The oceans and seas that cover so much of our planet’s surface are still a mystery to many; therefore, unless you specifically work in the field of marine biology, odds are you might not even be able to define the term “marine biology,” much less describe the many aspects of it. But you can understand marine biology, so keep reading to learn how.
Definition of marine biology
A layperson would probably tell you that marine biology is the study of everything in the water. And while they wouldn’t be wrong, per se, their definition of marine biology would be a little lacking. Specifically, marine biology is the study of things in the water; however, the water being referred to is limited to oceans and other bodies of saltwater – like wetlands and estuaries; not freshwater. The “things” in the water that are studied are the living animals and plants within these saltwater bodies.
The people who study marine biology are called marine biologists. Most marine biologists hold graduate-level degrees, as this is a field that requires extensive knowledge about the subject matter – a subject matter which cannot be learned completely through an undergraduate degree in the sciences. Therefore, higher education and internship programs generally round out a marine biologists’ background prior to employment in the private or governmental sectors.
Marine taxonomy: a name classification necessity
Just as everything else on earth has a name, so does marine life. And the process of naming it in the field of marine biology is called marine taxonomy. Marine taxonomy involves the use of a classification system that was created as early as the 1700’s, thanks to Carl Linnaeus. This naming process is essential in order for anyone studying marine biology to adequately be able to monitor ecosystem changes and possible alterations in marine life that are due to human or natural factors.
Marine biologists study plant life
Like the plants and trees that cover the earths land surface, so too exist plants and forests in the sea which falls under the category of marine biology. In fact, over 100,000 types of algae species – and more than 50 seaweed species – serve to populate the floors of the oceans and other saltwater bodies, providing food to the sea’s creatures (and carbon to earth’s atmosphere) and making marine biology an even more interesting field due to this diversity. Yet one significant difference exists between marine plant life and that on earth: the lack of poisonous algae species in the sea versus many poisonous plants found on land’s surface.
Marine biologists study animal life
With more than 928 species in existence of rays and sharks within the ocean, marine biologists truly have their work cut out for them in studying all marine animal life. Such studies can take the marine biologists all over the world, and require them to use boats, submersible equipment, aquariums, and oceanography facilities to access their study subjects and complete their work. However, studying marine biology isn’t a job that necessarily requires world travel, since some who study marine biology do so from one location all their life.
Marine biologists study life cycles
Life cycles in marine biology can mirror those of their land counterparts to a large degree, but they can also differ extensively due to the impact of currents and tides of the ocean. Therefore, marine biology must take into account these factors–as well as the greater difficulty in monitoring and studying life that is developing in water, and under circumstances that might not present itself similarly on land.
If you loved science classes in high school or college, and enjoy marine activities in your leisure time, becoming a marine biologist might just be the dream job you’ve been looking for.
ResourcesMarinebio.org: Marine life