Marine Biology - Definition, Careers and Major | Biology Dictionary (2023)

Definition

Marine biology is the study of marine ecosystems, marine organisms, and human interactions with these environments and species. As a marine biologist, you may study a wide range of topics from the behavior, physiology, and ecology of specific groups of organisms to the interactions between human activity and aquatic environments.

Overview

The organisms that are studied by marine biologists vary greatly and include everything from the biggest whales to the smallest plankton. Marine biologists also study abiotic factors within the environment, such as the concentration of nutrients within the ocean. These types of studies help scientists understand the ocean in greater detail.

Since the Earth consists of approximately 71% water. This means that the majority of the Earth is covered in oceans. Marine biologists study every aspect of oceans, as they contribute many things humans need to survive. This could be the oxygen produced by algae in the ocean, to the fish harvested by billions of people every year for food.

(Video) 5 Types of Marine Biologists // Careers in Marine Biology

A career in marine biology could lead to studying marine life, such as this great white shark and the fish that surround it. It also includes the fields of marine mammal training, researching the ocean, researching marine ecosystems and all other biological careers related to the ocean.

Marine Biology Careers

Many marine biologists perform research in all of the areas shown above and more. The field of marine biology is a very popular and therefore competitive field, but there are a variety of careers available. Employment can be found at a university, research centers, commercial fisheries, government agencies, and conservation groups.

The work environment can vary widely between jobs; some consist entirely of fieldwork, others are solely spent in the laboratory, and many jobs include work in both settings. Research technicians perform work that supports the research of professional marine biologists. While many technicians have a bachelor’s degree, most marine biologists have a master’s degree and/or a doctorate.

Marine Biology Major

Some marine biologists start out by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in biology. Then, they go on to graduate school in marine biology specifically. There are also universities that offer marine biology as a specific undergraduate major. This may be useful to those who know for sure that they want to go on to be marine biologists. However, a master’s degree or Ph.D. is required for most jobs beyond a technician position.

(Video) How to Be a Scientist: Careers in Marine Biology

Undergraduates who major in marine biology take many of the same courses as general biology majors. Core biology courses are required for a general understanding of the field that upper-level courses build upon. In addition, most biology majors are required to take classes in subjects such as chemistry, physics, calculus, and statistics.

Marine biology majors in college focus more on marine biology classes after general classes have been taken. They may take classes on specific groups of animals, such as ichthyology. They also take more courses relating specifically to marine biology, such as marine ecology, conservation science, and physiology of marine life.

Branches of Marine Biology

By type of organism:

  • Herpetology: the study of amphibians and reptiles, many of which live in or around the ocean.
  • Ichthyology: the study of fish.
  • Invertebrate zoology: the study of invertebrate organisms (organisms without a backbone). Many invertebrates are aquatic including sponges, crustaceans, and mollusks.
  • Marine mammology: the study of cetaceans, which includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
  • Phycology: the study of algae.

Other fields that are not necessarily organism-specific:

(Video) Marine Biologist: David Gruber | Best Job Ever

  • Environmental Studies: marine biology is closely intertwined with the study of the environment. Marine biologists study how aquatic organisms are affected by rising ocean temperatures, water pollution, and ocean acidification.
  • Fisheries and aquaculture: these fields involve the use of fish as a food source for humans. Fisheries are where fish are raised/farmed to be eaten. Some marine biologists work with fisheries and conduct research on overfishing, the sustainability of fish as a food source, and pollution levels. Aquaculture refers to research on farming specific species of fishes in order to learn how to best cultivate them as a food source.
  • Marine biotechnology: this field involves biomedical applications of marine life. For example, scientists study how compounds from marine plants, animals, and microbes may be used in pharmaceuticals. The drug Ara-C, used to treat leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the drug Ara-A, used to treat herpes, are both derived from compounds found in a sea sponge.

History of Marine Biology

Humans have long been interested in oceans, but the relative inaccessibility of large bodies of water made them difficult to study for much of human history. The ancient Phoenicians, who lived in present-day Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, were one of the first peoples to conduct ocean expeditions. They navigated the vast ocean by using constellations as their guide.

However, they were primarily interested in oceans as a means of transportation and as a food source. They were not particularly interested in studying marine organisms, aside from determining whether those creatures were suitable as food. Later in history, people began to study marine organisms in more detail.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle is considered to be the father of marine biology. His writings from the 4th Century B.C. include the first known references to specific marine animals such as fish, crustaceans, and mollusks, and he also recognized that whales were mammals and not fish. Aristotle even acknowledged that the oceans and continents slowly shifted over long periods of time, i.e., that seas could gradually fill and become land.

Modern Marine Biology

For a long time after Aristotle, no major research was done on the ocean and its life. Some even thought that Aristotle had discovered all that there was to know about the ocean. But with the beginning of the Scientific Revolution in the 16th Century, there was a renewed interest in studying natural history, including marine life, which led to an increase in research throughout the past few hundred years.

(Video) Marine biology Meaning

In the 18th Century, Captain James Cook led many oceanic voyages for the British Navy and discovered many new types of aquatic plants and animals. This inspired other naturalists for many years to come, including Charles Darwin. While Darwin is best known for his theory of evolution by natural selection, he also made important contributions to marine biology as a naturalist on the HMS Beagle.

During his 1831-1836 voyage, he collected and studied marine specimens which were then sent to the British Museum. Later in the 19th Century, the HMS Challenger, led by Sir Charles Wyville Thomson, explored the world’s oceans. Naturalists aboard the Challenger described 4,717 new species and collected 50 books’ worth of data. Later, institutions with the sole purpose of studying marine biology were built, such as the Station Biologique de Roscoff and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

Marine Biology Technology

A variety of technology has been developed to allow humans to explore the ocean, from the bathysphere (a spherical submersible used in the 1930s) to deep-sea submersibles, diving equipment, and remotely-operated vehicles. Still, only an estimated 20 percent of the world’s oceans have been explored.

Human activities such as overfishing, pollution, and building along the coastline can have profound effects on the world’s oceans, and in turn, create problems for the organisms that depend on oceans to survive. Technology has come a long way over the hundreds of years that science has analyzed the oceans. However, there are still many discoveries to be made!

FAQs

What is a career in marine biology? ›

Marine biology offers a diverse range of career opportunities including biomedical research scientist, marine biotechnologist, mammologist, ichthyologist (a type of zoologist that deals with fish), environmental consultant, veterinarian, aquarium manager, aquarist and so much more.

What is the meaning marine biology? ›

Marine biology is the study of marine organisms, their behaviors and interactions with the environment. Marine biologists study biological oceanography and the associated fields of chemical, physical, and geological oceanography to understand marine organisms.

What are the major responsibilities of marine biology? ›

A Marine Biologist, or Marine Life Biologist, studies and researches the ocean and aquatic life. Their main duties include conducting experiments, caring for sick and injured sea creatures and monitoring the everyday functions of marine life.

Is a marine biologist a job or career? ›

Marine Biology is a great field of study. It provides a wide range of career opportunities. Marine biologists can find jobs in a variety of fields. They can work at colleges and universities as researchers, teachers, or administrators.

Is marine biologist a good career? ›

Marine biologists have a chance to work as a scientist in Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute & Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture in its various research centers along the coast of India. There are many academic institutions that teach the subject as well as carry out research in this vast field.

Is marine biology a hard major? ›

It is a long and arduous journey to becoming a respectable marine biologist. To take up marine biology, one must choose subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology during your undergrad years. A degree in marine biology is the safest way to reach your career goals.

What are 5 things marine biologist do? ›

Marine Biologist Duties & Responsibilities
  • Study marine life in natural or controlled environments.
  • Collect data and specimens.
  • Study characteristics of species.
  • Assess human impact.
  • Monitor and manage populations.
  • Report findings.
  • Teach.
25 Jun 2019

What are 3 things marine biologist do? ›

Research projects are the main focus of marine biologists, which include collecting specimens at sea, compiling data, and undertaking laboratory-based experiments. Key areas of research include migration patterns, underwater photosynthesis and the impact of human activity on coral reefs.

What is the full meaning of marine? ›

adjective. of or relating to the sea; existing in or produced by the sea: marine vegetation. pertaining to navigation or shipping; nautical; naval; maritime. serving on shipboard, as soldiers.

What is a definition for marine? ›

Word forms: marines

Marine is used to describe things relating to the sea or to the animals and plants that live in the sea. ... breeding grounds for marine life. Synonyms: nautical, sea, maritime, oceanic More Synonyms of marine.

What is marine life short answer? ›

Marine life, sea life, or ocean life is the plants, animals and other organisms that live in the salt water of seas or oceans, or the brackish water of coastal estuaries. At a fundamental level, marine life affects the nature of the planet.

Why is marine science important? ›

Marine science plays a pivotal role in the continuing quest to understand our world and to manage its resources. The interdisciplinary nature of the Marine Science curriculum will prepare students to analyze critically such contemporary issues as environmental change, human impacts on the ocean, and biodiversity.

What skills are needed for marine biology? ›

To become a Marine Biologist, you'll need:
  • to be accurate and methodical in field and laboratory work.
  • patience to repeat experiments several times.
  • analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • strong team skills, especially when working at sea.
  • to be able to work on your own for long periods of time.

What is the best job for a marine biologist? ›

Top Marine Biology Jobs
  • Natural Resource Technician.
  • Marine Archaeology. ...
  • Stranding Response. ...
  • Aquarist. ...
  • Marine Biologist. ...
  • Environmental Planner. ...
  • Research Technician. ...
  • Microbiologist. Microbiologists study microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, and fungi as well as some types of parasites. ...

What jobs can you do as a marine? ›

  • 01 – Personnel and Administration. ...
  • 02 – Intelligence. ...
  • 03 – Infantry. ...
  • 04 – Logistics. ...
  • 05 – Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Plans. ...
  • 06 – Communications. ...
  • 08 – Field Artillery. ...
  • 09 – Training.

How many years does it take to study marine biology? ›

Marine biologists must complete at least a bachelor's degree, which takes about four years. Marine biologists who pursue master's degrees may take an additional two to three years to complete their education, and earning a PhD will take up to six years more. What does a marine biologist earn?

Do marine biologists travel a lot? ›

Do you travel often? Yes I travel very often. At this point in my career, I travel almost every month for a meeting, conference, or some field work. My work takes me wonderful places all over the world but it requires being away from home frequently, and sometimes for long periods.

Do marine biologists do a lot of math? ›

A lot of marine biologists use a huge amount of maths, and it's getting more mathematical all the time.”

Is marine biology high paying? ›

While ZipRecruiter is seeing annual salaries as high as $210,000 and as low as $23,000, the majority of Marine Biology salaries currently range between $37,500 (25th percentile) to $208,000 (75th percentile) with top earners (90th percentile) making $208,000 annually across the United States.

Is marine biology good pay? ›

The salaries of Marine Biologists in the US range from $13,292 to $356,999 , with a median salary of $64,435 . The middle 57% of Marine Biologists makes between $64,439 and $161,815, with the top 86% making $356,999.

Do marine biologist have to swim? ›

Marine biologists do not have to be able to dive. Many roles are lab or office based and field work frequently involves surveys which are boat based or on the shoreline. You actually don't even need to know how to swim! Ofcourse, it is exciting to experience being underwater close to the animals that you are studying.

Where do most marine biologists work? ›

Where do Marine Biologists Work? Those who marine biologists work for are typically government departments and institutions at the state and federal levels. Marine biologists that are not government-employed can be found at private research institutions or universities.

Why do I want to study marine biology? ›

As a marine biologist, you could help us better understand marine life; create more sustainable fisheries; manage the impact of climate change, marine plastic pollution and other human activities on species and ecosystems; encourage others to protect our oceans, and much more.

What clothes do marine biologists wear? ›

Hi Sophia, In Florida and other tropical areas, lightweight clothing that is capable of getting wet is what I see for most activities. Gear can also include waders and rubber boots, for more hands-on jobs. Often times marine biologists will have rain gear as well, since weather can be unpredictable at sea.

Where do Marine Biologist do? ›

Many work at private research laboratories or consulting firms. Others work for aquariums, zoos, and museums, or become faculty members in academia. Some become high school science teachers. Marine biologists may spend a significant amount of time outdoors when conducting research.

What are the types of marine? ›

Specific types of marine life vary with location, but in general, some types of marine life you'll find at the rocky shore include:
  • Marine algae.
  • Lichens.
  • Birds.
  • Invertebrates such as crabs, lobsters, sea stars, urchins, mussels, barnacles, snails, limpets, sea squirts (tunicates), and sea anemones.
  • Fish.
3 Jul 2019

Why is it called marine? ›

Historically, marines serve as a navy's ground troops. In fact, the word "marine" is the French word for sea, which may be why the French military historically called English troops — who all had to arrive by sea — "marines."

What are the three types of marine? ›

Marine protection is additionally separated into three classes of protection. These are freight insurance, ship or hull insurance, and cargo protection.

What are the 3 types of marine life and describe them? ›

Lesson Summary
  • Three main groups of ocean life are plankton, nekton, and benthos. Plankton float in the water. Nekton swim through the water. Benthos live on the ocean floor.
  • Phytoplankton are the primary producers in the ocean. They form the base of most marine food chains.

What is marine example? ›

Marine Life
  • BIRDS.
  • FISHES.
  • REPTILES.
  • SEA LIONS.
  • SEALS.
  • SHARKS & RAYS.
  • SQUID & OCTOPUSES.
  • WHALES & DOLPHINS.

What are 5 marine environments? ›

Although there is some disagreement, several types of marine ecosystems are largely agreed on: estuaries, salt marshes, mangrove forests, coral reefs, the open ocean, and the deep-sea ocean.

What is marine life called? ›

Marine life, sea life, or ocean life is the plants, animals and other organisms that live in the salt water of seas or oceans, or the brackish water of coastal estuaries. At a fundamental level, marine life affects the nature of the planet.

What course is marine biology? ›

The Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology is a four-year program that provides students a clear and deep understanding and knowledge of marine life and its ecosystem. The course discusses the concepts and theories of modern biological sciences, physical, and biological basis of aquatic life.

What are the benefits of marine life? ›

It provides nutrition, medicines, and mineral and renewable energy resources. It supports jobs in fishing, seafood, leisure and science. Our ocean is the original “super-highway,” that links economies together and transports goods and people all around the globe.

Do you need to be good at math for marine biology? ›

Basic Prerequisites. Any math skills that are necessary for basic biology and chemistry are necessary for marine biology. For instance, some marine biology tasks require preparation of solutions at different concentrations, which requires the algebraic skill of balancing equations.

Is Marine Biology a hard career? ›

Like other scientific careers, a marine biologist can expect tons of competition. Hard work and commitment are the only answers to success in this field.

Do marine biologists get paid well? ›

The salaries of Marine Biologists in the US range from $13,292 to $356,999 , with a median salary of $64,435 . The middle 57% of Marine Biologists makes between $64,439 and $161,815, with the top 86% making $356,999.

What is the highest paying marine biology job? ›

10 Highest Paying Marine Biology Jobs
  • #6. Aquatic Veterinarian.
  • #5. Marine Archaeologist.
  • #4. Ocean Engineer.
  • #3. Oceanographer.
  • #2. Marine Researcher.
  • #1. Marine Resource Economist.
  • Conclusion.
  • Similar articles.
2 Oct 2022

What skills do marine biologists need? ›

To become a Marine Biologist, you'll need:
  • to be accurate and methodical in field and laboratory work.
  • patience to repeat experiments several times.
  • analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • strong team skills, especially when working at sea.
  • to be able to work on your own for long periods of time.

What are 3 things a marine biologist do? ›

Research projects are the main focus of marine biologists, which include collecting specimens at sea, compiling data, and undertaking laboratory-based experiments. Key areas of research include migration patterns, underwater photosynthesis and the impact of human activity on coral reefs.

How smart are marine biologists? ›

Marine biologists are super knowledgeable professionals. Most of them have a degree or two, often a Masters and a PhD. They have spent an age in the university library; while the rest of the world was clubbing, playing football, singing, they have learned to appreciate the “wonders” of chemistry or a math formula.

Why should I study marine biology? ›

An estimated 80% of all life on earth is found under the ocean surface! Plants and animals act as indicators of the effect of human activities on the planet, including pollution and climate change. Marine biologists play a vital role in studying these effects.

How many years do you have to go to college for marine biology? ›

How long does it take to become a marine biologist? Marine biologists must complete at least a bachelor's degree, which takes about four years. Marine biologists who pursue master's degrees may take an additional two to three years to complete their education, and earning a PhD will take up to six years more.

What is the best job for a Marine Biologist? ›

Top Marine Biology Jobs
  • Natural Resource Technician.
  • Marine Archaeology. ...
  • Stranding Response. ...
  • Aquarist. ...
  • Marine Biologist. ...
  • Environmental Planner. ...
  • Research Technician. ...
  • Microbiologist. Microbiologists study microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, and fungi as well as some types of parasites. ...

How much does a Marine Biologist make an hour? ›

How much does a Marine Biologist make? As of Nov 7, 2022, the average hourly pay for a Marine Biologist in the United States is $27.47 an hour.

What's the difference between marine biology and marine science? ›

If you're interested in animal behaviour, choose marine biology. If you'd like to look at the physics of oceanography, choose marine science. Both paths are related and work together.

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