What happens when 24 students take to the ocean to study the fragile ecosystems of Micronesia’s coral reefs?
Anyone can find out soon as dispatches from the field are posted on a Scientific American blog [scientificamerican.com/blog/expeditions/], which is devoted to capturing scientific exploration directly from researchers on the ground. Or, as in this case, the sea.
For video on the diving in Guam and Palau, visit youtube.com/watch?v=3CuNL5aS5bM&feature=channel_video_title
Students and instructors from the course “Integrated Ecosystem Management in Micronesia,” offered through the Problems Without Passports program and the Environmental Studies program in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, will be blogging about their experiences throughout the four-week class. They also will share photos and videos from their dives.
Students will spend a few days at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island, where they will develop diving techniques in addition to working on their research skills. On May 21, the class traveled to Guam. The first blog went live on May 19 and regular posts will continue to appear on the Scientific American site through mid-June.
“Last year, the blog for our Guam and Palau course had thousands of readers, many of them already part of the USC community,” said Jim Haw, director of the Environmental Studies program, who is leading the course with David Ginsburg, also of environmental studies.
“With the help of Scientific American, this year we will be able to reach many more readers, including prospective students and their parents, and inform them about the exciting opportunities in USC Dornsife.”
The course will allow students to learn about the tropical coral reefs and endangered species of Micronesia. Students will study ecologically sustainable development, fisheries management, protected-area planning and assessment, and human health issues. They will dive and collect data to support conservation and management strategies, and to protect the coral reefs of Guam, Palau and other Micronesian islands.
“Our students will be witnesses to some of the most sensitive and protective ecosystems on a changing planet. Through our blog, we hope to reach other people who are excited about the challenge of our Guam and Palau course,” said Haw, Ray R. Irani Chairman of Occidental Petroleum Chair in Chemistry and professor of chemistry and environmental studies.
During the four months prior to departing for Micronesia, students prepared with courses covering scuba diving, marine ecosystems, dive tables, transect methods (a system to determine the inhabitants of an ecosystem) and basic first aid.
Letticia Lee, a freshman majoring in environmental studies, said she was drawn to the course because it promised “an untouchable journey.”
“As students, we will have the chance to become certified scuba divers and experts in conducting underwater surveying techniques,” Lee said.
This is the second year students have traveled to Micronesia as part of a scientific research diving course. In 2010, Haw led 14 USC Dornsife undergraduates to Guam and Palau, where they were trained as scientific research divers to study coral reef ecosystems.