California Science Center – Organization Spotlight


By: Andrew Morgan

The California Science Center is a family destination that inspires science learning through fun, memorable experiences. Interactive exhibits, live demonstrations, innovative programs and incredible films shown on an IMAX movie screen 7-stories high reveal the science found in everyday life. With over 2 million guests annually, the Science Center is the most attended museum in California and ranks as number 8 of the 20 most visited museums in North America.

General admission to the permanent exhibit galleries is free. The galleries include: Creative World, which examines the environment humans build to meet their needs for structures and transportation; World of Life probes the commonalties of the living world, from the single-celled bacterium to the 100 trillion-celled human being. The SKETCH Foundation Gallery Air and Space Exhibits presents aerospace artifacts along with hands-on exhibits that show how scientific principles affect air and spacecraft design. Real flown space craft such as space capsules from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo-Soyuz missions are among the artifacts on display. The Space Shuttle Endeavour exhibition, which offers an up close and personal look at the rich legacy of human spaceflight, requires timed reservations for a nominal fee during peak attendance periods.

Ecosystems, a major exhibition wing, explores the links between the living and physical worlds. It combines the Science Center’s signature hands-on exhibit elements with live plants and animals to help interpret different ecological concepts. One focal point is the 188,000-gallon living kelp forest, where guests can see many of the fish species found just off the California coast and interact with dive team members.

Caring for the living collections and systems in Ecosystems requires a lot of work, and a lot of diving!

The California Science Center dive program provides training and support for 65 divers, of which 48 are volunteers and 17 are paid staff. This team of divers is led by Andrew Solomon, Diving & Boating Safety Officer. In 2015, the California Science Center conducted 3,504 dives with a majority being in-house maintenance, animal care and live presentation dives in the Kelp Tank, Reef Tank and various holding tanks. Of these 3,504 dives, 81 scientific dives were conducted with the primary task being collection of organisms for display.

Solomon and the California Science Center dive team assist the Santa Monica Bay Foundation’s kelp restoration project and hope to broaden their contributions to other marine conservation organizations including Reef Check California (RCCA) and the Catalina Marine Societies Thermograph Array Project (overview here). Andrew hopes to bolster the California Science Center scientific dive program to help with these future partnerships and is currently reconfiguring the organization’s training approach and content.

Additionally, the California Science Center dive team assists with a program for 7th and 8th graders in the Working in Space educational program. During their time at California Science Center, these young explorers gain a glimpse into the world of space work by diving into a simulated zero gravity environment. All “astronauts-in-training” dive into a weightless, underwater world with the help of hookah diving equipment and are tasked with carrying out a mission underwater.


Andrew Solomon attended the University of California, Santa Cruz and graduated with a B.S. in Marine Biology.

Solomon started diving in 2008 in Southern California. He remembers his first dive as having ‘by far the worst visibility I have ever experienced.’ He continued his recreational and scientific dive training while attending UC Santa Cruz, eventually earning a divemaster and instructor rating while working as an Underwater Explorers Instructor at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and as the Assistant Dive Safety Officer for the Aquarium of the Pacific, respectively.

Solomon values the various opportunities and different diving modes that Aquarium/Zoo diving operations utilize. What’s more, he enjoys sharing these diverse techniques with new volunteer and staff divers and seeing these new divers grow from recreational diver to working/scientific diver.

During his time away from diving, Solomon enjoys traveling, visiting friends and playing the drums.

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