LMU professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science John Dorsey, grew up in Long Beach and spent a good deal of his time near the water, often watching surfers. Eventually, he learned to surf himself, beginning a fifty-seven year (and counting) love affair with the sport. Luckily, Dorsey’s fascination with water led him to a career that allows for plenty of hours on the coast and for surfing in his down time.
Much of Dorsey’s career, starting with his academic studies, has been spent protecting the water and marine life he loves so much. His studies at California State University, Long Beach, where he received a B.S. in Marine Biology and an M.S. in Biology, took him to the naval base on San Clemente Island where he studied the effects of pollution on marine organisms. He later traveled all the way to Australia’s University of Melbourne for a Ph.D. in Zoology. There, he worked in Port Phillip Bay, studying the effects of a sewage treatment farm on offshore organisms.
After returning from Melbourne, Dorsey began his work with the City of Los Angeles,Bureau of Sanitation (BOS) where worked for twenty years. Initially, he conducted research for the Bureau, collecting water samples, studying marine communities, and conducting water quality analyses, all for the purpose of understanding the impact of effluent discharge in the Santa Monica Bay. During this time, the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant was rebuilt to comply with clean water requirements, so Dorsey and his fellow biologists at Hyperion were able to record just how rapidly the water and marine communities in the Bay improved after compliance. From 1998 – 2002, Dorsey focused on storm water management at the LADWP, and in 2002, he started at LMU as a full-time professor.
During his time at the City of Los Angeles, Dorsey also taught part-time at LMU (1985-2002). He focused on teaching students environmental laboratory and field tests along with marine pollution issues.
This kind of industry experience is common among LMU professors in the Department of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, and according to Dorsey is part of what makes the university so special.
“The students get a big dose of real world experience,” said Dorsey. Dorsey has done several years of research involving multiple students, and has enjoyed watching them get hands-on experience. “You get to see the light bulbs click on when they finally get it.”
One of Dorsey’s most rewarding projects at LMU is his work with the Coastal Research Institute, a partnership between the LMU Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering and the Bay Foundation (an arm of the Santa Monica Bay Estuaries Program). The institute involves student interns and faculty fellows, Dorsey included, in projects that aim to protect or restore aspects of the Santa Monica Bay and surrounding watersheds.
Dorsey has so far enjoyed a rich career filled with engaging research, lively student interactions, and plenty of surfing in his off-time. When he’s not surfing, lecturing, or researching, you might find Dorsey enjoying breakfast at a local beach dive or introducing his brand new granddaughter to the joys of the water.