Section 4.00 – Scientific Diver Certification And Authorizations

This section describes the training and performance standards for AAUS Scientific Divers and represent the minimum required level of knowledge and skills presented in a generalized format.  Individual diving programs are encouraged to expand upon and augment these requirements, develop or utilize appropriate educational materials, and optimize instructional programs to suit and reflect their specific needs.

4.10 Prerequisites


The candidate must complete all administrative and legal documentation required by the MBL.

Entry Level Diver Certification

The candidate must, at minimum, show documented proof of Diver Certification or equivalent from an internationally recognized training agency.  OMs who wish to train and certify entry level divers may do so under the standards of the most current version of the RSTC/WRSTC and/or ISO entry-level diver standards.  Entry level diver training is a prerequisite to scientific diver training and therefore no part of entry level training may be counted in any way toward scientific diver training.

1 “Minimum Course Content for Open Water Diver Certification”- World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC),

2 “Safety related minimum requirements for the training of recreational scuba divers — Part 2: Level 2 — Autonomous diver”.  ISO 24801-2:2007- International Organization for Standardization (ISO) –

Medical Examination

The candidate must be medically qualified for diving as described in Section 5.0 and Appendices 1-4 of this Manual. AAUS medical standards may not be waived.

Swimming/Watermanship Evaluation

The candidate must demonstrate the following in the presence of the DSO or designee.  All tests are to be performed without swim aids.  However, where exposure protection is needed, the candidate must be appropriately weighted to provide for neutral buoyancy.

  • a) Swim underwater for a distance of 25 yards (23 meters) without surfacing.
  • b) Swim 400 yards (366 meters) in less than 12 minutes.
  • c) Tread water for 10 minutes, or 2 minutes without the use of hands.
  • d) Transport a passive person of equal size a distance of 25 yards (23 meters) in the water.

4.20 Training

The candidate must successfully complete prerequisites, theoretical aspects, practical training, and examinations for a minimum cumulative time of 100 hours and a minimum of 12 open water dives.  Theoretical aspects must include principles and activities appropriate to the intended area of scientific study.  Formats for meeting the 100 hour training requirement include the OM’s developed formalized training course, or a combination of formalized and on the job training.

When a diver’s resume provides clear evidence of significant scientific diving experience, the diver can be given credit for meeting portions of the 100 hour course requirements. The DCB will identify specific overlap between on-the-job training, previous scientific diving training/experience and course requirements, and then determine how potential deficiencies will be resolved.   However,MBL cannot “test-out” divers, regardless of experience, when they have no previous experience in scientific diving.

Any candidate who does not convince the DCB, through the DSO, that they possess the necessary judgment, under diving conditions, for the safety of the diver and his/her buddy, may be denied MBL scientific diving privileges.

Theoretical Training / Knowledge Development
Required Topics: Suggested Topics:
Diving Emergency Care Training

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • AED
  • Standard or Basic First Aid
  • Recognition of DCS and AGE
  • Accident Management
  • Field Neurological Exam
  • Oxygen Administration
Specific Dive Modes (methods of gas delivery)

  • Open Circuit
  • Hookah
  • Surface Supplied diving
  • Rebreathers (closed and/or semi-closed)
Dive Rescue

To include procedures relevant to OM specific protocols. (See water skills below)

Specialized Breathing Gas

  • Nitrox
  • Mixed Gas
Scientific Method Small Boat Operation
Data Gathering Techniques

(Only items specific to area of study required)

  • Transects and Quadrats
  • Mapping
  • Coring
  • Photography
  • Tagging
  • Collecting
  • Animal Handling
  • Archaeology
  • Common Biota
  • Organism Identification
  • Behavior
  • Ecology
  • Site Selection, Location, and Re-location
  • Specialized Data Gathering Equipment
Specialized Environments and Conditions

  • Blue Water Diving
  • Altitude
  • Ice and Polar Diving (Cold Water Diving)
  • Zero Visibility Diving
  • Polluted Water Diving
  • Saturation Diving
  • Decompression Diving
  • Overhead Environments
  • Aquarium Diving
  • Night Diving
  • Kelp Diving
  • Strong Current Diving
  • Potential Entanglement/Entrapment
  • Live boating
Required Topics: Suggested Topics:
Navigation HazMat Training
Chemical Hygiene, Laboratory Safety (Use of Chemicals)
HazMat Training

  • HP Cylinders
  • Decompression Management Tools

    • Dive Tables
    • Dive Computers
    • PC Based Software
    Specialized Diving Equipment

    • Full face mask
    • Dry Suit
    • Communications
    • Dive Propulsion Vehicle (DPV)
    • SMBs/Lift Bags
    • Line Reels
    AAUS Scientific Diving Regulations and History

    • Scientific Dive Planning
    • Coordination with other Agencies
    • Appropriate Governmental Regulations
    Hazards of breath-hold diving and ascents
    Dive Physics (Beyond entry level scuba) Other Topics and Techniques as Determined by the DCB
    Dive Physiology (Beyond entry level scuba)
    Dive Environments
    Decompression Theory and its Application


    Practical Training / Skill Development
    Confined Water At the completion of training, the trainee must satisfy the DSO or DCB-approved designee of their ability to perform the following, as a minimum, in a pool or in sheltered water:

    • Enter water fully equipped for diving
    • Clear fully flooded face mask
    • Demonstrate air sharing and ascent using an alternate air source, as both donor and recipient, with and without a face mask
    • Demonstrate buddy breathing as both donor and recipient, with and without a face mask
    • Demonstrate understanding of underwater signs and signals
    • Demonstrate ability to remove and replace equipment while submerged
    • Demonstrate acceptable watermanship skills for anticipated scientific diving conditions
    Open Water Skills The trainee must satisfy the DSO, or DCB-approved designee, of their ability to perform at least the following in open water:

    • Surface dive to a depth of 10 feet (3 meters) without scuba*
    • Enter and exit water while wearing scuba gear* ^^
    • Kick on the surface 400 yards (366 meters) while wearing scuba gear, but not breathing from the scuba unit*
    • Demonstrate proficiency in air sharing ascent as both donor and receiver*
    • Demonstrate the ability to maneuver efficiently in the environment, at and below the surface* ^^
    • Complete a simulated emergency swimming ascent*
    • Demonstrate clearing of mask and regulator while submerged*
    • Underwater communications^^
    • Demonstrate ability to achieve and maintain neutral buoyancy while submerged*
    • Demonstrate techniques of self-rescue and buddy rescue*
    • Navigate underwater ^
    • Plan and execute a dive^
    • Demonstrate judgment adequate for safe scientific diving* ^^
    Rescue Skills:
    • Rescue from depth and transport 25 yards (23 meters), as a diver, a passive simulated victim of an accident: surface diver, establish buoyancy, stabilize victim
    • Demonstrate simulated in-water mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
    • Removal of victim from water to shore or boat
    • Stressed and panicked diver scenarios
    • Recommendations For Rescue Of A Submerged Unresponsive Compressed-Gas Diver – Appendix 9

    Successfully complete a minimum of one checkout dive and at least eleven additional open water dives in a variety of dive sites, for a cumulative surface to surface time of 6 hours. Dives following the checkout dive(s) may be supervised by an active Scientific Diver holding the necessary depth authorization experienced in the type of diving planned, and with the knowledge and permission of the DSO

    The eleven dives (minimum) following the initial checkout dive may be conducted over a variety of depth ranges as specified by the MBL DCB. Depth progression must proceed shallower to deeper after acceptable skills and judgement have been demonstrated, and are not to exceed 100 feet (30 m) during the initial 12 dive cycle

    * Checkout dive element

    ^^ Evaluated on all dives

    ^ Evaluated at some point during the training cycle

    Equipment The trainee will be subject to examination/review of:

    • Personal diving equipment
    • Task specific equipment
    • Function and manipulation of decompression computer to be employed by the diver (if applicable)
    Written Exams The trainee must pass a written examination reviewed and approved by the OMBL DCB that demonstrates knowledge of at least the following:

    • Function, care, use, and maintenance of diving equipment
    • Advanced physics and physiology of diving
    • Diving regulations
    • Applicable diving environments
    • Emergency procedures for MBL-specific dive mode(s) and environments, including buoyant ascent and ascent by air sharing
    • Currently accepted decompression theory and procedures
    • Proper use of dive tables
    • Hazards of breath-hold diving and ascents
    • Planning and supervision of diving operations
    • Navigation
    • Diving hazards & mitigations
    • Cause, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of the following: near drowning, air embolism, hypercapnia, squeezes, oxygen toxicity, nitrogen narcosis, exhaustion and panic, respiratory fatigue, motion sickness, decompression sickness, hypothermia, and hypoxia/anoxia
    • Applicable theoretical training and knowledge development from the Required and Suggested Topics (above)

    4.30 Diver Certification and Authorizations

    Only a person diving under the auspices of an OM that subscribes to the practices of the AAUS is eligible for a scientific diver certification.

    Diver-In-Training (DIT) Authorization

    This is an authorization to dive, usable only while it is current and for the purpose intended. This authorization signifies that a diver has completed and been certified as at least an entry level diver through an internationally recognized certifying agency and has the knowledge skills and experience necessary to commence and continue training as a scientific diver under supervision, as approved by the DCB. DIT status must only be used when the diver is on his/her way to becoming certified as a scientific diver. While it is recommended for DIT’s to have hands-on scientific diver experience during their training, the DIT status is intended to be a temporary authorization, not a substitute for Scientific Diver Certification.

    Scientific Diver Certification

    Signifies a diver has completed all requirements in Section 4.20 and is certified by the MBL to engage in scientific diving without supervision, as approved by the DCB through the DSO. Submission of documents and participation in aptitude examinations does not automatically result in certification.  To be certified, the applicant must demonstrate to the DCB, through the DSO, that s/he is sufficiently skilled and proficient, and possess the necessary judgement for their safety and/or that of the dive team. Scientific Diver Certification is only active when required authorizations are in place and current.

    Temporary Diver Authorization

    Only a diver not under the auspices of MBL may be granted a Temporary Diver Authorization. The individual in question must demonstrate proficiency in diving and can contribute measurably to a planned dive. A Temporary Diver Authorization constitutes a waiver of selected requirements of Section 4.0 and is valid only for a limited time, as approved by the DCB.  A Temporary Diver Authorization must be restricted to the planned diving operation and must comply with all other policies, regulations, and standards of this Manual, including medical requirements. This authorization is not to be utilized as a repeated mechanism to circumvent existing standards set forth in this Manual.

    4.40 Depth Authorizations

    Depth Ratings and Progression to Next Depth Level

    Indicates the maximum depth in which a diver can conduct science and may supervise other divers holding a lesser depth authorization. A scientific diver requires a valid depth authorization to be considered active.

    A diver may be authorized to the next depth level after successfully completing the requirements for that level. A diver may exceed his/her depth authorization when accompanied and supervised by a dive buddy holding a depth authorization greater or equal to the intended depth. Dives must be planned and executed with the permission of the DCB or designee.

    In the event a diver within the MBL does not hold an authorization at the desired next level, the DCB may authorize a required progression or procedure for a diver to attain a deeper authorization. If local conditions do not conform to traditional AAUS depth progressions, the DCB may devise a reasonable accommodation. However, the total number of dives to obtain a given depth authorization must follow the cumulative number of dives listed below.

    • a) Authorization to 30 Foot Depth – Initial science diver depth authorization, approved upon the successful completion of training listed in Section 4.00. Cumulative minimum supervised dives: 12.
    • b) Authorization to 60 Foot Depth – A diver holding a 30-foot authorization may be authorized to a depth of 60 feet after successfully completing and logging 12 supervised dives to depths between 31 and 60 feet under supervision of a diver authorized by the DCB, for a minimum total time of 4 hours. Cumulative minimum supervised dives: 24.
    • c) Authorization to 100 Foot Depth – A diver holding a 60-foot authorization may be authorized to a depth of 100 feet after successfully completing and logging 6 supervised dives to depths between 61 and 100 feet under supervision of a dive buddy authorized by the DCB. The diver must also demonstrate proficiency in the use of the appropriate decompression profiling method. Cumulative minimum supervised dives: 30.
    • d) Authorization to 130 Foot Depth – A diver holding a 100-foot authorization may be authorized to a depth of 130 feet after successfully completing and logging 6 supervised dives to depths between 100 and 130 feet under supervision of a dive buddy authorized by the DCB. The diver must also demonstrate proficiency in the use of the appropriate decompression profiling method. Cumulative minimum supervised dives: 36.
    • e) Authorization to 150 Foot Depth – A diver holding a 130-foot authorization may be authorized to a depth of 150 feet after successfully completing and logging 6 supervised dives to depths between 130 and 150 feet under supervision of a dive buddy authorized by the DCB. The diver must also demonstrate knowledge of the special problems of deep diving and of special safety requirements. Cumulative minimum supervised dives: 42.
    • f) Authorization to 190 Foot Depth – A diver holding a 150-foot authorization may be authorized to a depth of 190 feet after successfully completing and logging 6 dives to depths between 150 and 190 feet under supervision of a dive buddy authorized by the DCB. The diver must also demonstrate knowledge of the special problems of deep diving and of special safety requirements. Cumulative minimum supervised dives: 48.

    Diving on air is not permitted beyond a depth of 190 feet. Dives beyond 190 feet require the use of mixed gas.

    4.50 Maintaining Active Status

    Minimum Activity to Maintain Authorizations

    During any 12-month period, each scientific diver must log a minimum of 12 scientific, scientific training, or proficiency dives.  At least one dive must be logged near the maximum depth, as defined by the DCB, of the diver’s authorization during each 6-month period.  Divers authorized to 150 feet or deeper may satisfy these requirements with dives to 130 feet or deeper.  Failure to meet these requirements will result in revocation or restriction of authorization by the DSO under procedures established by the DCB.

    Requalification of Authorization

    Once the initial requirements of Section 4.00 are met, divers whose depth authorization has lapsed due to lack of activity may be requalified by procedures adopted by the DCB.

    Medical Examination

    All scientific divers must pass a medical examination at the intervals specified in Section 5.0.  A medically cleared diver experiencing any Conditions Which May Disqualify Candidates From Diving (Appendix 1) must receive clearance to return to diving from a physician before resuming diving activities.  This medical examination requirement cannot be waived for any diver.

    Emergency Care Training

    The scientific diver must hold current training in the following:

    • Adult CPR and AED
    • Emergency oxygen administration
    • First aid for diving accidents

    4.60 Revocation of Authorization

    An individual’s scientific diver certification can be restricted or revoked for cause by the DCB. Authorizations associated with an individual’s scientific diver certification may be restricted or suspended for cause by the DSO. Restrictions or suspensions issued by the DSO may be rescinded by the DSO; these issues will be reported to and reviewed by the DCB, and the outcomes or actions resulting from this review will be documented in the diver’s MBL record. Violations of regulations set forth in this Manual or other governmental subdivisions not in conflict with this Manual, or demonstration of poor judgement, may be considered cause.  The DCB or designee must inform the diver in writing of the reason(s) for revocation. The diver will be given the opportunity to present their case in writing to the DCB for reconsideration. Following revocation, the diver may be reauthorized after complying with conditions the DCB may impose.  All such written statements and requests, as identified in this section, are formal documents, and therefore part of the diver’s file.