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Exploring the Three Seas as a student and a teacher

by Gwen Schanker, Journalism and Biology, 2018

Liz Magee took her first scuba diving class in her sophomore year at Northeastern University. Before then, she hadn’t given much thought to a career in diving. Today, she wouldn’t think of doing anything else.

Magee graduated with a BS in Biology in 2008 and took part in the 22nd year of Northeastern’s Three Seas Program. After receiving her Scuba Instructor Certification from the Catalina Island Marine Institute, Magee returned to Boston to work at the New England Aquarium. After a year, she began working at Northeastern as the Diving Safety Officer before accepting a full-time position as Three Seas Program Coordinator.

Liz Bentley Magee

Liz Magee

While Magee’s home base is at the Marine Science Center in Nahant, she’s usually traveling with the Three Seas students. She’s spent the past few months dividing her time between the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Bocas del Toro, Panama and the Friday Harbor Laboratories at the University of Washington.

“I feel like I’ve got the coolest job at Northeastern,” Magee said. “I travel all year, I work with enthusiastic students, and I get to dive almost every day.”

Magee is certified as a scientific diver, so her focus is on diving for research endeavors. Last year, she participated in Mission 31, an underwater expedition led by Fabian Cousteau, grandson of well-known undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau. For 31 days, Magee lived with a small group of scientists in an underwater laboratory called Aquarius, where she conducted research on ocean floor habitats.

“It was probably one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever been a part of,” Magee said of the expedition, which also included MSC professors Brian Helmuth and Mark Patterson.

As a result of her participation in Mission 31, Magee received the 2015 Diver of the Year award from United Divers, a scuba diving training and retail store in Somerville that she worked at as an undergrad and which she maintains a strong relationship with today. The shop, which is the largest of its kind in New England, holds an annual banquet to pay homage to key members of the surrounding diving community.

“To be recognized for my efforts in diving is really incredible,” Magee said of the award. “I hope to continue to participate in collaborative efforts like Mission 31 and to spread the word about ocean conservation and awareness.”

Magee traces her passion for diving back to her participation in the Three Seas Program more than 10 years ago, and she couldn’t be happier to have found her way back to the MSC.

“I started at Northeastern as a student, and now I’m working at the university that shaped my life,” Magee said. “I get to teach the class that I taught ten years ago, which is really fun. I feel very lucky to still be a part of Northeastern.”

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