Last summer we created the Guam and Palau Problems Without Passport course, trained 14 USC undergraduates as Scientific Divers in Training, and took them to Micronesia for two weeks of field work. How much did they like it? They were smiling in all of the photos and a lot of them cried when we got back to Los Angeles. So we decided to do it again and make it even bigger and better. More about that in a little bit; first I’d like to say a few things about some of the students in last year’s class.
Jennah Caster, our student dive leader from last year, is graduating from USC and enrolling in the Master of Professional Science Program at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
Guam and Palau convinced Mariah Gill that she wanted a career in coastal and marine policy. She was accepted as a McNair Scholar and is spending her last year at USC preparing for a doctoral program while doing research on Marine Protected Areas. In her spare time she helps visiting scientists with specimen collection at Catalina.
Laura Wang, Christine Sur, and Bridget Hardy liked hanging out with each other and exploring marine ecosystems so much that they are currently doing study abroad at the University of Brisbane and diving in the Coral Sea and on the Great Barrier Reef on the weekends.
Chloe Unger is spending her summer in Argentina, and Bridget McDonald is studying in Spain in the USC Summer Madrid Program. Dan Killam is heading to Belize with our other Problems without Passports course, and is preparing for doctoral study after he graduates next year.
Sabrina Lawrence-Gomez and Dan Kasang are moving to Catalina for the summer, where they will work as interns for the Catalina Conservancy and do some scientific diving on the weekends.
So, what are we doing differently this year? For one thing we have a lot more students participating — 24 this year. We are also doing the course as one of the first three Maymester experiments at USC Dornsife. Maymester is a great way to deliver an intense experiential course. With Maymester one of your (typically) four four-unit courses is deferred until immediately after commencement, and then you spend about three weeks doing that course and nothing else. Because the Maymester course is part of your Spring tuition, there is no extra tuition charge as with a traditional summer course.
Since we had four months to prepare the students for their Guam and Palau Maymester experience, Dave Ginsburg and I created a two-unit course, ENST 298 Introduction to Scientific Diving to encompass part of their prep work. Our students took a total of 18 units, including the Maymester course. We spent every Friday afternoon lecturing about transect methods, marine ecosystems, dive tables and computers and basic first aid. We spent two afternoons in the pool on campus doing basic SCUBA skills. And we spent three weekends on Catalina (each student was required to make at least two of the weekends) doing basic open water SCUBA instruction plus several transect dives. All of that was very exciting — especially since the visibility in the ocean on Catalina in April was almost nonexistent due to a plankton bloom.
In the first several posts on this year’s blog, we’ll meet my co-instructor Dr. David Ginsburg and our NAUI SCUBA instructors Tom Carr and Gerry Smith (also the USC Dive Safety Officer). Then we’ll start meeting the students in this year’s class and learning about their first experiences with scientific diving. Follow us then as we all fly to Micronesia to explore the marine and terrestrial environments of Guam and Palau.
The blog posts from 2010 are still available in the archive as well. Enjoy.
Dr. Jim Haw
Irani Professor of Chemistry
Director Environmental Studies Program