A Current Immersion

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Detailed Description

Curt Storlazzi of the USGS explains how the water cycle pulled him into oceanography, and how his personal interests parallel his profession.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:02:37

Location Taken: Santa Cruz, CA, US

Video Credits

Joe, Molly, and Sofia Storlazzi
Isobel Spence
Josh Logan for dive footage in Puerto Rico
Music by Blue Dot Sessions, "Vittoro", CC BY-NC 4.0
filmed and produced by Amy West


Curt Storlazzi: “Well It's kind of funny. I'm actually the black sheep of my family. All the rest of my family's in biology or medicine and things like that.

I study how waves and currents and storms move water and sediment around the coastline— around sea cliffs and bedrock reefs and coral reefs.”

(Imagery: boat bobbing up and down in waves, storm waves hitting the beach, monitors showing sediment on the bottom of the ocean, shots of snorkeling along reefs)

“What does dad do? Dad tries to save dollars and lives.” (shot of Curt and his daughter on the boat)

“While my daughter loves the beach and the ocean ... She surfs. She paddle boards. She actually wants to become an orthopedic surgeon.” (he chuckles) 

(shots of daughter as a child at the beach, then surfing and paddle boarding)


“I originally thought I was gonna do environmental engineering, but I found out, at least where I went to school, that was mostly waste water management. I had a really awesome undergraduate professor. His syllabus every week, would have a famous quote on it, and there was a quote by a Talking Heads' song called "Once in a Lifetime", which was about the hydrologic cycle. And it really caught me.”


(video showing kayak full of gear landing on the beach, then images taken during his college career- diving and working along the coast. Then changes to a shot of the hydrologic cycle)

“And it's just, you start to think about how mountains form, how the oceans form, how beaches change, And it's kinda like you're almost a crime scene investigator.”

(shots of mountain range, big waves and beaches)

“In engineering, the problem's defined, and you're trying to fix the problem, which is what I thought I wanted to do. But this is almost like detective work. Something happened, and you're trying to understand why, and not all the pieces are there together. It brings together so much physics and chemistry and biology and a lot of times, history. And you need to understand local peoples and cultures. It really brings together a lot of things I like in life.”

(shots of Storlazzi talking with colleagues, explaining currents  through hand gestures and drawings, and a computer model, then viewing the coast through an infrared camera. Ends with a shot of children in Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands)

WRITTEN ON SCREEN (over video of USGS scientists working underwater, drilling into corals, using coastal maps to inform the public, carrying research gear to the bottom and overboard):


Curt Storlazzi studies how ocean conditions shape our coastline and influence coral reefs.

He also shows how climate change and sea-level rise will affect coastal communities, and the ecosystems we depend upon. This work takes him worldwide from Arctic to the South Pacific, and Asia to the Caribbean.


Curt: “So, I surf, and I scuba dive, and I snorkel, and I paddleboard. And so, it's getting to work where you love.”


(shots of surfing, diving off boats, snorkeling and kayaking, then transitions into holding on aboard a boat in rough waters, and diving in murky waters.)


“You're in small boats in kinda hairy conditions sometimes, and diving, and… But why are we doing it? 'Cause it matters, and that means something to me.  


I tell people all the time, if I won the lottery, I'd live in a nicer house and have nicer cars and things like that, but I'd probably still come to work, 'cause it means something. It's important to me.”


(working underwater on a coral reef, diving with gear and loading a kayak with gear, giving a thumbs up sign off a boat and last shot is Storlazzii drilling into a reef near the shore).



Thanks to:


Joe, Molly, and Sofia Storlazzi

Isobel Spence

Josh Logan for dive footage in Puerto Rico


Music by Blue Dot Sessions, "Vittoro", CC BY-NC 4.0


filmed and produced by Amy West