine mammals have caused strong emotions in humans for millennia. Beginning with utter fear during the first encounters between people and whales, through a period during which whales were seen as an economic resource to be exploited, emotions are now characterized by admiration and awe. These experiences are reflected in the ways marine mammals have become part of many cultures and world views. Today, marine mammals arguably belong to the group of charismatic megafauna that are the basis of an increasing sector of the tourism industry, and that have become an important focus of conservation concerns and efforts.

In this course, we will go below superficial fascination and attraction. Instead, we will
explore marine mammals from a variety of approaches and views, with the aim to better
understand their evolution, behavior and ecology, as well as their links to our own
culture, society and politics.

We will observe marine mammals in their natural habitat, explore scientific methods of
data collection, engage with scientific and popular literature and media, and discuss
topics and issues in a welcoming, relaxed, and cooperative atmosphere. There is
(almost) no better place to do this than Mount Desert Rock. We plan to spend five days* out
on the Rock where we have the opportunity to literally live with, and observe, marine
mammals around the clock. When on land, either on the Rock or at the College, we will
explore a wide range of topics in lectures, discussions, video sessions, and through
reading primary and popular literature.

*The plan is to spend five days on Mount Desert Rock—however sailing dates and the number of days spent on MDR may be slightly altered due to weather.

Course Syllabus


Instructor biography


Christoph Richter received his PhD from the University of Otago, New Zealand, where he investigated the impact of whale watching on male sperm whales. He earned a MSc from Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, researching means to reduce bycatch of harbor porpoise in the Bay of Fundy. He is currently Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream and Associate Chair, Undergraduate,for the Biology Department at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, Canada, where he teaches courses on ecology, diversity of organisms, and statistics. He previously taught at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, has lectured on cruise ships in the Arctic, and has studied cetacean behavior around Canada’s east coast, the Gulf of Mexico and New Zealand.


2016 Rates

Tuition single room* $2,900
Tuition shared room $2,700
Application fee $50


*Single rooms are available while residing on the COA campus, however all rooms on Mount Desert Rock are shared.

Fees include

  • Room and board:  includes breakfast, lunch and dinner in COA’s award winning dining hall while residing on campus, and delicious meals prepared for you while residing on Mount Desert Rock
  • All fees related to housing and travel to and from the Rock, as well as marine mammal sighting excursions on COA’s research vessel, the Osprey.

Refund Policy

  • Partial refunds will be considered in the event of a documented health or family emergency.
  • The $150 deposit and $50 application fees due at registration are non-refundable.
  • All refunds will be paid by check.