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USC Students Do Underwater Research in Guam

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guam dive aug4-2.jpg

Photo from USC Diving Blog, USC College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Used with Permission.

Imagine spending several weeks diving in the clear waters of Guam and Palau, making scientific measurements in forty feet of water on the reefs of Micronesia. Now imagine getting to do it with some of your closest friends. Now imagine getting college credit for it.

That is exactly how a group of fourteen undergraduate students from the USC College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences has been spending their summer, in a program that is part of the College's "Problems Without Passports" program. The students spent their weekends during the spring semester at the USC Catalina Island Wrigley Marine Science Center learning how to scuba dive. They gathered again on Catalina on July 28, traveled to Micronesia on August 1, and will return to Los Angeles on August 16, just in time for the start of the fall semester.

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The students are accompanied by Dr. David Ginsburg (Ph.D. in Marine Environmental Biology), who is the instructor of record for the course, teaches in the Environmental Studies Program and has extensive experience working as a scientific diver in Micronesia, and Prof. Jim Haw (Ph.D. in Chemistry), Director of the Environmental Studies Program, who is a technical, recreational and scientific diver.

The students and instructors have been writing about this unique class at the USC Diving blog.

Undergrad Dan Kasang wrote,

I realize it would take more than a thousand words to accurately describe the fantasy of this underwater world. Just 15 feet below the crystalline surface near Apra Harbor a verdant reef ecosystem supports a plethora of life; from 3-foot-long sea cucumbers to tiny day-glow fish, from moray eels to giant clams with purple flesh and a host of other marine critters.

Another student, Chloe Unger, mused on the differences between diving at Catalina and in Gaum:

After I giant strode into the clear blue waters of the Pacific, the first thought that came to mind was, “I don’t think we are in Catalina anymore.” The water was 80 something degrees — a complete one eighty turn from the waters in Catalina where we had been diligently preparing for this very day. I effortlessly descended to the bottom to join my buddy group. A change of scenery from the cold Catalina waters ensued. The first change I noticed was, I could actually see more than a few feet in front of me. All throughout the dive site were relics and reminders of WWII. The reef floor had scattered cans and old Coca-Cola bottles from soldiers posted in Guam during the war.

But how do you develop academic content for a course like this? The course instructors note that in addition to the dive training and scientific research, they offer

...lectures on Micronesia, basic ecology, coral reef ecosystems and monitoring, [and] a few specialized lectures on topics such as ocean acidification and field experiences on topics such as the effects of warfare on the environment (with the assistance of the U.S. Navy).

Who wishes they were still in college?