Maine marine life expert films ‘Great Course’

BAR HARBOR — The Great Courses has partnered with the Smithsonian to produce a vivid exploration of the underwater world in Life in the World’s Oceans, a new video course taught by marine biologist Sean K. Todd, a professor at College of the Atlantic and director of COA marine research facility Allied Whale.

Giant worms, microorganisms that eat metal, faceless fish, giant sea spiders are all examples of marine life is otherworldly and fantastical. Life in the World’s Oceans takes viewers from the tiny phytoplankton that can only float at the whim of wind and currents to the giant gray whale that migrates 16,000 kilometers each year, and brings them face to face with everything in between.

“Even if you live in the most landlocked area, you feel the influence of the ocean, its effects on climate, the air that you breathe, or maybe just the fish that you eat,” Todd said. “As a community of species, we are extremely lucky to live on a planet that possesses an ocean so bountiful.”

Created in close consultation with Don Wilson, curator emeritus from the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Life in the World’s Oceans offers viewers a look into the complex lives of marine mammals. Drawing on Todd’s own research and field experience, and enhanced by visuals from the Smithsonian, the course features 30 lectures, which work together to provide a comprehensive overview of the subject.

Todd explores the variety of life in the seas and shares what has only recently been learned about biology, evolution, life cycles and adaptations, starting with the ocean itself.

Swimming with dolphins, talking to whales, touring the barrier reef, plunging the depths of the seas, these are experiences that very few people get to share. With Life in the World’s Oceans, viewers get an unprecedented chance to get up close and personal with the underwater world, so they can better understand and appreciate that environment.

Sean K. Todd holds the Steven K. Katona Chair in Marine Sciences at College of the Atlantic. Todd received a joint honours undergraduate degree in marine biology and oceanography from Bangor University in the United Kingdom and his master’s and doctoral degrees in biopsychology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He joined College of the Atlantic as a faculty member in biology and marine mammals and became the inaugural holder of the Katona Chair in 2006. That same year, he also became director of COA Allied Whale, which includes the Marine Mammal Stranding Response Program, one of two programs responsible for stranding response in Maine. Todd has authored or coauthored numerous papers, and his work has been featured in the media.

College of the Atlantic is the first college in the U.S. to focus on the relationship between humans and the environment. The intentionally small school of 350 students and 35 faculty members offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in human ecology, the study of how humans interact with our natural, social and technological environments. Each student develops their own course of study in human ecology, collaborating and innovating across multiple disciplines. Both The Sierra Club and The Princeton Review named College of the Atlantic the No. 1 Green College in the United States in 2016 and 2017. Visit

Allied Whale, College of the Atlantic’s marine mammal research group, promotes the effective conservation of marine mammal populations and their habitats while providing students with field-based educational opportunities. Founded in 1972 by Steven Katona, Allied Whale has been instrumental in establishing essential research techniques that are now adopted worldwide. Comprised of COA faculty, staff, students, senior researchers and research associates, Allied Whale remains dedicated to collaborative research and the international exchange of scientific information.

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