Immerse Yourself in Sustainability

The Wrigley Institute Maymester on Catalina Island is an experience like no other!

Earn a semester’s credit in just four weeks as you train to become a next-generation environmental leader. All courses and activities take place in our unique, interdisciplinary learning environment at the Wrigley Marine Science Center on pristine Santa Catalina Island.

Note: Registration for Maymester 2023 is now open through USC Dornsife’s Faculty Led Programs portal. See below for course information and links to individual course registration pages.

Three students wearing casual clothing crouch on the beach as they take soil samples.

How it Works

All students who enroll in one of our designated Maymester courses spend the full four weeks completing an immersive living-learning experience on Catalina Island. In addition to participating in their core classes, students engage in a variety of interdisciplinary activities designed for the whole group. Covering the social and natural sciences and the humanities, opportunities include problem-solving sessions, field research, recreation, and special events designed to train students in environmental leadership.

Note: Maymester is included in spring semester tuition, but this experience has out-of-pocket costs associated with room and board on Catalina Island. Significant financial aid is available. Please apply through the links located in each course’s registration portal. The Wrigley Institute values diversity and believes that financial need should never be a barrier to a world-class education.

For more information about Maymester generally, watch the video below, read our FAQ, or contact John Heidelberg ( For information about specific courses, including registration links, see the Maymester 2023 section below the video.

Maymester 2023: Urban Oceans

We’re excited to announce the theme for Maymester 2023: Urban Oceans! Join us on Catalina Island for a month filled with once-in-a-lifetime, immersive learning experiences centered on Southern California’s San Pedro Channel. Courses will focus on understanding and solving issues in this unique ocean environment off the coast of one of the world’s busiest port cities.

Maymester FAQ >>

2023 Course List

Note: Most of the courses below have prerequisites that must be completed prior to the start of Maymester. Please contact individual instructors for more information about requirements, or for other details about specific courses.

ARCG 305L: Virtual and Digital Culture, Heritage and Archaeology

Instructor: Lynn Dodd (

The techniques of underwater archeology  and photography are taught to both divers and non-divers so they learn to document the cultural heritage hidden below the sea. Students learn how to transform those 2D images into high-resolution, 3D models using software. Overall, the class is an in-depth exploration of 3D digital, immersive, virtual or extended reality visualizations of coastal cultural heritage, archaeology, historical sites and artifacts, including their legal and ethical dimensions.

Register for this course >>

BISC 431L: Aquatic Microbiology

Instructor: Eric Webb (

Aquatic microbiology brings together many different fields of science (microbial, ecology, biochemistry, genomics, bioinformatics, and molecular biology), and you can’t help but relate and apply what you’ve learned to the “real world”. You’ll discover how microbes affect not only your health, but also the health of our planet. This deep-immersion course cross-trains students to work and think in many fields, all while spending four weeks on Catalina Island at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center. Due to the marine lab’s unique setting, students will get to spend plenty of time in the field getting to know the microbial world “up close and personal.”

Register for this course >>

BISC 457L: Methods in Marine Biology and Oceanography

Instructor: John Heidelberg (

The course is designed to introduce students to the marine environment and to guided, independent research focusing on marine ecosystems. We will introduce students to oceanographic research and train them in the use of equipment, sampling and analytical approaches, as well as in data acquisition and processing, in an approach to expose students to authentic methods of scientific inquiry. During the class, students will learn how to use scientific methodology to evaluate global environmental issues (human impacts on coastal environments, watershed interactions, ecosystem function). One of the highlights of this class is the use of a research vessel for an oceanographic training cruise, as well as for the students’ independent research project, which will take place in the last week of this class. The students will present the results of their independent research project in the form of a symposium on the last day of the class.

Register for this course >>

ENST 483: Coastal Zone Sustainability

Instructor: David Ginsburg (

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to field skills and ecosystem management tools used to investigate complex environmental problems in coastal areas. Students will be provided with directed opportunities to work and learn in diverse coastal environments, and to gain a better understanding of the interdisciplinary complexities of implementing ecosystem management strategies in a real landscape. At the end of the course, students will present a summary of their directed learning projects to gain feedback on their results and outcomes. These projects will culminate in final presentations delivered to the class and to Wrigley Institute scientists at an end-of-in-field experience.

Register for this course >>

ENST 499: Social Science Research Methods for Environmental Analysis

Instructors: Victoria Campbell-Árvai ( and Monalisa Chatterjee (

Social science research provides essential insights into environmentally significant human behavior and processes of management and social organization that contribute to effective environmental policy. This applied social science research methods course will introduce key qualitative and quantitative methods of collecting social data relevant for environmental issues. The class will introduce the fundamental concepts of qualitative and quantitative social science research and explore the epistemologies that underlie these approaches. Over the course of the term, through in-class work and hands-on experiential learning opportunities, students will develop a research question and plan and collect data using a variety of social science methods, such as surveys, interviews, participant observation, and focus groups. Further, students will analyze and summarize findings in a scientific research report while examining the strengths and weaknesses of these different approaches. The class will also recognize and account for ethical issues of human subjects research (including informed consent).

Register for this course >>

Photo Album: Maymester 2022