CSU Marine Biology Catalina Semester

Marine Biology Semester
Santa Catalina Island
FALL 2021 Marine Biology Semester has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


This semester-long program provides an intensive undergraduate exposure to marine biology, and is designed for students with a serious commitment to environmental and marine science. The 15 week program is based at the Wrigley Marine Science Center (WMSC), situated on Santa Catalina Island, 26 miles from Los Angeles, CA. This location provides access to beautiful, pristine marine habitats, diverse marine life and breathtaking island views. WMSC is owned and operated by the University of Southern California (USC), and the program is being offered through the California State Universities, affiliated with the Ocean Studies Institute (OSI) and the Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI).

Throughout the semester, students are introduced to a sequence of courses that prepare them to complete a directed research study in a topic of their choice. All courses provide a strong element of hands-on field experience, which provides the comprehensive training that can help in career choices and graduate decisions. Before the semester begins, a two-week AAUS SCUBA certification course is available at an additional cost for qualified students who wish to dive on SCUBA during the semester. However, only snorkeling skills are required for class participation. Please note: these courses will occupy daytime and in many cases, evening hours, including some weekends.

Application Materials

  • Completed Catalina Semester Application
  • College or university transcripts
  • Letter of recommendation from faculty member
  • $50 application fee payable to USC/SCMI. This fee is non-refundable.

Qualified students are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The CSU Marine Biology Semester is an Upper division program that is designed for students who have completed their lower division coursework in Biology. For Fall 2020, after screening by the CSUN faculty, registration will be through California State University Northridge (CSUN). CSUN students will register directly through that campus. Other CSU students will need to fill out the Intrasystem Visitor Enrollment form, which will enable registration through CSUN. Units may then be transferred to the appropriate campus. Non-CSU students will need to register through CSUN Open University Program.

Application and additional information can be obtained by contacting:

CSU Marine Biology Semester at Catalina
Ocean Studies Institute
820 S. Seaside Ave
Terminal Island, CA 90731-7330

Projected Costs

A. Tuition (15 Unit Semester)*
CSU Undergraduate Student $3,399
CSU Graduate Student $4,116
Non-CSU Student $9,339
B. Board and Lodging*
(Same for all students) $7,645


*Note: All Costs for Fall 2020 are subject to change based on yearly tuition rates. CSU Students who are non-CA residents are subject to CSU Out-of-State tuition fees. Two round-trip passages to the island are included (at the start and end of the semester, and over Thanksgiving). There will be additional costs for books, dissecting equipment, library privileges and personal field equipment.


CSUN Courses: 
(Upper Division)

Marine Invertebrate Zoology
(Biol 313/L; 392B: 4 units)

This course provides a classical over-view of marine invertebrate diversity, structure and function through a combination of lecture, lab and field experiences.

Instructor:  Dr. Peter Edmunds

Marine Ecology
(Biol 492/L; 492: 4 units)

This course provides a general understanding of the ecological processes that determine the structure and dynamics of populations and communities in marine ecosystems through a combination of lecture, field, and lab experiences.

Instructors: Dr. Nyssa Silbiger

Marine Conservation Biology
(Biol 496MC/L; 492MC: 4 units)

This course examines threats to marine ecosystems, management approaches and linkages between science and policy using a combination of lecture, lab, and field activities situated within a marine protected area.

Instructor: Dr. Kerry Nickols

Directed Research
(Biol 495B/696B: 3 semester units)

Students develop their ideas during the first 12 weeks of the semester, prepare a research proposal, complete their studies, and present their findings in a mini-symposium and a report.

Instructors: Drs. Allen, Edmunds, Nickols, Silbiger

Instructors – 

Dr. Larry G. Allen  (Coordinator and Independent Research) Received his Ph.D. in 1980 from the University of Southern California and has been on the faculty at CSUN since 1982. His research has focused on the bio-geography and ecology of California Coastal Marine Fishes.

Dr. Peter J. Edmunds (Invertebrate Zoology) received his Ph.D. in 1986 from the university of Glasgow and has been on the faculty at CSUN since 1992. His research focuses on the physiological ecology of temperate and tropical reef invertebrates and corals.

Dr. Nyssa Silbiger (Marine Ecology) received her Ph.D. from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in 2015 and has been on the faculty of CSUN since 2017. Her research focuses on understanding the affects of anthropogenic stressors on organisms, communities, and ecosystem processes in the context of natural variability.

Dr. Kerry Nickols (Marine Conservation) Received her Ph.D. from the University of California Davis in 2012 and has been on the faculty of CSUN since 2017. Her Research focuses on ecology, oceanography, and conservation of coastal systems.


Courses and Instructors may change