Zinsmeyer Summer Research Program

Dive into Marine and Sustainability Research

Study the coastal ocean with some of the world’s leading scientists! The 10-week Zinsmeyer Summer Research Program gets USC Dornsife students into the lab and into the field for hands-on, life-changing experiences that prepare you for a career in science while advancing the twin causes of sustainability and the environment.

Zinsmeyer Summer Research Program Dates: June 10–August 16, 2024

Application Period: January 8–February 16, 2024

Four divers donned in scuba gear gather with their heads above water to take a selfie

How It Works

The Zinsmeyer Summer Research Program supports USC Dornsife undergraduate students to conduct guided, independent research on coastal ocean processes at the Wrigley Marine Science Center (WMSC) on Catalina Island. The program is open to all Dornsife undergraduates, but priority will be given to majors and minors from the Environmental Studies Program. Zinsmeyer students join a cohort with students from the Wrigley Institute REU, giving participants in both programs the opportunity to interact and forge connections with a diverse group of peers from a variety of schools.

Students participate in:

  • Hands-on research experience
  • Laboratory and field training
  • Introductory lectures and special seminars on oceanography and marine science
  • Professional development workshops, networking, and science training opportunities
  • Cohort-building activities

2024 Research Topics

See below for this year’s areas of focus for the Zinsmeyer Summer Research Program. Students will conduct research under the supervision of Wrigley Institute-affiliated faculty mentors, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars.


2023 Research Topics

  • Predatory fish: Predatory fishes rely on a myriad of senses to identify, follow and capture their prey. This study is interested in how fishes rely on chemical stimuli and how the natural variation in the concentration of stimuli elicit a feeding response.
  • Moray eels: Through long-term trapping efforts, the researchers in this project have found that California morays (Gymnothorax mordax) are relatively abundant in the rocky reefs around Catalina Island. This summer project will assist in continued efforts to examine moray eel diet and growth rates.
  • Carbon sequestration: This study tests how mixing ocean waters with alkalization/CO2 effluent impacts ocean chemistry, ocean particles, and ocean life. If you’re interested in research involving incubation experiments, want to work in and around the dock and on small boats, and are interested in participating in research to “save the world,” this is the summer project for you.
  • Kelp physiology: Interest is rising in the potential of giant kelp’s photosynthetic fixation of inorganic carbon for carbon capture; however, this capture is transient with respiration and decomposition, releasing fixed organic carbon. This project investigates the physiological process of kelp aging in the field to understand the internal processes leading up to kelp death and carbon release. Preference will be given to applicants who hold an AAUS research dive certification.
  • Kelp cultivation: There is growing interest in cultivating giant kelp for various industrial applications, including fertilizers, animal feed, and even biofuels. This project will investigate strategies to enhance kelp cultivation at various life stages.

Award Details and Application Requirements

The application cycle for the Zinsmeyer Summer Research Program will open on January 8, 2024. 

2024 program dates: June 10–August 16, 2024

*Later start date available for students participating in Maymester

Participants receive:  

  • A $600/week summer stipend
  • Room and board at WMSC on Catalina Island
  • Research training and experience 
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Opportunities to present their research at a regional or national conference


Continuing USC Dornsife undergraduate students (students who are not graduating in May 2023). Application is open to all Dornsife undergraduates, but priority will be given to Environmental Studies majors and minors.

2023 Zinsmeyer Students