School by the sea

WWU's marine biology lab hosts students for summer classes


The words “summer school” don’t often incite excitement, but they did for many students who attended classes this summer at Walla Walla University’s Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory. During July and August, around 30 students took undergraduate courses or completed graduate-level research on the shores of Puget Sound.

“Almost every day there is some kind of outdoor learning in the classes I’m taking,” said Carter Nash, senior biology major. “The classroom portion is very information dense, but stays interesting due to the seamless integration with real world experience. It hardly even feels like school.” 

Rosario is one of only three National Association of Marine Labs members to be owned by a university with less than 2,000 students, meaning at Rosario, premiere learning opportunities are uniquely joined with small class sizes. 

Students from many schools travel to Rosario each summer to take the general biology sequence or a variety of upper-division courses. This year students chose from Natural History of Vertebrates, Medical Toxinology, Marine Invertebrates, or Histology, the study of cell, tissue, and organ anatomy.

Some classes involve field work and close observation of animals. Nash’s favorite summer memory was of a boating trip that discovered a pod of playful humpback whales. “Two whales breached side-by-side, almost completely clearing the water, and then fell in opposite directions. Soon the rest of the whales started breaching and playing around by slapping their fins. The memory is completely seared into my brain,” he said. 

Outside of classes, students participated in board game nights, beach-side worship services, Sabbath hiking, ferry rides, and sand volleyball. Students even have a chance to connect with the local church at services and potlucks. 

The seven week program is an unmissable opportunity to learn how to think like a scientist, tackle pre-medicine classes in a beautiful environment, and make lifelong friends. For students considering making Rosario part of their next summer’s plan, Nash says, “Long story short, stop considering. Just go to Rosario.”

Want to discover more about a summer at Rosario? Visit or follow RosarioBeachMarineLab on Instagram.


Posted Aug. 16, 2023.

Student explains information using whiteboard covered in writing.
Collage shows breaching whale, hikers on green mountain trail, and students around a beach-side camp fire.