Catalina Island Research Permits

Catalina Island is a living laboratory for the exploration of all manner of applied and theoretical questions.

The Conservation Department continuously receives proposals and requests for research. To conduct any Catalina Island research on Conservancy land, researchers must apply for a permit and submit a research proposal for evaluation. If the proposal is approved, a permit will be issued that is good for the length of the proposed study.



The Catalina Island research permit includes a list of regulations that must be followed while doing research on Conservancy property and does not guarantee access to Conservancy resources such as staff time, vehicles, or lodging. It also does not guarantee access to hard-to-reach areas for study. Researchers are required to allow three months for proposal review, permit processing and planning logistics.

Researchers should plan to bring most equipment and supplies from the mainland, since Island stores may not have certain items. The Conservancy has a small library with books, articles, maps, and reports that pertain to the Island. We currently have a field lab at our Middle Ranch facility that is mainly used to process, or package collected specimens for transport.

Because the logistics of conducting Catalina Island research can be complex, it is vital that you keep in close contact with the Conservancy concerning your travel schedule and your on-island lodging and transportation arrangements. It is wise to select more than one possible time period for your research visit, since on-island housing or vehicles may not be available. Adverse weather conditions can seriously affect interior road conditions and may prohibit your access to do research in the interior of the Island.

Catalina Island Research Proposals

Please submit your Catalina Island research proposal at least three months in advance of when you would like to begin your work to allow enough time for review. The proposal should be no more than 15 pages in length and include an introduction, sections on methods, expected results and their probable interpretation, and significance of the research. Describe your project in enough detail that it can be evaluated by another scientist. Explain why your research results will be useful to the Catalina Island Conservancy as this will be a prime consideration. If you are planning to do collections, the Conservancy may require that a CIC employee accompany you to observe your collections.

Catalina Island Research Reports

At the completion of the Catalina Island research project, researchers must turn in a research report along with copies of their data. The report should summarize the project and discuss its implications for conservation and ecological restoration on the Island. A multi-year project will also require an annual status report. The data should be in a format usable by the Conservancy. This information will be held in strict confidence. If the project was part of graduate work, copies of the dissertation, or thesis, should be submitted to us. Finally, reprints of any research articles from the project must also be deposited with the Conservancy. Please acknowledge the support of the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy in all these publications.

Transportation on the Island

While conducting Catalina Island research, researchers may be able to accomplish some of their work by hiking between field sites, most people will need motorized transportation. Since cars and trucks are not ferried to the Island, researchers must rely on vehicles supplied by the Conservancy or by the USC Wrigley facility in Two Harbors. The Conservancy does not generally have large capacity vehicles for more than four passengers. It is common that after a two-hour orientation, guest researchers can drive the main roads in conservancy vehicles if they are available. We do not offer check-off for 4X4 roads which allows access behind locked gates. If you cannot hike to your site, a Conservancy employee will have to accompany you, and this carries an accompanying fee. For return researchers who are already checked off on company vehicles, the Conservancy may be able to provide a drop-off and pickup service to their field study areas.


Several types of lodging are available for individuals conducting Catalina Island research:

  • Standard Campsites ~ there are established campsites at Little Harbor, Parsons Landing, Two Harbors, Black Jack Mountain, and Hermit Gulch in Avalon. Camping information available here(Camping)
  • Primitive Campsites (boat-in) ~ there are a limited number of coves, accessible only by boat, that are available for camping. More information available here. (Boat in campsites)
  • Laura Stein Volunteer Camp ~ The site has four canvas-sided tents on raised decks, each tent has 8 padded bunk beds, a full kitchen, hot showers and flush toilets. To inquire about reservations, email the Research Coordinator.
  • Black Jack Volunteer Camp ~ This site has four tents with approximately ten beds, a full kitchen, hot showers, and flush toilets. To inquire about reservations, email the Research Coordinator.

Other Accommodations ~ USC/Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies at Two Harbors has housing available.

It is also possible, but more expensive, to stay at a hotel or rental house in the city of Avalon or at the Banning House Lodge at Two Harbors. Hotel rooms and rentals for May through September are often booked months in advance.

All housing outside of Avalon is located some distance from restaurants and stores. Grocery stores are located in Avalon and Two Harbors, and most researchers should plan to shop for groceries upon arrival. There are automatic teller machines in Avalon and Two Harbors.

Facilities/Services Charges

Researchers are charged for the use of Conservancy housing and vehicles to help offset maintenance and operating costs. Total charges are billable to the researcher or to the researcher’s institution.

  • Housing: $25.00/person/night.
  • Vehicle use: $60 per day (2WD) 4X4 with Conservancy driver ($75/hour or $375 5+ hours), plus $1.03/mile charge.
  • Drop-off or Pickups: $25.00 per drop-off or pickup in Avalon only. Pick-up and drop-off are not available for Two Harbors
  • Permit service charge: $80