A typical early summer morning at the USC Wrigley Institute’s Wrigley Marine Science Center waterfront is a tranquil sight. The waves of Big Fisherman Cove ebb and flow, gently nudging floating kelp closer to shallow waters. Great blue herons, which nest in the cliffs next to the water, quietly hunt for breakfast as bright orange Garibaldi fish dart in and out of the rocky reefs along the shore. On a recent July morning, however, the view was different. A small group huddled together at the dock, a palpable sense of urgency filling the air as they cheered loudly for two figures in the water. Angelo Spinosa, a student in Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability’s Scientific Diving Discovery Program (SDDP), was retaking his swim test for the sixth time. Jordyn Scott, another diver-in-training, was in the water to provide moral support and help Spinosa to keep his pace. As part of the annual, month-long SDDP, students from underrepresented backgrounds complete training on the fundamentals of scuba diving and underwater research. For Spinosa, who navigated financial challenges while moving 13 times over the course of his educational career, the high cost of equipment and training had made scientific diving seem more like a lofty dream than an attainable achievement. So when he heard about the SDDP through a professor at L.A. Valley College, he jumped at the opportunity. He was determined to get certified in scientific diving before starting classes as a marine biology student at California State University, Long Beach this fall.
Mission, Vision, & Values
From the Director
Every passing day seems to offer an alarming new report about the health of our planet. From endangered species and ecosystems, to wildfires and rising seas that are erasing landscapes as we know them, the message is clear: Our environment, the key to our wellbeing and survival, is in deep trouble.
Ironically, this is happening at a point in our collective history when it feels like our knowledge and ingenuity are boundless. We know, for example, how to manage a landscape so that species can thrive while fire risks are kept low. We know how to generate energy, and how to move ourselves from Point A to Point B, without emitting the greenhouse gasses that threaten our climate. We have at our fingertips the knowledge and the technology to make a more sustainable world.
And yet, for the most part, we fail to act.
It’s this irony that motivates the work of every single student, staff member, and scientist at the Wrigley Institute. And behind our interdisciplinary work is a mission that’s as bold as it is important: We strive each and every day to diagnose and understand the environmental challenges in front of us, to turn scientific discoveries into actionable solutions, and to account for the human factors that stand in the way of – or grease the rails toward – a more sustainable future.
Dr. Joe Árvai, Director
Environmental Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Environmental justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion are central to our mission of inspiring global environmental solutions through frontier education and research. These values guide our work every day as educators, researchers, and staff to address existing and emerging inequities impacting our institution and communities. We pledge to provide a safe, inclusive, and responsive environment for members of our community to authentically engage in meaningful learning, research, and engagement opportunities; to create access to programs and resources for everyone; to uplift and give recognition to diverse voices; and to ensure that we remain accountable as an organization to prioritize equity in everything we do.
Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion-Focused Work at the Wrigley Institute
The sun had not even risen when my tour guide rolled up to the hotel entrance in a war-era U.S. military jeep, a camouflaged monster roaring with noxious fumes to crack the silence of Hội An city’s early morning. After brief introductions in the faint gleam of the jeep’s headlights, I joined the guide and his driver on a bumpy and adventurous ride to the fishing village at the edge of town, feeling strangely ironic as a Vietnamese American passenger in an American military jeep. Never mind that I spoke Vietnamese—I was the only person who booked the tour that day, and riding along in the jeep certainly made me stand out like a deer in the headlights. I could’ve just screamed, I’m an American tourist! to anyone who cared to listen. When we arrived half an hour later at the fishing village, I did not expect what I saw. There were hundreds of colorful boats docked on the harbor, offloading plastic buckets of fish in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Surrounding the docks were mostly women sitting on little stools, selling the fresh catch to local customers, who were just ambling in from nearby towns for their morning groceries. “We are already late,” my guide said, “because many of the boats came with their fish around 4 a.m. It is already almost 6 a.m.” I couldn’t imagine the space being any more hectic than it was already. People were shoving past me left and right, haggling for lower prices on their sardines and anchovies. An older woman in a conical hat called out, “Young lady, buy some stingray to start my sales today!” My tour guide trailed ahead, and I followed him, declining the stingray.