ENST Divers Adam Grosher, Austin Hay and Connor Jackson

Los Angeles, CA November 16, 2011 -  Summer 2011 three USC Environmental Studies majors embarked on a scientific research diving experience that changed their lives.

Adam Grosher (USC ‘13) grabbed a tank and regulator for the first time in ENST 298 SCUBA class. Connor Jackson (USC ‘14) and Austin Hay (USC ‘12) came into the course as certified divers but left convinced that Guam and Palau provided, “most of what I have learned about diving and almost 100% of the fun,” according to Hay.

Learning to dive with a Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) as a scientist requires a number of technical dives, emergency situation training and a written test. Always diving with a buddy and communicating efficiently underwater is key to a safe dive. Diving responsibly involves avoiding a common malady called “the bends,” or decompression sickness, resulting from nitrogen buildup in the body. Grosher admits he was initially nervous about the bends and having to breathe through a regulator underwater. ENST 298 educated Grosher and his classmates on the physics of diving and on, “identifying risks and managing them accordingly.” Practice plus an excellent dive instructor helped Grosher feel confident during underwater training.

Jackson stresses, “It’s a matter of educating yourself and being confident in your education.”

All three divers are inspired to keep up with their diving. They plan to accumulate over 100 dives and eventually earn Diver Master status. Guam and Palau was their gateway into a world of diving enthusiasts.

Diving in Guam, USA and Palau, Micronesia means diving in a couple of the most diverse marine environments in the Pacific Ocean.

Guam has a plethora of US military buildup and coral reef growth, especially in Apra Harbor, which is being destroyed at the cost of economic opportunity. Guam is the poster child of development at the cost of habitat destruction. As a consequence, Guam coral reefs are often skeletons of the past or are growing on artificial reef structures. Development and management in Palau has a different perspective on the importance of protecting coral reefs. Palau has strict regulations and genuine community involvement that collectively helps to protect its original reef biodiversity.

And then there’s the marine life. Diving in Guam, Palau and in Catalina Island, CA, exceeded Hay’s wildest dreams.

“I think most people don’t actually know what’s out there.”

Catalina island boasts towering Giant Kelp, rays and leopard sharks. Further west in the Pacific, Guam features steep walls full of corals making a living on historical war vessels. Palau, beyond the International Dateline, hosts a notable assortment of giant clams in its crystal clear waters. Diving in each location is a uniquely memorable experience.

Studying in the field has allowed Guam and Palau participants to be a part of the science, policy and community interactions that impact the way we as humans interact with nature.

What Jackson has taken the most from this program is, “an in-depth perspective on the interplay between policy and science; oh, and the whole SCUBA diving everyday part was pretty cool too.”

Besides glittering his resume with scientific diving experience, Grosher was able to, “experience something new and unforgettable that has the capacity to alter life plans and solidify personal values-not to mention you'll walk away from the class with a vibrant and real understanding of the principles of ecosystem management.”

For Hay, the diving in Guam and Palau blew any expectations, “clear out of the water.”

  • Dr. Karla Heidelberg
  • Director
  • Environmental Studies Program
  • Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Social Sciences Building (SOS) B15
  • 3502Trousdale Parkway
  • University of Southern California
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-0036