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Department of Geography


Double major a great decision

Combining his interest in marine science with geography, Sean McGill found a double major ended up being a great decision for him

The ocean has always been a major part of Sean McGill’s life. Born and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia — where he learned to surf and was a beach lifeguard for almost a decade — Sean was regularly found either at the ocean or on the Chesapeake Bay regardless of the season.

Coming to the University of South Carolina to study marine science, Sean took GEOG 516 (Coastal Zone Management) with Dr. Jean Ellis during his second year here. He then began working in her lab and became more involved with the Geography Department.  After helping with the 2017 Great American Solar Eclipse and working with some of the geography graduate students and professors, he added geography as a second major. “I was surprised that I was going to be able to complete a second major during my last year as an undergraduate,” McGill said, “but this ended up being a great decision for my academic career.”

“The geography curriculum allowed me to take a wide variety of classes,” he noted, “however I tried to take classes that would complement what I learned in my marine science classes. I took two GIS classes with Dr. Zhenlong Li, which taught me how to better use ArcGIS to work with survey data that shows beach erosion from strong storms like hurricanes. With Dr. Susan Wang, I learned about the basics of remote sensing and how this can be applied to monitor sea surface temperatures, algae blooms, and wave heights. I even got class credit for working with 5th grade students to design, implement, and conduct several experiments using weather balloons.” 

He particularly appreciated how easy the geography curriculum made it to take classes that had practical applications to what he was learning in his marine science classes and to real-world issues he might face in his career.

In fact, the usefulness of geography led him to begin graduate school this semester in USC’s Department of Geography, where, he believes, combining his interests in marine science and geography will set him up for success.