Research Diving at WMSC

Support for Underwater Research

The Wrigley Marine Science Center (WMSC) on Catalina Island is an ideal base for underwater research, with convenient access to both temperate near-shore and open-water environments.

Located at Big Fisherman’s Cove, WMSC overlooks a marine reserve with soft, clean sediment; kelp forests; and a wide diversity of marine life. The waters just a short distance offshore are deep enough for blue-water diving. The Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber, a 24/7 emergency medical facility for diving accidents, is just steps from our dock, so you can dive with peace of mind.

All researchers must submit a Research Activities Plan and Research Diving Plan prior to their visit. Activity plans and other materials required below must be submitted at least seven days prior to your visit and approved at least 72 hours prior to your visit.

Two research divers log data on whiteboards as they swim

How to Dive with Us

Underwater research at WMSC requires active AAUS Scientific Diver certification for every member of the diving party. All divers should also review the Diving Safety Manual before arriving on Catalina Island.

USC Divers

Before submitting a dive plan, USC Divers must complete the following steps.

  1. Contact the Diving Safety Officer  (DSO) to request a copy of the USC Scientific Diver Information Form. 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 or purchase within the previous 12 months.
  2. Register in the USC Diver Database. You must log all training dives. Once you are registered, it is your responsibility to maintain relevant certifications. You may check your certification status on your database 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.
  3. Complete a checkout dive with the DSO. During your checkout dive, you’ll be required to show proficiency in:
  • Surface diving to 10 feet in open water without scuba
  • Air sharing (donor and receiver)
  • Entering and leaving open water, surf, or diving vessel while geared up
  • Surface kicking 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
  • Achieving and maintaining neutral buoyancy
  • Self and buddy rescue
  • Underwater navigation
  • Dive planning
  • Judgment adequate for safe diving

Non-USC Divers

Prior to submitting a dive plan, non-USC divers from AAUS member institutions must:

  1. Submit a letter of reciprocity (LOR) from your home institution
  2. Submit an approved dive plan from your home institution’s DSO
  3. Complete a 15-minute dive orientation upon arrival
  4. Complete a liability waiver prior to arrival at WMSC

Dive Planning and Equipment Policy

All divers must provide their own dive and research gear to conduct underwater research at WMSC. Eighty cf aluminum and steel cylinders with yoke-type and DIN valves are available. Due to the limited amount of DIN cylinders available for use, we highly recommend that you bring adapters with you. Please make sure your equipment is complete and functional prior to arrival. A limited selection of dive equipment is available locally (2 miles from 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.

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 adapter (if you use DIN valves), and a slate capable of holding an 8.5″ x 11″ data sheet.

Note: Top-side tending is required during all dive operations.

Need to Obtain Your AAUS Certification?

The Wrigley Institute is a Scuba Diving International (SDI) training facility and regularly offers AAUS Scientific Diving certification courses. These courses are open to enrollees from other institutions and to members of the public. However, preference is given to USC students and researchers, so please plan ahead.