Who We Are

The Smithsonian Scientific Diving Program (SDP) consists of the Central Diving Office as well as multiple Smithsonian Diving Units.  
The Central Diving Office (CDO), located in Washington DC, provides oversight and support for all diving operations under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution (SI).  Positions within the CDO include the Scientific Diving Officer and the Assistant Scientific Diving Officer. 
There are five operationally based Dive Units within the SDP.  The National Museum of American History,  National Museum of Natural History, National Zoological ParkSmithsonian Environmental Research CenterSmithsonian Marine Station Fort Pierce and Carrie Bow Field Station, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, all have diving components and each having a Diving Officer, which function under the oversight of the CDO.

To learn more about SDP staff, see below:

Douglas R. Schleiger

Douglas R. Schleiger, the Smithsonian’s Scientific Diving Officer, oversees all Smithsonian research diving activities worldwide, including training, safety, emergency response, and operations. In December of 2013, Schleiger joined the Smithsonian after a 27-year career as a uniformed Corps Officer as well as a civilian with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During his last four years at NOAA, Doug was manager of the NOAA Diving Center, where he was responsible for all training, maintenance of diving equipment, support and supervision of technical and special dive operations, and recompression chamber support provided to the NOAA Diving Program.  In addition, Schleiger was the Acting NOAA Diving Program Manager for the final two years of his NOAA career.

Douglas R. Schleiger

Laurie M. Penland

Laurie M. Penland, the Assistant Scientific Diving Officer, supports the SDO to assure all diving activities meet SDP requirements. This includes ensuring diving activities are compliant, providing diving instruction, diving equipment support, and SDP administrative support.  With a background in photography and program management and over 20 years of service to the Smithsonian, Penland has traveled the world providing diving support and supervision, underwater photography and videography, as well as content for social media and other outreach publications for the Smithsonian Institution.

Laurie M. Penland

Paul F. Johnston

Paul F. Johnston is Curator of Maritime History at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where he is responsible for the maritime history and National Watercraft collections. He has curated more than a dozen exhibitions at the Smithsonian and other museums, including On the Water: Stories from Maritime America and The Norie Marine Atlas & The Guano Trade. He also consults internationally with other museums on their exhibitions and other affairs, and he serves on national and international committees for the US Department of State, US Navy, the Council of American Maritime Museums, the American Association of Museums, the Society for Historical Archaeology, and the Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology. Johnston’s research area is shipwreck archaeology, and he has worked on shipwrecks in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas, the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, the Great Lakes and many smaller lakes and rivers. He has over 100 publications, ranging from eight books to numerous scientific and general-interest articles and reviews. He has just published the book Shipwrecked in Paradise: Cleopatra’s Barge in Hawai‘i on the early 19th century Royal Yacht of Hawaiian King Kamehameha II. This book won the Smithsonian Secretary’s 2016 Research Award. Johnston holds a B.A. in English Literature from Middlebury College and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania.

Paul F. Johnston

Barrett Brooks

Barrett is responsible for training, gear maintenance and dive plan approval for divers at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.  He has also been part of the NMNH Botany Department since 1984, where he studies marine algae, and helps manage the US Algal Collection of the US National Herbarium.

Barrett Brooks diving on ARMS

Samuel C. Benson

Sam is responsible for training, gear maintenance and dive plan approval for divers at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). He is also a US Coast Guard licensed Master, and oversees the operation and maintenance of the SERC research vessel fleet. When not on or under the water, Sam can likely be found working on the data collection platform at the SERC dock, which records weather and water quality parameters every 6 minutes, and is one of the Smithsonian’s longest continually running monitoring programs, with data dating back to the 1980’s. 

Samuel C. Benson

Zach Foltz

Zach Foltz, as the Diving Officer and Station Manager of the Smithsonian’s field station on Carrie Bow Cay, Belize (Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystems Program), has logged over 800 scientific hours underwater.  Along with his Diving Officer duties and maintaining a remote field station off the coast of Belize, Foltz is involved in ocean monitoring programs around the world.

Zach Foltz

Raul De Leon

Raul De Leon came to the Smithsonian Scientific Diving Program from a robust career as a Manager and Dive Instructor of Panama Dive Adventure and Safety Diver for Survivor Films Ltd.  He is the recipient of the 2015 Member’s Choice Award presented by the Divers Alert Network.  De Leon works diligently to promote the culture of diving safety throughout all diving related activities at STRI.

Raul De Leon