Make Waves

Students at Narragansett Beach

Beach season is in full swing here in Rhode Island, but it’s always beach season at the University of Rhode Island. There are a dozen public beaches near our main campus in Kingston and our Narragansett Bay campus has its own beach just a few steps from its classrooms. And even if you never get to enjoy the summer in Kingston, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to study, learn, play and conduct research at the beach year-round.

Our marine affairs majors, for instance, have no choice but to be occasional beach-goers, since they study policies affecting the coastal environment. Student Sara Benson investigated how to reduce the amount of marine debris entering the ocean by interviewing local beach managers about litter policies.

You could become a Coastal Fellow or a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow; both provide undergrads with opportunities to pursue timely environmental topics. Many fellows conduct research at the beach, from studying sea level rise and coastal erosion to beach-nesting birds and aquaculture. Hannah Madison spent last summer assessing the seasonal variability of algae blooms and how it relates to water quality. “I learned so many different things that I would never have known without that experience,” she said. “And it was definitely fun working at the beach every week. We never did the same thing twice.”

You might enroll in our English class on literature and the sea, write about your beach experiences, and enter our annual maritime essay contest. We even have a Literature & Sea Lecture Series.

Our landscape architecture students incorporate the beach into their studies. Last year, juniors in a design class spent a semester coming up with sustainable ideas to help Oakland Beach in Warwick increase its resilience to severe storms. Their assignment was to strengthen the natural defenses of the beach using green infrastructure that can absorb and treat stormwater and reduce erosion.

Landscape architecture student Emma Winkler said that spending time at the beach and interacting with local community members was an invaluable part of the project. “There are things that were very important to them that we wouldn’t have thought of if we were just sitting in the studio,” she said.

Maybe you’d like to teach surfing to children with Down syndrome as part of a kinesiology class; or learn about the use of robotics in studying changing coastlines; or explore how drugs are being discovered from marine organisms. Students at our Graduate School of Oceanography even helped solve one of Rhode Island’s most unusual mysteries by revealing the cause of a recent beach explosion. (It was a build-up of hydrogen beneath the sand.)

And when you’re finished learning about all of these aspects of the beach, you can join our surfing, fishing, or scuba diving clubs.

Here at the University of Rhode Island, which was recently recognized as third among the country’s 30 most beautiful coastal college campuses, the beach is much more than a beautiful summertime destination—it’s a big part of our history, culture and everyday life.