Training of scientific divers

“Diving is an investment of time and money, but the rewards can be life changing - literally” Andi Cummings

In the following, you will find comprehensive information about the diver training for students and external participants at the Scientific Diving Center

Introductory remarks

Interdisciplinary scientific training at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg

Two-thirds of the earth are covered by oceans and thus are excluded from direct exploration. As a consequence, lunar or Martian surfaces are better known than the seabeds of our planet. While the deep-sea regions are only accessible through ROV's and AUV's, the shallow marine areas of the oceans up to 40 meters are explorable by scientific divers using compressed air. Furthermore, by means of special breathing gas mixtures, they can even reach a diving depth up to 100 meters with justifiable efforts.

In addition to their general scientific expertise, scientific divers possess interdisciplinary methodological competence, along with extensive knowledge of the possibilities and particularities in the field of underwater research. This enables them to apply pertinent scientific working methods in the geoscientific sectors (e.g. geology, hydrogeology, limnology, geophysics) as well as in oceanology, environmental sciences, (micro)biology, and ecology. Furthermore, research groups in engineering, process and analytical technology, industrial archeology and scientific documentation are also involved in various sub-aquatic projects.

The main advantage of scientific divers over unmanned systems for the study of shallow maritime regions lies in the useful and effective linkage of the planning, realization, interpretation and evaluation of research work above and under water.

In addition to the regular diver training, we also offer further education for special tasks and boundary conditions. These include:

  • Tethered diving and communication
  • Diving with full face mask and underwater communication system
  • Diving with special breathing gas mixtures
  • (Advanced) training of Scientific Diving Instructors

The training of scientific divers, as well as all sub-aquatic scientific operations carried out by divers, are performed according to the work safety regulations of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg.

Diagram depicting the development of the number of graduates of the training of Scientific Divers and Advanced Scientific Divers at the SDC of the TU Freiberg between 2003 and 2018; a detailed description in text form follows below the graph


► Text description of the above graph

The above chart shows that the number of graduates (Scientific Divers and Advanced Scientific Divers combined) varies between 5 in 2008 and 20 in both 2006 and 2015 in the period from 2003 to 2018.

Last year (2018), 13 graduates finished their respective training. A trend of the number of graduates is not apparent.
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Students of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg

Snorkeling and diving

The voluntary course “Snorkeling and Diving” is intended for students without any training background in scuba diving who wish to get introduced and accustomed to the discipline and the handling of ABC equipment (diving mask, fins, and snorkel). The acquisition of the diving certificate CMAS* - a prerequisite for participation in the module “Scientific Diving I” - can be arranged.

Course information

  • Duration: 1 semester
  • Frequency: every semester
  • Schedule: Tuesdays, starting at 8.00 pm
  • Venue: swimming pool “Johannisbad”, Freiberg
  • Instructors: Dr. Thomas Pohl, Dipl.-Geol. Jaqueline Engel
  • Provider: University Sports Center (USP)
  • Credits: no credits awarded
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Lecture “Aquatic ecosystems - Methods for sub-aquatic scientific work / The fascination of water”

In this lecture, the methodological foundations of underwater working techniques will be laid and supported by case studies of the marine geosciences and biology as well as limnological, hydro/gas chemical and microbiological aspects. The development of measuring devices and the execution of measurements require interdisciplinary cooperation with engineers. Underwater research hence offers a highly intriguing combination of geoscientific and engineering research questions.

Structure of lecture contents

  • Session I: Oceanology (ecology of hard and soft substrates as well as hazardous marine animals)
  • Session II: Applied geosciences focused on ecosystems and climate (comparison of recent and paleo conditions)
  • Session III: Introduction to hydrothermal systems, submarine volcanoes and methods of hydro and geochemical investigation
  • Session IV: Technical measurement of physical parameters for the characterization of energy and mass transfer processes
  • Session V: Photo and video documentation under water

Course recognition

  • Possible in all study programs at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, provided that they offer free elective modules

Course information

  • Duration: 1 semester
  • Frequency: every winter semester
  • Schedule: Thursdays, starting at 6.00 pm
  • Venue: Otto Meißer building, room MEI-0080 (ground floor)
  • Lecturers: Dr. Thomas Pohl, Prof. Broder Merkel, Prof. Tobias Fieback
  • Registration: not required
  • Provider: Scientific Diving Center of the TU Freiberg
  • Credits: 2 CP (upon successfully passed exam)
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Scientific Diving I: Practical exercises (indoor / outdoor swimming pool training)

Course prerequisites

  • (Simultaneous) participation in the lecture “Aquatic ecosystems - methods for sub-aquatic scientific work / The fascination of water”
  • Scuba diving license (CMAS* or equivalent)
  • Valid diving suitability certificate

During the practical exercises, the methodology of diving for sub-aquatic scientific work will be imparted to students. The training includes communication, documentation, mapping and surveying under water as well as the handling of scientific equipment for the specific sampling of sediments, biota, gas and water, along with the in situ measurement of parameters.

Photographic impressions of the training in the swimming pool “Johannisbad”


A participant shows his figure 8 knot made with a rope under waterArtificial marine animals (octopus, crab, lobster, shell)Over simulated biota (crab, sepia, 2 shells, lobster, coral reef formed from lava stone and 3 flowers) placed mapping grid underwaterExemplary subaquatic documentation of simulated biota (sepia, 3 shells, coral reef formed of lava stone and 3 flowers) on an underwater writing tablet


Examples of real underwater documentation and sampling work


2 divers perform conductivity measurements under water using a probe2 divers take photos under water of vegetation on a rock at the seabedA diver performs mapping work under waterGas sampling with a Giggenbach bottleGas sampling with a funnel2 divers, the right one carries various gas samples

The various scientific projects and works carried out under water are always documented or secured by means of samples.

Both photo and video recordings as well as mapping and surveying work, and the measurement of different parameters (such as electrical conductivity) along with the sampling of, amongst others, gas, water, and sediments are done. The entire documentation and sampling serves the evaluation and subsequent presentation of the conducted work.

The difficult lighting conditions under water present a particular challenge for the subaquatic documentation, as both the intensity and spectral composition of the incoming light change depending on the water depth.

In the summer semester, the open water training is carried out on at least 2 weekends in scientific diving camps at the TANA Ammelshain and the Lake Senftenberg. Participation in 2 camps is compulsory, while additional camps (if offered) can be optionally attended.

Course recognition

  • Possible in all study programs at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, provided that they offer free elective modules

Course information

  • Duration: 2 semesters (can be started in either winter or summer semester)
  • Frequency: every semester
  • Schedule: Mondays, starting at 7.30 pm
  • Venue: swimming pool “Johannisbad”, Freiberg
  • Instructors: Dr. Thomas Pohl, Dipl.-Geol. Jaqueline Engel, M.Sc. Richard Stanulla
  • Provider: Scientific Diving Center of the TU Freiberg
  • Credits: 4 CP (upon successfully passed written exam of the lecture in addition to the practical exercises of both winter and summer semester)
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Scientific Diving II: Diving expedition

This module will be conducted in the form of a 10 - 14 days diving expedition. The scientific contents of the module are based on the location of the expedition, the personal abilities as well as the student's subject of study. The research topic to be dealt with may be e.g. engineering-oriented, of geoscientific, water chemical, or (micro) biological nature, or based on measurement technology. Likewise, the focus may be placed on underwater communication and documentation, as well as the management of sub-aquatic research.

The student has to demonstrate the ability to perform sub-aquatic scientific tasks on their own and as part of a team. Above all, this includes the planning of a dive, a structured work concept, and the complete documentation above and under water.

Course information

  • Duration: 14 days
  • Frequency: every summer semester
  • Schedule: 1st half of September
  • Venue: currently Sveta Marina, Croatia
  • Instructors: Prof. Dr. Broder Merkel, Dr. Thomas Pohl, Dr. Thomas Grab, Prof. Dr. Tobias Fieback
  • Provider: Scientific Diving Center of the TU Freiberg
  • Credits: 4 CP (upon successful participation and submission of a scientific report based on a specific research topic)
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Overview of the training as a CMAS Scientific Diver


► Step 1: Lecture “Aquatic ecosystems - Methods for sub-aquatic scientific work / The fascination of water”

  • Offered annually in the winter semester
  • 2 hours per week (one semster)
  • Final written exam

► Step 2: Module “Scientific Diving I”

  • Prerequisites

    • (Simultaneous) participation in the lecture “Aquatic ecosystems - Methods for sub-aquatic scientific work / The fascination of water”
    • Scuba diving licence (CMAS* or equivalent)
    • Valid diving suitability certificate
  • Structure

    • Practical diving exercises in both semesters, with 5 (winter) and 6 (summer) methodological study tasks to be completed respectively
    • Participation in at least 2 diving camps offered in the summer semester (camp duration: 3 days each)

► Step 3: Module “Scientific Diving II”

  • Prerequisites

    • Successful completion of the module “Scientific Diving I”
    • Scuba diving licence (CMAS** or equivalent)
    • Valid diving suitability certificate
  • Structure

    • Diving expedition (duration: 10 - 14 days)
    • Preparation for a specific research topic
    • Submission of a scientific report (or another form of qualification assignment on request)
The successful completion of the lecture as well as the two modules leads to the certification as CMAS Scientific Diver.
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External participants


  • Scuba diving licence (CMAS** or equivalent); verification by an experienced instructor
  • Scientific qualification (Bachelor, Master, or Diploma degree or equivalent)
  • Registration as a guest student at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg (guest student application form)
  • Valid diving suitability certificate

Training qualifications

  • CMAS Scientific Diver
  • CMAS Advanced Scientific Diver


  • Available upon request

Additional hints

  • The course will be tought in English; only if all participants are able to communicate in German, the course language will be German
  • Own diving equipment is appreciated, but equipment can also be rented for a moderate fee
  • Block course registration form

Contact for questions and further information

  • Dr.-Ing. Thomas Grab (coordination): Thomas [dot] Grabatsdc [dot] tu-freiberg [dot] de
  • Prof. Dr.-Ing. Broder Merkel: Broder [dot] Merkelatsdc [dot] tu-freiberg [dot] de
  • Prof. Dr.-Ing. Tobias Fieback: Tobias [dot] Fiebackatsdc [dot] tu-freiberg [dot] de


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