Pinstripes and flippers: UVic grad student takes academia underwater

Education, Graduate Studies

- Suzanne Ahearne

Irvine. Photo: UVic Photo Services

When University of Victoria grad student Mike Irvine appears before a panel of academics to defend his master’s project—the penultimate step before graduation—he’ll look the part of the young professional wearing a pinstriped suit. Except that under it, he’ll be wearing his wetsuit.

And to present his research evidence about how underwater cameras and live-streaming technology will revolutionize ocean education, Irvine will don flippers and a high-tech communications mask and leap into the Salish Sea to defend his thesis underwater.

As far as Irvine knows, UVic will be the first university anywhere to pull off a live-streaming, ocean-to-surface, webcast thesis defence. His advisors will be listening and talking to him via video conferencing on a 32-inch screen on the dock. Anyone in the world will be able to follow it live via YouTube.

Blending science and education with a touch of improv theatre, the 27-year-old, third-generation scuba diver will showcase what he calls a new way of connecting with the ocean. His graduate research in the Faculty of Education focused on how underwater cameras motivate students to ask more questions and become more informed about human impacts on the ocean.

Irvine says the impact of his research comes from where he’s taking it. He has brought together UVic ocean scientists, students, dive industry technicians (his father being one of them), teachers, engineers and tech enthusiasts to co-found the Fish Eye Project, a not-for-profit organization using innovative technology to build ocean awareness.

“My hope is that this will bridge the extensive gap between the ocean and the public, that we can connect people to a world we hardly know,” he says.

“We normally require an oral defence to take place on campus, but we think Mike’s research is so innovative we’re making an exception in this case. Defending his work underwater dramatically shows us how his creative use of technology will help to connect students with an ocean environment,” says David Capson, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Jason Price, Irvine’s supervisor, will be on site; co-supervisor Mijung Kim will be in attendance via teleconference from Alberta; David Blade will be in attendance via teleconference from UVic.

Irvine’s underwater defence was webcast live via YouTube from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, April 20: Beneath the Waves. (Webcast begins at minute 14:40 in the video below.)


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Keywords: education, curriculum and instruction, alumni, graduate research

People: Mike Irvine

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