Methods of Underwater Research


Methods of Underwater Research

Please note: There will be no courses offered in 2017 due to restructuring measures.


The course Methods of Underwater Research provides the basics of scientific diving to students and scientists. This unique compact course offers participants to learn and practice the most important techniques of planning, preparation, and successful accomplishment of scientific tasks under water including the final documentation of the results.

The course directors are Boris Unger, Miriam Weber and Christian Lott. 

Boris is a trained biologist and teacher, co-founder of the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences, diving instructor and under water photographer. Boris led diving operations in the sea, in lakes and in rivers for a variety of scientific projects. Moreover he is ROV operator. He is particularly excited about challenges to find easy and practical solutions for difficult underwater tasks.

Miriam received her PhD from the University of Bremen with a thesis on sediment effects on coral, in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen. She is a diving instructor and underwater photographer. Miriam took part in several scientific expeditions to Antarctica, the tropics, the Mediterranean Sea and to high-alpine lakes. She is coordinating the research activities at the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences and has a teaching appointment at the University of Tübingen. Miriam uses technical diving for extending the range for her research and media work.

Christian is biologist, co-founder of the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences, diving instructor and underwater filmmaker. He is diving in all waters for his filming and research expeditions, also with rebreather and trimix techniques. Christian is finishing his doctorate on bacteria-animal symbioses at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany.


Contents of the course

Successful aquatic research projects require good SCUBA diving skills as well as a series of other important abilities. This course is designed for students and scientists of bio- and geosciences and related fields who want to learn how to conduct scientific underwater fieldwork in an efficient and safe way.


During the course both diving and ship-based information gathering methods, diverse sampling techniques as well as video and photo documentation are introduced and used by the participants. Problem solving and methodological approaches are developed in work groups and later discussed in the seminar.



The training dives are designed with increasing complexity and the participants learn sampling techniques, handling of ropes and grids, the handling of heavy gear and the use of lifting devices.

For data collection and for the final documentation of the results you will learn how to use u/w writing boards, photography and videography.

The very much application-oriented design of the course leads the participants through all aspects of a underwater research project. From the planning, the coordination and a safe realisation to a successful completion they learn all steps in teamwork.


Main topics

  • Working under water: requirements, planning, accomplishment, safety and limitations
  • Survey of structures: underwater mapping (relief, substrate, colonisation)
  • Sampling of water, substrate and organisms
  • Underwater documentation (description, drawings, photo, video)
  • Final research project and presentation

Contents of the seminar

  • Historical aspects of under water research and scientific diving.
  • Safety, risk assessment, prevention, emergency management.
  • SCUBA diving techniques: from breathhold diving via SCUBA and mixed-gas diving to rebreathers.
  • Working techniques for sampling and survey of underwater structures.
  • Underwater photography: historic and technical aspects, data collection, and imaging techniques.
  • Underwater videography: technique, formats, hints and tricks. SCUBA diving and filming. From the raw material to the final nature film documentation

Final projects

Since 1996 all course participants were involved in on-going research projects. Since many years we have been mapping the dispersal of the introduced green algae Caulerpa taxifolia. We followed the sea star Astropecten to investigate their activity, and characterised the habitat of symbiotic worms.

The latest projects addressed a field of shallow water methane seeps and documented a mysterious sponge disease outbreak.




  • Participation only as certified SCUBA diver.
  • Current dive medical certificate, not older than 3 years (one year for under 18 and over 40 year old, respectively).
  • Recognized SCUBA diving certificate, at least 1 star (VDTL*, VDST*, CMAS* or similar, PADI OWD or comparable).


  • After successful completion of the course a graded certificate will be issued, given the participants fullfilment of the following requirements:
  • Regular attendance of all course hours
  • Development and successful accomplishment of a 2 to 3-days research project in a team
  • Short presentation during the course
  • Written report on the course.
  • Each course is recommended to be rated with 3 ETCS credit points. With additional work (e.g. more detailled course report, presentation at home university) some universities give up to 5 credit points for the participation in the course.




EUR 735,-

Included services

10 overnight stays in shared accommodation, dormitory-style (self-catering), eight days of biology class including accompanied diving or SCUBA diving course. Rental of complete diving equipment included.


To our registration site

Please note!

This course is for certified scuba divers only, and does NOT offer an integrated scuba diving course.

The course "Methods of Underwater Research" is the second part of the Module "Marine Biology Diving Skills - Advanced Field Course". Part 1 takes place directly before this course.