What Is Scientific Diving

Technical dive collections in Catalina


What is Scientific Diving?

Scientific divers combine specialized expertise (examples include dive training, theory and field methodology) and tools (examples include scuba, survey tools and oceanographic instruments) to study the underwater environment. Scientific divers are observers and data gatherers whose activities may include:

  • Underwater surveys and census
  • Collection of biological samples
  • Underwater photography
  • Installation and maintenance of scientific monitoring equipment

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines Scientific Diving as “diving performed solely as a necessary part of a scientific, research, or educational activity by employees whose sole purpose for diving is to perform scientific research tasks” and regulates these activities under an exemption to the commercial diving standard [29 CFR 1910 Subpart T]. The American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) promulgates standards for the conduct of scientific diving programs and provides a forum for members to share information.

Scientists and students who wish to use diving to accomplish their research or educational objectives must meet minimum requirements for scientific divers set forth by the AAUS and detailed in the SFSU Standards for Scientific Diving Manual. These standards require that divers pass physical exams, meet additional training requirements, and maintain a sustained level of diving activity. Contact the SFSU DSO to learn more about scientific diving and how to become an SFSU scientific diver.