SML 2021 Operating Plan

Before arrival, all visitors must 1) thoroughly read the SML 2021 Operating Plan below and 2) visit the Getting to Shoals page to complete the necessary forms, submit COVID-19 test results (if unvaccinated), and review pertinent travel information. We encourage you to download our 2021 Operating Plan and review our FAQ section below. 



Indoor Mask Usage: Masks must be worn when less than 6ft apart from others

  • Exception 1: Fully vaccinated students and faculty who have had 3 negative COVID tests during their course can remove their masks indoors
  • Exception 2: All participants may remove their mask when eating or drinking indoors while practicing social distancing of at least 6ft
  • Exception 3: Masks are not required when in your assigned dorm room

Outdoor Mask Usage: Masks must be worn when less than 3ft apart from others

Social distancing of 6ft should be practiced at all times

  • Exception: when performing classroom, field-based, or lab exercises that require closer conditions (masks are still required)When eating or drinking inside or outside at least 6ft apart, masks are not required (masks otherwise are worn indoors at ALL times)

Note: We understand these protocols do not perfectly align with the CDC's current recommendations. Please read the next section for more information. 

SML's operations are determined by our parent institutions, Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire. As the COVID-19 situation continues to change, CDC guidelines may not perfectly align with the safety protocols currently outlined in our 2021 Operating Plan.  There will be a lag between CDC policies and those of large institutions such as ours. We expect policies to evolve over time and we ask for your patience. We will inform all program participants of any lessening of restrictions. In the meantime, we are taking a conservative approach to promote the safety and well-being of our community. Thank you for understanding!

Students: Yes, there will be two individuals of the same sex housed in each dorm room. Roommates will be enrolled in the same course to follow our pod procedures. If you have questions or concerns regarding housing arrangements, please contact us at

Overnight Public Programs, Researchers, Faculty:  All visitors will be assigned their own room unless a shared room is requested (i.e. couples or participants of the same household).

Congrats! Vaccinated individuals can expect the following:

  • You do NOT have to participate in the 10-day quarantine prior to your course/program start date
  • You do NOT have to quarantine if you come in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 on the island
  • You will still be a part of our complimentary on-island testing program

Yes! Swab kits will be distributed to all students, faculty members, TAs, researchers, and staff members upon arrival at the SML mainland dock in Portsmouth, NH. This is when our testing program will begin. All tests will be self-administered under the supervision of an SML staff member. Testing will take place twice a week on the island, and testing is required for all vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Please bring a state or federal ID with you to the island! 

Please note: testing for our overnight public programs is TBD

You will not be allowed on the island. Students, please see our refund policy. All other visitors should contact us at

Yes; however, all cross pod interactions must occur outside with masks on if you are not practicing social distancing of at least 6ft. If you are greater than 6ft away and outdoors, masks are not required. 

Masks: All participants must bring a sufficient number of masks or facial coverings that are safe for multiple-day use. Please see our 2021 Operating Plan for what defines an appropriate mask. SML will have disposable masks; however, you should not rely solely on this supply. Plus, disposable is not sustainable!

Hand Sanitizer: We will have hand sanitizing solutions and stations set up throughout the island. We recommend program participants bring their own personal bottle of hand sanitizer to carry around with them, especially for when you are out in the field!

Cleaning Solutions: SML will have the necessary professional FDA-approved cleaning solutions. 

Good question! Individuals working together (i.e. classes, research groups, public programs, etc.) will have housing, meals, transportation, and classroom spaces separate from other pods. Individuals within a pod do not negate policies related to social distancing, mask use, or sanitation requirements listed in our 2021 Operating Plan. You can interact with other pods but outside and following our mask/social distancing procedures!

They are not required; however, they are STRONGLY encouraged. Why? Because a) you will not need to quarantine 10 days prior to your program start date, and b) you will not run the risk of being evacuated from the island if someone you come in close contact with tests positive for COVID-19. 

The maximum island population daily total is expected to be approximately 68 people. 

If you test positive: Your personal Evacuation Plan will be followed. All participants will be immediately placed into quarantine on the island, and you will be brought back to the mainland within 24 hours of testing positive. 

If someone around you tests positive: If you're fully vaccinated, you do not have to worry! If you are NOT vaccinated and either your roommate or other close contacts (someone who was within 6ft of an infected person for at least 10 minutes within 48 hours of illness onset) tests positive for COVID-19, you will quarantine in your dorm room and will only participate in field (outdoor) activities with your course. All other classroom-based activities will be conducted remotely via zoom. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to maximize your educational experience!