What Is Marine Biology?

Discover a New Science

Galapagos Sea Lion
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The field of marine biology -- or becoming a marine biologist -- sounds fascinating, doesn't it? What's involved in marine biology, or becoming a marine biologist? First, it's important to understand what, exactly, makes up the marine biology branch of science.

Marine biology is the scientific study of plants and animals that live in salt water. When many people think about a marine biologist, they picture a dolphin trainer.

But marine biology is so much more than making a dolphin -- or sea lion -- follow commands. With the oceans covering over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and providing habitat for thousands of species, marine biology is a very broad field. It involves a strong knowledge of all science along with principles of economics, legal matters, and conservation.

Becoming a Marine Biologist

A marine biologist, or someone who studies marine biology, can learn about a variety of organisms during their education from tiny plankton only visible under a microscope to the largest whales that are over 100 feet long. Marine biology can also include the study of different aspects of these organisms, including the behavior of animals in the ocean environment, adaptations to living in salt water and interactions between organisms. As a marine biologist, one would also look at how marine life interacts with different ecosystems such as salt marshes, bays, reefs, estuaries, and sand bars.

Again, it's not just learning about things that inhabit the ocean; it's also about conserving resources and protecting a valuable food supply. Plus, there are many research initiatives to discover how organisms can benefit human health. Marine biologists have to have a thorough understanding chemical, physical, and geological oceanography.

Other people who study marine biology do not go on to conduct research or work for activist organizations; they can wind up teaching others about the vast scientific principles that make up the field. In other words, they can become teachers and professors at universities and colleges.

Tools to Study Marine Biology

The oceans are difficult to study, as they are vast and foreign to humans. They also vary depending on geographic locations and environmental factors. Different tools used to study the oceans include sampling mechanisms such as bottom trawls and plankton nets, tracking methods and devices such as photo-identification research, satellite tags, hydrophones, and “critter cams,” and underwater observation equipment such as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). 

Importance of Marine Biology

Among other things, the oceans regulate climate and provide food, energy, and income. They support a variety of cultures. They are so important, yet there is so much we don’t know about this fascinating environment. Learning about the oceans and the marine life inhabiting them is becoming even more critical as we realize the importance of the oceans to the health of all life on the planet.

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Kennedy, Jennifer. "What Is Marine Biology?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 10, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-is-marine-biology-2291903. Kennedy, Jennifer. (2017, August 10). What Is Marine Biology? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-marine-biology-2291903 Kennedy, Jennifer. "What Is Marine Biology?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-marine-biology-2291903 (accessed January 22, 2018).