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Navigating through Kelp and Swimming with the Sharks

Navigating through Kelp and Swimming with the Sharks

One of the new courses in the summer line-up of USC College's Problems Without Passports program takes students to the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island and to Guam and Palau in Oceania, a region mostly composed of islands in the Pacific Ocean.

“The students will be introduced to laboratory and field skills and ecosystem management tools used to investigate complex environmental problems in marine and coastal environments,” said Jim Haw, the Ray R. Irani Chairman of Occidental Petroleum Chair in Chemistry and professor of chemistry and environmental studies.

“The skills and tools learned by the students are essential in tackling key environmental challenges on a global scale in marine and coastal systems,” Haw explained. This aligns with the mission of the Problems Without Passports program to address societal problems that are transnational or global in nature.

The four-unit course is not just text and lectures. To become fully certified divers, students partake in valuable field experiences that include 100 hours of scientific diving time. Their days are rounded out with a variety of cultural or educational field trips.

“USC College may be the only university in the world to provide such a unique set of scientific research diving experiences to its undergraduate students,” Haw said.

Fourteen students, eleven female and three male students, will accompany Haw and environmental studies lecturer Dave Ginsburg on this underwater adventure.

“It’s not your typical summer class,” Haw said. “You see some really amazing views of the ocean and creatures including sharks. We ensure that our students dive in groups and keep a safe distance from potential dangers by closely following OSHA standards.”

Haw and Ginsburg have created a blog to recount the group's exciting and eclectic encounters in Micronesia.

In her blog entry, junior Christine Sur, an environmental studies major in the College, talks about the group’s intense preparation that included three packed weekends in April where they dove, took classes and completed 6 a.m., 60-degree ocean swim tests at Catalina Island.

Check out the scientific research diving blog at

To learn more about Problems Without Passports, go to