Shoals Ecology: Seabirds, Seals, & Seaweed


ATTENTION: Registration for 2023 is NOW CLOSED. Please check back next spring for our public programming for the summer of 2024.


The best of everything Shoals has to offer! An adult program geared towards science exploration in three subject areas: ornithology, marine mammals, and the ocean ecosystem as a whole. This is the perfect program for adults who have never been to the Isles of Shoals, and for those who want to return to their island ecology roots!


Learn about the seabirds of the Isles of Shoals, including nesting terns and two species of gulls. The Appledore Island Migration Banding Station will be open for those of you interested in migrating songbirds and bird banding. 

Marine Mammals

Dive into the depths of marine mammal science... acoustics, photo-identification, behavior, and more! The Duck Island seal colony (harbor seals and gray seals) is just 1 nautical mile north of Appledore Island. Learn about ongoing research conducted by SML scientists to study this population of seals. Early September is also whale watching season in New England, with opportunities to travel aboard SML's research vessels in search of minke whales, fin whales, and humpback whales!

Ocean Ecology

Explore the full range of ocean ecosystem topics, from tide pools and seaweeds to planktonic life and charismatic megafauna You will have the opportunity to see and use specialized oceanographic equipment and help deploy it from SML's research vessels. 

  • (603) 862-5346

    Price: TBD for 2024 season

    Price is per person. All-inclusive with: overnight accommodations, all meals, snacks and beverages, all program activities, and round-trip boat transportation between Portsmouth, NH, and Appledore Island. Space is limited due to our vessel and housing capacities, so reserve your spot soon! This program is open to adults 18 years of age and up.


Curious what you'll do during this program? Here are some activities that may be included!

Gulf of Maine Lecture: Introduction to the Gulf of Maine ecosystem and physical processes that impact marine organisms.

Marine Mammals Lecture: A review of adaptations seen in marine mammals, with a focus on Gulf of Maine species and conservation issues.

Seabirds Lecture: A talk about gulls, terns, and other seabirds living on the Isles of Shoals from our resident ornithologist and director of seabird science.

Intertidal Exploration & Observation: Visit the rocky intertidal zone, collect creatures for close observation, and learn about the physical features of this unique marine zone. A selection of creatures will be available for observation in the lab sea tables.

Seal & Seabird Cruise: Aboard the R/V Heiser, we will observe the harbor and gray seal haul outs at neighboring Duck Island. Cormorants, gulls, eider ducks, and more abound.

Plankton Collection & Observation: A boat-based activity, using fine mesh nets to collect plankton from the water column. We will view samples under the microscope back in the lab.

Isles Cruise: A boat-based tour of the neighboring islands that make up the Isles of Shoals.

Comparative Anatomy Lab: Taking a comparative, evolutionary approach, we will observe the skeletons and unique structures of fish, seabirds, and marine mammals.

Bird Banding Station: Learn about the songbirds that use Appledore Island along their annual migration. Observe the workings of an active bird banding station.

Geology Walk: Appledore Island is the remnant base of an ancient mountain that eroded and was scoured by ice sheets. This guided walk highlights some of the geologic features that reflect this dynamic history.

Garden Tour: Visit Celia Thaxter’s Garden with a narrative about the human history of Appledore, with a focus on the 19th Century Hotel Era.

Swimming & Snorkeling: An opportunity to swim or snorkel in the sheltered Great Tide Pool.

Sustainability Tour: A walking tour that highlights the technological innovations on the island (water conservation, solar, and wind power) that contribute to the sustainable infrastructure of the Shoals Marine Lab.

Gull Ecology Movie Night: Enjoy a documentary about the gulls of the Isles of Shoals complete with popcorn and snacks.

Sunset Social Hour: Enjoy a libation on the porch with time to socialize with participants and instructors.

Lobster Bake Dinner: Enjoy fresh lobster caught that day from the waters around Appledore Island and prepared by our fantastic kitchen crew.

Island Environment: Appledore Island is a rugged landscape with uneven, slightly steep and rocky paths. Access on/off the island is via a floating dock, a steep ramp, and a set of stairs. Sturdy walking shoes are required. Please review our Safety at Shoals page for any questions about boat safety, island terrain, medical access, or dietary needs.

  • Participants should be prepared for time aboard research vessels and moderate-to-strenuous hikes around Appledore Island to various field sites.
  • This program is intended for adults interested in learning more about the marine environment. No university credits are awarded.
  • If three days, two nights is too adventurous, consider a day-trip Appledore Island Walking Tour, with tons of natural history information packed into just one afternoon!

Cancellation Policy:

  • At least 30 days before departure = 100% refund
  • 29-15 days before departure =  50% refund
  • Less than 15 days before departure = 0%

SML boats will run rain or shine, so long as the captain deems it safe to travel. Passengers should come prepared with appropriate clothing in the event of rain or high winds (ocean spray). If the captain deems travel unsafe, boats schedules may be impacted until the weather passes. Communications regarding any weather-related delays will come via email and telephone from SML's main office.

    Coming soon.



    liz craig in the field

    Elizabeth Craig, PhD

    Director of Seabird Research, Shoals Marine Laboratory; Affiliate Faculty, Dept. of Biological Sciences, University of New Hampshire
    Dr. Liz Craig has joined the SML community after completing her Ph.D. in Zoology and Wildlife Conservation and Postdoc in Natural Resources at Cornell University. Liz is an ornithologist and colonial waterbird biologist who specializes in conservation management, population dynamics, and foraging ecology of seabirds. She has taught topics ranging from ornithology to natural resource ethics at Columbia and Cornell Universities, and an Aquatic Animal Diversity course at the University of New Hampshire.






    nadine lysiak

    Nadine Stewart J Lysiak, PhD

    Nadine is an Assistant Professor of Marine Ecology at Suffolk University and a member of the Faculty at the Shoals Marine Lab where she teaches courses on ecology, evolution, and marine mammal science. Nadine conducts research on large whale foraging ecology, stress and reproductive physiology, and migration behavior. Her research focuses on retrospective chemical analysis of baleen. Nadine posts periodic updates about her research and field work, as well as marine science related content on her blog, Sea of Diamonds.  You can also find her on LinkedIn and ResearchGate.

    Ecology Program Photos

    • people on boat
    • seal in water
    • ecology gulf of maine lecture
    • participants with binoculars
    • blue-headed-vireo

      Photo by David Forsyth

    • foraging-intertidal
    • over under water photo
    • mola mola
    • talk on the boat
    • Harbor seals at neighboring Duck Island.

      Harbor seals at neighboring Duck Island.

    • garden tour