Informal Education Programs at the Wrigley Marine Science Center

For more information about these programs, additional program options, staff availability and fees call (310) 510-0811


Catalina's Marine Wilderness: (30-90 Minutes)
Join one of our marine scientists on a photographic tour of Catalina's underwater world. Besides learning about the denizens of Big Fisherman's Cove, you can discuss California marine life conservation issues with a local expert.

Natural History of Catalina Island: (1 Hour)
Introduces the California Channel Islands as ecological and evolutionary laboratories. Takes participants on a photo journey across Santa Catalina Island, with "stops" at natural communities and geographic settings, where they can focus on geography, climate, geology, archaeology, flora and fauna, and history.

Geology of Catalina Island: (1 Hour)
Learn about the birth of Catalina Island, while looking at the bigger picture of California's dramatic geologic past, present and future. This talk includes an animated overview of the theory of plate tectonics. Find out why Catalina's geologic past continues to influence the flora, fauna, and human exploitation of Santa Catalina Island. A walk around campus to view a wide range of geologic formations and rock types will follow the talk.

History of Catalina Island: (1 Hour)
Overviews Catalina's geologic past, early inhabitants, and Spanish explorations followed by glimpses of smugglers, the Catalina gold rush, Civil War days on the island, and the making a world-class fishing and tourist destination. Addresses the ecological changes that have occurred during the past century and current trends in conservation, education, research, tourism, and development.

Outdoor Activities

Waterfront Tour: (30 Minutes)
This informative waterfront visit with a staff biologist varies with the season and time of day. Typically it includes opportunities to see kelp bass, garibaldi and other inshore fish and sea birds in their natural habitat, and informed observations of leopard shark aggregations. It can be customized and expanded to include additional group activities such as kelp holdfast dissections, a plankton tow (followed by a microscope lab), or the use of basic seawater sampling equipment.

Touch Tank Treasures: (30 Minutes)
A marine biologist will be your guide during this "hands-on" visit to our interpretive center. You will meet close up and personal many of the creatures that inhabit Catalina's watery realm.

Blue Cavern Nature Walk: (1 Hour)
Accompany one of our naturalists on a .7-mile walk across Blue Cavern Ridge and learn a bit about Catalina's flora, fauna, geology and archeology. The focus here is on touch, taste, smell, hearing and observing.

Two Harbors Nature and History Walk: (1-2 Hour)
This natural history walk across Catalina's isthmus provides a glimpse of the lives and times of early island inhabitants, ancient maritime explorers, pirates, treasure hunters, moviemakers, resort moguls and conservationists. It will conclude with a visit to the only significant salt flat on the Channel Islands.

Deer Valley Trail: (1 Hour)
See Catalina’s native flora and fauna in this guided nature hike. Starting at the Wrigley Marine Science Center, the Deer Valley Trail was recently completed by USC faculty and students and is 0.6 miles in distance with 530 feet of elevation.  Take in the ocean views from the top and learn about the unique native and invasive species that make up the chaparral biome of Catalina Island. Download the Deer Valley Trail Pamphlet as a PDF.

Beach Investigations: (2-3 Hours)
Students will visit three types of beaches at the isthmus - rocky, sandy and muddy - where they will be introduced to various sampling activities. These activities include mud coring and setting up transects and using quadrats to estimate the variety and number of marine species present. Additional activities that can be arranged include profiling beach slope, taking part in a beach cleanup and doing a beach seine to sample inshore fish species.


Plankton Lab: (1-2 Hour)
Following a plankton-collecting foray in Big Fisherman's Cove, a short explanation will be given in the laboratory about plankton and oceanographic phenomenon. Each participant will then have a chance to observe the catch under a dissecting microscope under the guidance of a marine biologist. In addition, a monitor will be set up so your whole group can simultaneously observe and learn about specific features of the plankton.

Dissection Lab: (1-2 Hour)
Learn about the specialized anatomy of a marine species that allows it to thrive in its particular marine niche. Specimens vary depending on availability. Typical subjects include sharks, fish, squid, and kelp holdfasts.

Seaweed Lab: (1 Hour)
Learn to identify and professionally mount marine alga specimens using the same techniques as our marine scientists. Each student will prepare several "masterpieces" to take home. Besides being of scientific interest, the same technique may also be used to make attractive wall hangings and greeting cards. The types of seaweed available vary seasonally.

Note: Because drying time of the specimens can take up to three days and require twice daily changing of blotters, this workshop is best done with groups who are on site for several days. However, we can supply makeshift alga presses that can be kept by the student. In that case it would be up to the students to change the blotters at home.


Lab Tour: (60 - 90 Minutes)
This introduction to Wrigley Marine Science Center includes an overview of our history, mission, activities, and current research, followed by a visit to the touch tanks. On request, a tour of the Catalina hyperbaric chamber may also be arranged. Please let us know if you would also like the gift shop opened during your visit.

Van Tours: (1 Hour to All Day Tours Available)
Accompany a naturalist on a general natural history tour to Catalina's interior. You will visit plant communities, geological and archaeological sites, and historic locations not seen by most visitors. Additional options may include a visit to the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy's nature center at the airport or a horse show at the Wrigley's Arabian horse ranch. A popular option is to also include a picnic stop at a scenic beach.

These types of tours may also be tailored or specialized to your particular group's interests or needs.

Hyperbaric Chamber Tour: (30 - 45 Minutes)
A member of the hyperbaric chamber crew will give a talk on hyperbaric and diving accidents and give you a tour of the inside of the chamber. Ample time is given for questions and answers. This tour is appropriate for general audiences of all ages.


Fish Printing: (60+ Minutes)
Learn the Japanese art of fish printing. May be done on paper or on fabric. Those wishing to print a T-shirt are asked to bring a pre-washed shirt and fabric paints.

Nature Printing: (60+ Minutes)
Nature printing is similar to fish printing, but where shells, plants, feathers and other natural materials are used in lieu of fish. This may be combined with fish printing.

Soapstone Carving: (2-3 Hours)
In the tradition of the early inhabitants of Santa Catalina Island, the participants will learn to carve a soapstone "masterpiece" that can be taken home. All materials are included. This activity incorporates an overview of Catalina archeology and geology.


For more information about these programs, additional program options, staff availability and fees call (310) 510-0811.