OLLI OctopusJune 19, 2017 — Students who sign up for the June 22 “Under the Sea: The Nautilus Exploration” class through CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI)’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) may get a chance to watch live video of a dive aboard the Nautilus.

The Nautilus is an Exploration Vessel (EV) piloted by Robert Ballard, Ph.D., best known for his historic discoveries of hydrothermal vents, the sunken R.M.S. Titanic, the German battleship Bismarck and more than 150 deep-sea expeditions.

The class will be taught by Melissa Baffa, who works as a development officer at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Baffa will talk about her life-changing weeks aboard the 64-meter research vessel as the Nautilus undersea rover explored deep sea hydrothermal vents off the Galapagos Islands in 2015.

Baffa applied to become a Science Communications Fellow as part of an ongoing program in which formal and informal educators are invited to join Nautilus expeditions by the Ocean Exploration Trust, which was founded by Ballard in 2008.

Baffa flew to Panama to board the Nautilus for her first expedition researching the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the sea near the Galagapos.

“We discovered a stark and forbidding landscape, a place wrought by water and fire and pressure,” she wrote in a blog she kept while in the Galapagos. “A territory inhabited by fantastic creatures, worthy of wonder.”

Baffa’s job was to keep on top of the social media and communicate with viewers all over the world on www.nautiluslive.org, which allows anyone to watch expeditions.

“I actually would man the portal where people from around the world could ask questions or comment as they are watching the live feed, like ‘what was that purple thing we just saw?’” Baffa said.

Baffa had such a wonderful time, she joined the Nautilus again in 2016 as researchers aboard dove into the ocean to study the continental shelf off of the California coast, including the sea bottom off the Channel Islands.

“We were looking for evidence of the geology of the region – paleo shorelines,” Baffa said. “Here off of California the shelf looks almost like a rug you tripped over. It’s all folded up because of our tectonic activity.”

Scheduled as part of the class will be a video link to the Nautilus that will allow students to watch an undersea dive in real time. 

“Under the Sea” is one of 40 classes in the “Summer 2017 Taste of OLLI” series, which began in June and runs through July 26. The OLLI classes, which are for adults 50 and older, cover everything from adventures under the sea, to ethical decision making to Hollywood to the power of stem cells, to name just a few of the classes.

CSUCI Extended University Program Director Nick Fuentes said many of this summer’s offerings are linked to current events.

“On June 27, we have a class on the fiscal collapse of 2008,” Fuentes said. “Carlo Ohanian will talk about how it happened and what it’s done to our economics over the past several years.”

On July 19, former Daily Express and Times of London foreign correspondent Ivor Davis

will discuss the likes of Louis B. Mayer, Sam Goldwyn, Jack Warner and Adolph Zukor, the titans of Hollywood whose names many can barely remember but whose influence endures.

“He will take it all the way up to the ‘LaLa Land’ movie,” Fuentes said. “He’s got so many anecdotes.”

Classes are $15 a piece. To attend, visit: http://go.csuci.edu/olli or call 805-437-2748.