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Thank You, Scientific Research Diving at USC Dornsife

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Today is the end of a series of dispatches we posted on our Expeditions blog – The ‘Problems Without Passports’ program at USC takes two experienced instructors and a number of students to do underwater research on the islands of Guam and Palau.

I have immensely enjoyed working with the group and reading their posts and I hope you did, too. The posts, about half written by the instructors and half by students, covered a range of angles – from geography to politics, from history to policy, from ecology to conservation, as well as both educational and personal experiences from the trip.

In case you missed some of them, here are their posts, in chronological order, so you can re-live their adventure once again, all at once:

Getting Ready for Guam and Palau by Jim Haw.

On Saturday, the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science at the University of Southern California will send nearly 30 researchers on an expedition to Guam and Palau. There they will study coastal and marine ecosystem management, the effects of climate change on coral reefs, the environmental impacts of a major defense buildup, and invasive and endangered species…. Read more…

Why Guam? by Jim Haw.

On Saturday morning we fly to Guam, an island about one fifth the size of Rhode Island. Guam is part of the United States, although as a territory it lacks voting representation in Congress or a say in presidential elections. Location is primary in real estate speculation, but it is also central to military strategy and ecosystem management…Read more…

Why Palau? by David Ginsburg.

In the previous blog entry my colleague Jim Haw gave the rationale for our work on Guam. After a week on Guam we will make the two-hour flight to Palau. The highest level of species biodiversity occurs in the Indo-West Pacific region, with nearly 2 percent of the world’s reefs distributed throughout Micronesia. Efforts to conserve coral reefs in this region include the integration of management strategies by government and non-governmental agencies alike…Read more…

Catalina Island by Caitlin Contag.

Today was my first scientific dive. There is no activity that I’ve done that requires more group work and collaboration than laying a transect tape and taking a species count. Not only do we contend with bulky gear and unwieldy tools, but also with limited ability to communicate underwater…Read more…

The Endangered Endemics and the Aggressive Invader by Jim Haw.

Guam is 17 hours ahead of Los Angeles, and even our USC students were up early (or at least on time) for our first morning in Micronesia. After a generous and very international buffet breakfast in the Hilton we walked out into intermittent squalls and boarded our charter bus to the Guam Department of Agriculture. There we were met by Dave Ginsburg’s long-time friend and colleague, Brent Tibbatts of the Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources…Read more…

Some History Should Not Repeat Itself by Wendy Whitcombe.

When I applied for this course – Integrated Ecosystem Management in Micronesia – I had no idea about the history that I would literally be diving into. Before my classmates and I left for Guam, Dr. Haw and Dr. Ginsburg instructed us on the history and culture of Guam. Little did I know the effect this would have on my experience there…Read more…

Contrasting Reef Ecosystems in Guam by Mareika Vandeveer and Justin Bogda.

On Tuesday we had our first dive in Micronesia on Double Reef, an extraordinary world flourishing with marine life. This pristine dive site is seemingly untouched; we reached it by boat because it is not accessible by road and is several miles from Guam’s population center…Read more…

The News from Guam by Caitlin Contag.

Each morning, a newspaper is slipped underneath our door. This morning, the front page of the Pacific Daily News read "Fishermen oppose reef bill." The paper is referring to a bill that penalizes individuals for breaking coral. Currently in Guam, few activities that damage coral are monitored, even though several large boats are run aground each year with devastating consequences for marine life; recreational activities often decimate the reefs; and the military is planning their dredging of Apra Harbor at this very moment…Read more…

Reflections at the Edge of the Pacific Ocean by David Ginsburg.

Since arriving in the Republic of Palau, we have spent a lot of time reflecting on our experiences on Guam (in which the environmental situation is dire). Many of the native forest animals on that island such as the Mariana fruit bat, Kingfisher and the Guam Rail (aka ko’ko’) are endangered, and in some cases, functionally extinct. As mentioned in an earlier post, such decreases are attributed in part to habitat loss, land development and the imminent buildup of military activities…Read more…

Making a Difference: Environmental Students in Palau by Patrick Talbott and Gabrielle Roffe.

Monday was our first day diving and snorkeling the Ngederrak Conservation Area of Palau. The difference in biodiversity along the reef crest was instantly noticeable as we dropped down to 25 feet and surveyed 50-meter transects. Applying belt transects to snorkeling also allowed us to survey the three to five foot reef flat, which differed from our survey experiences in Guam. There was an obvious difference in substrate diversity and marine invertebrate species between Guam and Palau…Read more…

Preserving Biodiversity by Wendy Whitcombe.

For thousands of years people on Palau have used sustainable methods of fishing and preservation. The virtually untouched, biodiverse reefs and pelagic marine animals are a testament to these practices. In Guam, the coral is more homogenous and mostly scleractinian due to typhoons and anthropogenic stress — these reef structures were noted on each of my dives at Double Reef, Apra Harbor and Nai Island. In drastic contrast, the biodiversity in Palau’s coral reefs is amazing. The human-population-to-reef ratio in Guam is 2,621 to 1 while in Palau it is 19 to 1. I need to do more research, however, I would hypothesize that these ratios play a big part in a reef’s biodiversity…Read more…

Palau Protects and Conserves by Kirstie Jones.

Our first day in Palau made me realize that, unlike the United States where the environment is often an afterthought, this is a place where people take pride in their connection to the natural world and work hard to protect it. As we took a bus tour through the countryside our guide explained the ties the Palauan people have to the lands of their ancestors and pointed out villages where people still lived off the land through agriculture and fishing…Read more…

Peleliu: 67 Years after the Battle–a New and Different Conflict by Jim Haw.

The tiny island of Peleliu (5 square miles) is the second most southerly state of Palau — we reached it in 50 minutes on a very fast boat from the capital of Koror. In September 1944, U.S. Marines and U.S. Army soldiers invaded this island in what was supposed to be a quick and straightforward operation to take Peleliu’s airstrip in support of the upcoming Philippines campaign. What ensued was two months of the worst fighting of the war as the Japanese shot back from tiny caves rather that consume themselves in self-destructive countercharges…Read more…

Last Child in the Reef by Emilie Moore.

When I first got wind of the details of the Guam and Palau research diving program, I thought there had to be a catch. A program that so perfectly combined academics and passion for traveling seemed too good to be true. However, less than 6 months later that skepticism has been washed away and the trip is a reality…and an irreplaceably rewarding one at that…Read more…

Just When You Think It Can’t Get Any Better by Genivieve McCormick.

Today, June 3, was our last day in Palau, and it was definitely a day to remember. We went on a kayaking tour around the Rock Islands led by one of the most inspirational, intelligent and adventurous people I’ve ever met in my life. Our tour guide Ron Leidich, a zoologist, showed and taught me more in one day about the marine and terrestrial environment, history and culture of Palau than I thought possible on a simple kayak tour. I would like to share two of his stories with you…Read more…

Looking Ahead by David Ginsburg.

Last week, my colleagues and I wrapped up our second annual Maymester course to Guam and Palau.While the course participants returned to Los Angeles, I stayed behind on the island of Guam to catch up with old friends and colleagues, and to begin sketching out a rough draft of next year’s scientific course content. This year’s course was a tremendous success. During our time on Guam and Palau, we received phenomenal cooperation from local conservation scientists and resource managers who provided us with first-rate guest lectures and exclusive back-stage tours of their research facilities….Read more…

Experiential Learning and Communicating by Jim Haw.

Once, while lecturing 150 freshmen about the value of the natural world in which we live I paused and asked, "How many of you can tell me the current phase of the moon?" None could. Are we approaching some sort of endpoint in which contact with nature is optional to the human experience, absent rude awakenings from tsunamis and tornadoes? Environmental curricula are proliferating in universities, but how can you teach someone to value something that they do not know?…Read more…

I hope you enjoyed the series, and if you did – please thank them in the comments on their posts, or share the links with your friends. And watch the Expeditions blog tomorrow, when we start a new series of posts from a completely different part of the world.



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