Michele A. Felberg
Michele Felberg, from Houston, Texas, always had an affinity for water but didn’t quite grasp her love for the underwater world until her years earning a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and a minor in Economics at the University of Southern California. It was during her sophomore year that she realized the magnitude of her passion and curiosity through her participation in two new Environmental Studies courses. First, in the Intro to Scientific Diving course she earned her NAUI Open Water certification as well as the AAUS scientific diver certification. In the second course, Integrated Ecosystem Management in Micronesia, she intensively studied the marine ecology, biodiversity, and conservation management of Micronesia and then traveled to Guam and Palau for a field research trip to evaluate coral reef health.
This experience opened Michele’s eyes to the beauty and complexity of the marine world and she decided to pursue a concentration within the Environmental Studies department called “Oceans, Life, and People” which focused her studies on the underwater world. She spent half of her junior year in New Zealand, where she studied marine science, conducted research on freshwater macroinvertebrate populations and stream health, and sparked her love of adventure traveling. As a senior she conducted a seagrass-monitoring project in Big Fisherman’s Cove on Catalina Island, examining monthly fluctuations in seafloor coverage of a foundation species of seagrass, Zostera marina. Supplementing her research diving, she earned her Rescue Diver and Training Assistant certifications during the fall of her senior year.
During her last semester at USC, Michele was asked to serve as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for the two environmental studies courses that initiated her interest in the underwater world. This position is rarely offered to an undergraduate. While assisting in the teaching of academic content and class logistics, Michele helped with the dive training of the new students and earned her Divemaster certification. Immediately upon graduation, she returned to Micronesia as a TA for the USC summer research field course. At the end of the class she was offered a position as a Dive Guide/ Underwater Naturalist at one of the top dive centers in Palau. Her work in Palau fed her love for experiencing new cultures, diving, and sharing the wonders of the underwater world with the guests she guided. She had opportunities to assist visiting researchers with their projects and was instrumental in developing a lecture series to inform guests, from a scientific perspective, about the local fauna, flora, and reef ecology. In addition, living in Palau gave her a greater appreciation for the power of local communities tied to the oceans and a better understanding of the importance of incorporating local knowledge with scientific research.
One of Michele’s long-range goals is to provide a legacy of relentless pursuit of the conservation and protection of the oceans by fostering within others a mindset that every individual can make a positive impact on marine conservation.