Scientific Diving Operations

Diving and Boating Safety Officers: Clint Collins clintc [at] (clintc[at]stanford[dot]edu),  Freya Sommer freya [at] (freya[at]stanford[dot]edu)




Stanford University's Scientific Diving Program is based at Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, 90 miles south of Stanford on the southern shore of Monterey Bay.


Stanford has been an organizational member of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) since 1985. The AAUS Standards for Scientific Diving have been used as minimal guidelines for the development of Stanford University's scientific diving standards. The standards for diving safety, training, experience, and certification outlined in Stanford's Diving Safety Manual are designed to ensure that all diving under the auspices of Stanford University is conducted in a manner that will maximize protection of divers from accidental injury and/or illness while furthering research, education and safety, and to allow a working reciprocity between Stanford University and other institutions with scientific diving programs whose standards meet or exceed those of the AAUS. Learn about the OSHA exemption for scientific diving.

For current Stanford Scientific Divers:

Being an active diver in an AAUS scientific diving program requires a considerable amount of effort, planning, and commitment on the part of the diver. The Diving Safety Officer can issue reminders and offer necessary training, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the individual diver to stay current in the program. Please see the requirements for maintenance of active diving status in the Additional Diving Information section below.

Who can join the program:

Stanford students, faculty and staff intending to dive for Stanford research or coursework are eligible to join the Scientific Diving Program.

How to join:

If you have not been trained and certified according to AAUS standards or equivalent, you will need to meet certain requirements to join the program and begin training for scientific diver certification. Please allow sufficient time to complete prerequisites, training and certification before any planned underwater research -- depending on your initial qualifications, this could take several months.

If you are currently a scientific diver in active status with another AAUS program, or were active within the past 2 years, please see requirements in the Additional Diving Information section below. 


For 2023, scientific diver training will be offered as part of the 5-week summer class 185H. We are also trying to arrange a Scientific Diver Training course for September/October 2023. Details will be posted as they are worked out.


Additional Diving Information

Current Stanford Scientific Divers - Maintaining Active Status

It is the responsibility of the scientific diver to maintain active status by meeting requirements and filing paperwork in a timely fashion, whether or not reciprocity is needed. Divers who are withdrawn from active status for any reason may not dive under the auspices of Stanford University without checking with the DSO. If the only reason for a diver being in sustaining status is lack of sufficient diving activity, "proficiency" dives may be made with DSO authorization. Any other reason for lack of active status requires correction prior to any diving activity. Reciprocity letters will not be issued for divers who are not in active status. Please plan accordingly.

Maintaining active scientific diver status:

The WebDiver online logging and diver data system in place since January 2015 provides divers with a simple means of tracking their status, as well as the status of their potential dive teams. Divers must:

  • Submit a scientific diving plan for any Stanford scientific diving activity. A dive plan must be turned in to the DSO before requesting reciprocity to dive with another institution. Please use the WebDiver system for creating, submitting, and revising dive plans.
  • Make sure all paperwork is up-to-date before requesting reciprocity. Last-minute requests might not be accommodated.
  • Keep your First Aid, CPR, and Oxygen Provider training current as per the training agencies. DAN DFA Pro includes all of these and is good for 2 years, and is offered by the DSO at Hopkins 2-3 times per year as needed, 3 students minimum.
  • Scientific divers must log a minimum of 12 dives per year, with at least one dive in a six-month period. In addition, maintaining depth certifications beyond 60’ requires at least one dive in a six-month period to a depth near that certification level. Please see the DSO if you need to get more dives in; proficiency dives can usually be arranged. However, do not leave this until the last minute if you are requesting reciprocity.
  • Dive logs must be submitted at least monthly using the WebDiver system. PLEASE FOLLOW LOGGING INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER! If you have any questions, please ask the DSO.
  • Renew diving physical every 5 years (if under 40 years old); every 3 years (40 and over); every 2 years (60 and over).
  • Have your regulator (including alternate air sources) & BC overhauled (this means service kits to replace seats, springs, O-rings etc. for regulators, and functional testing with replacement of any worn or malfunctioning parts on BCs); and cylinders visually inspected at least annually and submit a copy of the receipts to the DSO.
  • All Stanford scientific divers and scientific divers-in-training are required to hold current Divers Alert Network (DAN) dive accident insurance (any level). Submit current DAN card copy to the DSO as a PDF (available from your DAN account).
  • Report any diving injury or incident to the DSO as soon as possible, and submit an Injury/Incident Report within 72 hours of the event.

Stanford scientific diver status is terminated with the diver's departure from Stanford. The diver may request that copies of records be sent to another diving program for consideration by the new DSO.

For further information, please see the Stanford Diving Safety Manual and the AAUS Standards for Scientific Diving. When in doubt, check with the DSO.

Divers in Active Status with another AAUS Program

Joining the Program through Reciprocity

Divers from other AAUS programs wishing to transfer to Stanford's scientific diving program should ask their previous Diving Safety Officer to send a letter of reciprocity and/or verification of training and copies of current paperwork and recent dive logs to Stanford's Diving Safety Officer at Hopkins Marine Station, Pacific Grove, CA 93950.

The transferring diver must file a Stanford scuba waiver and will be asked to complete an application to Stanford's scientific diving program on WebDiver. All AAUS paperwork requirements must be current; contact the DSO for information about renewing a diving physical exam, servicing dive gear, or updating safety training. Depending on the transferring diver's previous experience and training, an open-water check out may be required as part of an orientation dive. Skills to be evaluated are described in the AAUS Standards for Scientific Diving and in the Stanford Diving Safety Manual.

Visiting Diver Procedures (for courses/research at Hopkins)

Diving Safety Officers, please make sure that assistant DSOs, administrative assistants, instructors, and anyone else who might be involved with bringing or sending divers to Hopkins Marine Station are aware of the following procedures:

For visiting classes:
(Group Maximum = 20 divers, unless certain conditions are met - contact the Diving Safety Officer for details)

1) Please submit a Hopkins Use F
orm, with course description & dive schedule, names of instructors, start & end dates, and why it is important to conduct the dive(s) in the Refuge. (Advance notice: at least two weeks).

2) Please submit an accurate list of all divers, including instructors & TAs, with DSO confirmation that all are scientific divers or scientific divers-in-training.

3) Please have all divers fill out waivers completely and legibly. These must match the list of divers.

For individual visiting divers:

1) Please submit a Hopkins Use Form (At least two weeks ahead of anticipated start date, to allow time for Refuge committee review/approval). Work in the Refuge may not be started until approval notification has been given by the DSO/Refuge Manager. The dive plan submitted to the visiting diver's own DSO should form the basis of the Refuge Use request.

2) Please submit a letter from the DSO verifying current scientific diver status of diver(s) (reciprocity letter: LOR).

3) Please submit a waiver for each diver in the project. Waivers are good within each calendar year - no need for an individual to submit a waiver for every visit. (Waiver should be submitted with Hopkins use form, or as soon as possible before first dive day).

Additional Notes:

Waivers: please use the current versions of the required forms. When photocopying or printing waivers, please make sure that the text is legible. Waivers need to be filled out completely and legibly. Divers who submit incomplete or illegible waivers will not be permitted to dive from Hopkins.

Dive lockers: Rinse gear on pad so that all runoff enters drain. Keep the dive lockers and surrounding area tidy. Please remove wetsuits outside; don't track sand into showers. Please make sure to take only your own gear when packing up to leave.

Parking: Please do not park in driveway that leads to rinse pad. Gear may be dropped off, but vehicles must be moved and parked elsewhere.


Stanford University Scientific Free Diving Requirements and Standards

Individuals planning to use free diving (i.e. breath-holding as the sole means to make excursions below the water’s surface) as their mode of data collection or observation must meet the following free diving standards and must have had specific free diver training/orientation.

Participant qualifications:

Must be medically fit for free diving (see Free Diving Medical History Form)

Must be current in CPR, First Aid, and Emergency Oxygen provision

Must demonstrate watermanship skills including:

  • Swim underwater without swim aids for a distance of 25 yards without surfacing
  • Swim 400 yards in less than 12 minutes without swim aids
  • Tread water for 10 minutes without swim aids
  • Rescue and transport another person of equal size a distance of 25 yards while simulating rescue breathing
  • Appropriate weighting for free diving
  • Enter and exit water from shore and vessel
  • Clear face mask and snorkel
  • Perform effective surface dive
  • Perform safe ascent, clear snorkel with blast and displacement methods, resume breathing without lifting face from water
  • Inflate and deflate vest
  • Ditch and recover weight belt in at least 8’ of water

Procedural Standards:


  • Divers must objectively evaluate their own level of personal fitness and swimming/diving ability and experience, as well as the nature of the task, prior to entering the water. Individuals should exercise good judgment and err on the side of caution when they judge conditions and/or tasks to be near or beyond the limits of their ability and experience. A diver may refuse to dive, without fear of penalty, whenever they feel it is unsafe for them to make the dive. It is the individual’s responsibility and duty to refuse to dive if, in their judgment, conditions are unsafe or unfavorable, or if they would be violating the precepts of their training
  • A “lead diver” shall be designated for the free diving team. It is the lead diver’s responsibility to compile emergency contact information for all participants, and to create and submit to the Diving Safety Office a Free Diving Plan in advance of the project, which includes details of the work to be done, personnel involved, anticipated hazards and mitigation measures, and a detailed emergency management plan.
  • A first aid kit and oxygen kit must be readily available at every dive site.
  • Divers must be weighted such that they are slightly positively buoyant at the surface and can achieve positive buoyancy at any time by dropping their weights. The use of a free diving vest is strongly encouraged, for visibility as well as in case of diver fatigue.
  • Any weights used must be in a standard quick-release ditchable configuration.
  • Always use the buddy system, 1 up/1 down (i.e. only one team member submerged at a time, with the buddy acting as safety diver at the surface). Buddies should be comparably equipped and skilled.
  • Do not free dive when water conditions prohibit constant visual contact between divers. Free dive during daylight hours only.
  • Monitor local weather forecasts and be aware of changing weather and water conditions.
  • Be aware of and monitor vessel traffic in the area of operations. Use a dive flag or float.
  • Follow safe pre-dive breathing procedures; do not hyperventilate.
  • Limit free diving tasks/activities to observation only, avoid excessive work, tasks, or equipment loading. Consider having trained and authorized personnel use scuba for tasks beyond the safe limits of free diving.
  • Take appropriate rest intervals between dives.
  • Do not free dive after any compressed-air diving activity.
  • Each diver must carry an easily-accessible cutting implement in case of entanglement.
Dive Planning and Weather Reports

Typical Diving Conditions in the Monterey Area

about 10°-15° C (typically coldest in the spring when upwelling follows prolonged NW winds)

from a couple of feet to over 50' depending on time of year and location (pea soup during plankton blooms resulting from upwelling + sunshine; often clear in the fall and in winter between storms, but turbid after rain run-off and wave action; can be spectacular at Carmel Bay dive sites, especially when oceanic water is close to shore).

Typical diving depths:
from about 20' to 60' feet in kelp beds inside the bay, and deeper (75'-100') at reefs beyond the kelp (e.g. Hopkins Deep Reef); the kelp beds off Cabrillo Point, where Hopkins is situated, are found on granite substrate to a depth of about 60'. Carmel bay kelp beds along the shore are found on rocky substrate as deep as 70'-80', while the Pinnacles off 17 Mile Drive start in about 60' and drop off to 120' +.

Waves and Currents:
Currents are not usually a problem, although they are occasionally strong at offshore sites such as Yankee Point, Pinnacles, and sometimes even Deep Reef. Wind waves and surge can be significant at certain times of the year, especially at exposed locations, and on the open coast conditions can deteriorate very rapidly with little warning.

Additional Weather Resources

Cabrillo Point Wave Buoy (CDIP)
CDIP/SIO Experimental Monterey Bay Swell Forecast
Monterey Tides
NWS Marine Weather- Monterey Bay (Monterey Bay marine forecast)
NWS Marine Weather- South of Pt. Pinos (incl. Carmel Bay)
NWS Coastal Marine Zone forecasts
Ocean Water Quality 
Weekly Acoustic Buoy Feeds Hopkins and MBARI

Local Dive Emergency and Shark Protocols, incident/accident reporting

Dive Emergency Protocols

A diving accident victim could be any person who has been breathing air underwater regardless of depth. It is essential that emergency procedures are pre-planned and that medical treatment is initiated as soon as possible. It is the responsibility of each AAUS organizational member to develop procedures for diving emergencies including evacuation and medical treatment for each dive location.


Depending on the nature of the diving accident, stabilize the patient, administer as high a concentration of oxygen as possible, contact local Emergency Medical System (EMS) for transport to medical facility, contact diving accident coordinator, as appropriate. Explain the circumstances of the dive incident to the evacuation teams, medics and physicians. Do not assume that they understand why oxygen may be required for the diving accident victim or that recompression treatment may be necessary.

· Make appropriate contact with victim, or rescue as required.
· Establish , (C)irculation, (A)irway, (B)reathing as required.
· Administer oxygen at as high a concentration as possible.
· Call local Emergency Medical System (EMS) for transport to nearest medical treatment facility.
. Call DAN (919) 684 9111
· Notify Diving Safety Officer or his/her designee.
· Complete and submit Diving Injury/Incident Report to the DCB


Planning for emergencies:

  • Know the nearest phone location at each shore site (a cell phone is recommended if a public phone is not near the dive site). Make sure public phones work and that cell phones have charge and reception.
  • Have a VHF radio on board for boat diving, and make sure it works before leaving.
  • Have an oxygen system and first aid kit on site, and personnel trained to use them. Check kits prior to diving. At Hopkins, a kit should always be on the table inside the dive lockers. The Hopkins AED is located in the main office at the front of the Boatworks. Visiting divers are responsible for bringing their own emergency equipment.
  • Have a beach master or boat tender present whenever possible.

EMS activation:

  • In case of a diving emergency: call 911. From HMS office phones, dial 9-911.
  • If on the water with a marine VHF radio, call the Coast Guard on Channel 16.
  • If possible, send someone to the Hopkins main gate to meet EMS and direct them to the appropriate location.

Local emergency protocol requires the diver to be evaluated at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP, 23625 Holman Highway) before referral to a recompression chamber. The nearest chamber is located at 600 Pine Ave. in Pacific Grove, but DO NOT transport divers there directly as chamber personnel are not present until CHOMP arranges for treatment of the patient.

If feasible note the condition of the diver and details of the events leading up to the accident, including dive profiles. Report any diving-related accident/injury to the DSO and the Hopkins administrator/station manager as soon as possible, within 24 hours of occurrence. Submit the Stanford University incident/accident reporting form  Incident Report (eSU-17) – Stanford Environmental Health & Safety as well as the AAUS incident report found in Stanford's Diving Safety Manual.


Follow local procedures as detailed in the diving accident management plan for evacuation and medical treatment established as part of the Scientific Diving Plan.

Shark Activity Dive Procedures

When there is evidence of shark activity at or near a dive site it is recommended that diving operations be cancelled for the day. Extreme circumstances may call for restriction of research diving activity in the area over several days. Notification will be made to divers by e-mail and posted in the Hopkins dive lockers.

When subsequent diving at the site and in adjacent areas is necessary, it is advisable to incorporate as many of the recommendations listed below as operationally possible:

  • Do not dive in areas with recent shark activity (sightings or attacks)
  • Utilize boats whenever possible rather than surface swimming.
  • All divers, boat operators and shore contacts should be made aware of the inherent hazards associated with operations during times of shark activity and be especially attentive to surroundings during the operations. Pay attention to marine mammal behavior. Avoid diving in poor visibility or near fishing activity.
  • All boat operations should have a person on the boat at all times that can render immediate aid (bring an injured diver into the boat and provide first aid) and should be able to operate all aspects of the vessel. Emergency procedures and diver recall strategies should be discussed prior to departure. Cell phone as well as VHF radio, O2 kit and first aid kit should be on board. Boats should be anchored well into the kelp bed - avoid anchoring in open water.
  • Surface and midwater swimming should be minimized. Know compass headings back to the anchor line and to shore. Make sure you have enough air to navigate underwater to your exit point. If the situation dictates a direct ascent to the surface, do not make a safety stop but ascend as slowly as you safely can with your buddy. Be prepared to enter the vessel as quickly as possible, ditching BC and weight belt if necessary.
  • Buddy teams should stay within touching distance at all times, especially on the surface.
  • As is always the case, divers need to assess the risk of each dive and make their own decision as to their ability to safely conduct the dive. Any diver may refuse to make a dive, even if their decision will lead to the cancellation of the day's activities.