USC Scientific Diving Program


About the Program:

The Wrigley Marine Science Center (WMSC) on Catalina Island is an ideal base for underwater research with convenient access to both temperate nearshore and open water environments. Situated in Big Fisherman's Cove, a nearby marine life refuge established in 1989 offers soft clean sediment, kelp forests and a wide diversity of marine life. The waters just a short distance offshore are deep enough for excellent blue-water diving.

The USC Wrigley Institute conducts a university dive program in accordance with the standards set forth by the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS). USC is an AAUS Organizational Member and recognizes dive certifications from other AAUS organizational members through reciprocity.

Underwater research at the WMSC requires active AAUS Scientific Diver certification for every member of the diving party.

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How to Dive with the USC Scientific Diving Program

Our current Diving Safety Manual is available here

USC Divers:

The following steps are required for USC Scientific Divers to dive with our program:

  1. Research at the Wrigley Marine Science Center and within the marine refuge must be approved by the Diving Safety Officer (DSO), Eric Castillo and the WMSC Laboratory Manager, Lauren Oudin. Applicants must fill out a Research Activity Plan.
  2. Complete and submit the online USC Scientific Diver Information Form to the USC DSO. This form requires divers to provide proof of the following: Scuba medical clearance, SCUBA certification, DAN (or equivalent) dive medical insurance, CPR, AED, First Aid and O2 certification, and proof of gear service within the previous 12 months or a purchase receipt within the previous 12 months.
  3. Register in the USC Diver Database. USC scientific divers are required to log their 2013 and 2014 dives.  Once registered and activated, it is the diver’s responsibility to maintain their certifications.  Divers may check their certification expiration via their profile page. All certifications and dive logs must be current before dive plans will be considered for approval. If there are any questions, please contact the DSO.
  4. All USC divers must complete a check out dive with the DSO. Check out dives are regularly scheduled at the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina (1st Thursday of the month) or on the mainland (2nd Saturday of the month at Redondo Beach Veterans Park), or at other times of convenience to the diver. Please contact the DSO to schedule your check out dive.

    During your check out dive, you will be required to show proficiency in the following skills:

    • Surface dive to 10 feet in open water without scuba
    • Air sharing (donor and receiver)
    • Enter and leave open water, surf or diving vessel while geared up
    • Surface kick 400 yards in scuba gear, but while not breathing on scuba
    • Maneuverability at and below the surface
    • Simulated emergency swimming ascent
    • Mask and regulator clearing while submerged
    • Achieve and maintain neutral buoyancy
    • Self- and buddy rescue
    • Underwater navigation
    • Dive planning
    • Judgment adequate for safe diving

Once you are current in all your requirements, you may submit your Dive Plan online. Checkout dive plans should be submitted for approval at least seven days prior to planned dive operations (please contact the DSO directly if your plans necessitate a faster turnaround time). All other Dive plans must be submitted online and receive approval from the DSO at least 24 hours prior to dive operations.

The following steps are required for Non-USC Scientific Divers from other AAUS organizational members to dive with our program:

  1. Research at the Wrigley Marine Science Center and within the marine refuge must be approved by the Diving Safety Officer (DSO), Eric Castillo and the WMSC Laboratory Manager, Lauren Oudin. The online Research Activity Plan is available here, and our current Diving Safety Manual is available here.
  2. Please submit the following to the USC DSO:
    Letter of Reciprocity (LOR)
    Approved Dive Plan from your DSO. LORs and Dive Plans must be submitted and receive approval from the USC DSO at least 24 hours prior to the dive operation.
  3. All divers conducting scientific dive operations at the Wrigley Marine Science Center are required to log all dives on the USC Scientific Diver Database. Please contact the USC DSO for Registration instructions. Registration is required prior to arrival and dive authorization.
  4. Complete a Dive Orientation Briefing on arrival (15 minutes)

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Dive Planning and Equipment Policy

All divers must provide their own dive gear to conduct underwater research at the Wrigley Marine Science Center. 80 cf aluminum and steel cylinders with yoke-type and DIN valves are available. Due to the limited amount of DIN cylinders available for use, adapters are highly recommended. Please be sure your equipment is complete and functional prior to arrival. A limited selection of dive equipment is available locally (2 miles from the WMSC) at the Two Harbors Dive and Recreation Center.

The following equipment is required:

A mask, snorkel, fins, appropriate exposure protection (wet or dry), weight belt and weights, regulator with redundant second stage (also known as an "octopus"), buoyancy compensator, pressure gauge, depth gauge, timing device, compass, an audible signaling device, a safety sausage and a cutting tool.

All divers will be issued a dive data recorder (Blue Buddy). Divers are required to carry this data recorder on all dive operations conducted under the auspices of USC.

The following equipment is recommended:

A dive computer, save-a-dive kit, calculator, extra pencils, dive light, marker lights for night dives, DIN to yoke adaptor (if you use DIN valves) and a slate capable of holding an 8.5" x 11" data sheet.

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Classes, Events, and Opportunities to Dive

Interested in becoming an AAUS Scientific Diver?

The USC Wrigley Institute offers non-credit courses in Scientific Diving on Catalina Island. Please click here for a the 2016 AAUS Scientific Diving Course page or contact the DSO for further information. The 2016 USC Scientific Diver Class is now closed. Please contact the DSO if you have any questions.

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The USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island is the heart of the USC Scientific Diving Program. Please click here for information on our research and teaching facilities.

Small boats: A fleet of small boats is available to students and researchers for access to study sites in the Big Fisherman's Cove marine reserve. Please contact Trevor Oudin ( for further information, and click here for a copy of our Boating Safety Manual.

Hyperbaric Chamber: The USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber is an emergency medical facility on Catalina Island for the treatment of scuba diving accidents. The chamber facilities are on the waterfront of the Wrigley Marine Science Center and adjacent to a helipad that is licensed for day or night helicopter landings. The chamber itself is large enough to treat several patients at once and provides enough room for staff and volunteers to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and advanced life support for patients who arrive in cardiac arrest.

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Rates and Fees

Rates and Fees: All information on charges for diving and related costs (housing, meals, transportation to the island) at the Wrigley Marine Science Center are available here. Please contact Karen Erickson for questions regards rates, fees and availability.

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Forms and Downloads

The following forms may be accessed through the USC Diver Database:

  • Scientific Diver Annual Verification Dive Form
  • AAUS Medical Form
  • Annual Gear Service Verification Form
  • USC Dive Safety Manual

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Eric Castillo
Diving Safety Officer
Phone: (310) 510-4022
Fax: (310) 510-1364
Cell: (714) 659-1448 (For Emergency use only)

David Ginsburg
ENST Program Assistant Diving Safety Officer
Phone: (213) 740-8576
Fax: (213) 740-8566

Lauren Oudin
WMSC Laboratory Manager (for approval of research plan)
Phone: (310) 510-4002
Fax: (310) 510-1364

Karen Erickson
Wrigley Marine Science Center Transportation and Reservations
Phone: (310) 510-0811
Fax: (310) 510-1364

Karl Huggins
USC Hyperbaric Chamber Director
Phone: (310) 510-4020
Fax: (310) 510-1364

Gordon Boivin
Marine Operations Manager
Phone:  (213) 700-4508
Fax: (310) 510-1364

Trevor Oudin
Boating Safety Officer
Phone:  (310) 510-4024
Fax: (310) 510-1364

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USC Diver Database

Scholarships and Funding Opportunities

American Academy of Underwater Sciences

Scientific Small Boating Association

Associated USC Academic Partners

Local Weather/Tidal Conditions

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