Held every Fall Semester, CSU students live at a marine lab on Catalina Island and take 4 upper division marine biology elective courses. Students are regularly in (e.g., snorkeling) and on the ocean, in the marine wet lab for their courses, and conduct independent research projects. Regular financial aid can be used to cover tuition and room/board. Check out the website and if you have questions contact
Two different non-profits in Southern California have volunteer and internship programs associated with their marine mammal rescue & rehabilitation programs. The Marine Mammal Care Center (San Pedro, CA) and the California Wildlife Center in Calabasas, CA (a bit of a drive in traffic). CPP undergraduate students have gotten to work with seals and sea lions as part of these programs
Sign up for their Student Email List to get announcements about funding, internships, jobs, and more! The CSU Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology (COAST) is an umbrella organization for marine, coastal and coastal watershed related activities with student and faculty members across CSU campuses. Also visit the website for information on funding, internships, and other programs.
The Back Bay Science Center in Newport Beach has a volunteer program with a focus on estuary and marine ecology. There are many ways to get involved, but an initial easy, low-commitment option is going to one of their monthly Marine Life Inventory programs.
The "Temporary/Seasonal Positions" job type listed on this Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Job Board are a good place to look for entry level positions to do right after you graduate (and/or possibly during the summer while you are still in school). A lot of these are paid 4-6 month positions during the summer/fall to get experience working for a state or federal agency . Also check out the Browse by Type list on the right side for other types of positions.
Apply for Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer programs where you'll do research for 10 weeks with a lab at a university somewhere else in the country, funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF). Travel and housing costs are covered + you also get paid $5000-$6000. Apply during your sophomore or junior year (you can't participate after graduating). Application due dates vary by program (typically in Feb), start identifying programs and working on applications during winter break. Search on their website for Ocean Science programs or Biology programs that sound interesting. You should apply to ~10 different programs as they are competitive, but they are looking for diverse students and you do not need previous research experience.
In order to use SCUBA to do research you need have your AAUS Scientific Diver Certification. There is a higher level of training and proficiency required for scientific divers than for most recreational divers, and the CPP BRIC offers recreational SCUBA courses(highly discounted for students) which are part of the initial qualifications needed to then take the AAUS certification course. Below are the steps to getting your AAUS Certification, a great thing to have on your CV when you apply to grad school (but you do not have to SCUBA dive to be a marine biologist):
Open Water Diver Certification
The BRIC offers discounted "Open Water" SCUBA courses throughout the year. This is the initial recreational scuba certification everyone must do to dive, and is the first step to qualifying to take the AAUS Scientific Diver Certification Course (required to use SCUBA to do research). Getting your Open Water certification card allows you to rent tanks from a dive shop to go diving with a friend or go diving when on vacation.
Advanced Open Water Diver Certification
The BRIC offers discounted "Adv. Open Water" SCUBA courses throughout the year. This certification better prepares you for diving, including deep and night-dive experience. The dives done during the Adv. Open Water course count towards the 12 additional logged dives (after completing the Open Water course) required to qualify to take the AAUS certification course.
Do (& Log) 12 Additional Dives
One of the requirements to qualify for taking the AAUS Scientific Diver course is to have logged 12 additional dives after completing the dives done as part of the initial Open Water Certification Course. These additional dives can be done as part of an Adv. Open Water course and/or other scuba trips the BRIC offers during spring break (in previous years they've offered trips to the Caribbean or Great Barrier Reef in Australia at big discounts - take advantage of these while you can as a student), and/or you could do local beach/boat dives with a buddy.
The BRIC also offers "dive professional" courses required for those interested in working in the recreational SCUBA industry leading scuba trips or teaching scuba courses. This can be a fun thing to do for a year or two after you graduate (e.g., former students have worked at a tropical dive resort), and they are another path to get more SCUBA experience if you are interested in doing SCUBA based marine biology research. While having your Dive Master or SCUBA Instructor Certification can be an asset on your CV/resume for some Marine Biology related jobs, note that most marine biologists DO NOT have these certifications (they typically just have the required AAUS Scientific Diver Certification).
AAUS Scientific Diver Certification
Students and researchers wanting to use SCUBA to conduct research are required (by all US Universities and State/Federal Agencies) to complete the AAUS Scientific Diver Certification. CPP students can take the course offered by our marine lab - the Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI). This 2 week intensive course is typically offered in the winter (Jan prior to start of Spring Semester) and in the summer (typically late July).
Our marine lab, the Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI), also offers a 1-week MOTC Certification course (free for CPP students if sponsored by a faculty member associated with SCMI). This is an entry-level training recommended for persons who will be acting as small vessel operators (no previous boating experience needed). It is required to operate SCMI small boats and is the same certification required by most universities, state and federal agencies - so it looks great on graduate school/job applications!