Marine biology

The Various Tasks of Marine Biology

There are so many professions that you can get by taking marine biology as a major. The important thing is that you complete all your basic subjects then find the right course and work that you are truly interested in. You can better boost your chances of finding the perfect job that offers substantial salary, together with the right people, equipment and facilities that make your research worthwhile. Here is a guideline of what to expect.

The Assistant Professor

As an assistant professor, you may be tasked to go to very remote locations such as Antarctica to do fieldwork for geology or oceanography. You will most likely go to the destination via a research ship. A program will lend out ships to researchers so that they do not have to purchase cold-weather gear that ranges up to several thousands of dollars. The parka or ship will have to be returned at the end of the research. Some of your objectives can include studying rock formations, trying out new deep submersible technologies and comparing animal behavior in various locations.

The Associate Professor

The associate professor receives around $65,000 to $100,000 each year. You will need to be a professor in geophysics and marine geology to be a professor. The typical work averages around 70 hours every week. Some of the things that the professor does include studying the role of volcanoes to support life without sunlight, learning how the lost city hydrothermal system was created, creating new sensors that pass through the vents, discovering new vent systems and working on a seafloor observatory.

Deep Sea Work

There can be many liens of research as a deep sea biologist. One line may involve studying the communities of various animals that thrive on the skeletons of dead whales found int he deep sea. The other area may involve studying seamount communities and deep-sea corals. You may study the distribution of corals, invertebrates and the dispersion of invertebrates between seamounts.

The submersible pilot works about 40 hours each week. The hours will highly depend on the sea conditions and weather. Your job will most likely involve supporting scientist research. You will pilot and act as a technician for the sub. The submersible has to be ready every time there is a dive. Scientists have to go underwater and back to the surface in the safest manner possible. You will also be managing the science collection equipment like cameras and life support systems.

Administrative Work

If you want to be an NOAA physical scientist or administrator, you need to have excellent credentials. Your work can include developing geography information systems and data linked to marine and coastal environments. You have to create management plans for marine protected areas. You may also be tasked to be project manager for huge undersea expeditions, using both unmanned and manned submersible devices.

You have to be committed to studying and learning about the natural systems of both coastal and marine locations. As a result, you can give information needed to effectively manage the ecosystem.

The Marine Mammals

Studying marine mammals may be one of the most interesting parts in a marine biologist’s profession. There are 3 main orders that you need to know about. Each category has its own unique mechanism, feeding pattern and characteristics. These animals tend to live in different places as well, others in groups and the rest in families or alone. Once you become familiar with their lifestyle and features, you get to appreciate the species more.

Cetacea Order

The whole lifecycle of the order Cetacea is aquatic. There are a couple of sub-orders founded ont he feeding mechanism – Odonticeti and Mysticeti. The sub-order Mysticeti includes baleen whales, blue whales, minke whales, grey whales and right whales. The whales feature mechanisms to boost the success feeding.

The sub-order Odonticeti includes animals like killer whales, dolphins, toothed whales and porpoises. River and coastal species reside in small home ranges if they are offshore. Others prefer warm equatorial waters, while the rest are located in every ocean like the bottle-nosed dolphins and killer whales. Some animals like big baleen whales move from the tropics for winter breeding to high latitudes for summer feeding. Animals propel themselves using the broad and boneless tail flukes. They also shed skin and exude oil as much as 12 times per day to reduce friction.

Pinnipedia Order

These animals adapt to the environment through a variety of processes. Heat conservation is done and get a low SA/V ratio and develop insulation through their hair and blubber. All the animals moult, after breeding in the summer while the others should stay out of water until everything is done.

The respiration is done by exhaling before the deep dives. They have relatively high concentrations of haemoglobin and myoglobin. The heart of the animals drop during deep dives and the blood is limited to the heart and brain. Dives can be as deep as 1700m, lasting anywhere between 80 to 160 hours.

Sirenia Order

Sirenians are sought mainly for their hide, oil and meat. They spend their entire lives in the water and are the only aquatic animals labeled as herbivores. The flat tail propels itself via paddles. These can walk at the benthic or move backwards. Locomotion is usually slow but they can also burst at around 13 knots. Sirenians inhale before they dive, just like whales.
When they breathe, they can swap about 90% of lung volume.

Manatees can see very clearly underwater, while taste and smell are retained. These touch when they greet each other and lead to chirps, between calf and mother. Dugongs can live for as long as 70 years but fecundity is rather low. The animals reach puberty at 10 years old and produce only 1 calf every 5 years. Their population has to be protected to maintain the ability to recover from environmental stress and hunting.

Interacting with Man

All animals have interactions with man, although sirenians are the most widely known to be friendly towards humans. Fishing nets and fishing lines tend to be a problem for most of these animals.

The Marine Biology Course

Marine biology is a branch of science which can also break down into several other specializations. Before you pick the course, make sure that you have the right mindset and skills to go through everything. You may be surprised to know that some aspects of the course can actually be boring and time-consuming. Here are some more guidelines on what you can expect from the course and how well you can cope with the requirements.

The Courses

Universities usually offer anywhere from 1 to 5 marine biology courses. All courses usually have the same requirements for students to enter and are very closely integrated. All courses share several basic modules. However, there are also important differences, so it is an excellent idea to view the course descriptions and modules first before finalizing your choice. The Marine biology course will delve on the biology of the organisms residing in the sea, taking into consideration the chemical and physical processes in the oceans and habitats. Marine Biology & Coastal Ecology involves a cross-system approach, wherein interactions and marine ecosystems take center stage.

Other Focuses

The Marine Biology & Oceanography course focuses more on integrating biological knowledge, with some inclusions on ocean processes. You will most likely cover topics like ocean biogeochemistry and physical processes together with the ecology and biology of marine life. One of the basic ways wherein the various ethos of the courses is developed is during the second year field course and methods modules. Join a number of course preview sessions to grab the chance to talk to students and staff regarding the various courses.

On Certain Changes

Once you find out more about the Marine Biology course, you may want to change your application. It is usually not a problem to transfer between 3 marine courses at Plymouth. In most cases, applicants will change their mind after joining the course preview day. Just inform the school during preview day or by writing a letter or email then amend the UCAS entry. Schools usually have a set number of places on each course to help plan for field courses and practical work. Even though the first year of every course is the same and theoretically possible to change, there might only be a very limited number of places.

The Fieldwork

The fieldwork can vary between courses. Marine Biology, Marine Biology & Coastal Ecology and Marine Biology & Oceanography typically have the same field course during the first year. The second year field course has a new emphasis. One course is located in a different place, focusing more on the experimental approach to study habitats in shallow water.

Another is found in a different location and focuses on the different kinds of flora and fauna in the region. The Marine Biology & Oceanography is done in a new location, involving boat work on a research vessel. Follow up analysis in the lab may be done. You may be provided with some pamphlets and manuals to exactly determine what you should expect during fieldwork.

The Marine Biologist

There are several features and roles that marine biologists have to assume, depending on their level of experience and expertise. You may be assigned to research different species depending on your location and assignment. You should also know the basic qualifications to make it as a marine biologist. You can be given tasks, based on your current degree.

On Research

If you intend to do research as a marine biologist, you need to finish college with a Bachelor of Science degree (4 years) at the very least, preferably from a known university offering specialization in marine sciences. Having this degree will allow you to work as a lab technician or on a ship running samples. You may also be assigned as a scientist. It is recommended that you have good grades in high school too.

A bachelor’s degree is not actually enough qualification to permit you to work as a scientist wherein you do your own research. You will need to get a master’s degree at the very least, but given the current employment conditions, you will also need a PhD in Marine Biology, lasting 4 to 5 years. As soon as you finish the PhD, you will be required to spend 3 to 4 years more in positions referred to as post-doctoral fellow. You can be hired as a temporary contract position by a scientist to run a part of the research semi-independently. As soon as you complete the stage, you will be considered qualified enough to be hired by a government agency, university or private research group.

Things to Do

As a marine biologist, you need to perform an active research program which includes publishing the results in peer-reviewed journals. You are also expected to review documents from other existing researchers in your field. If you are currently employed in a university, you will be tasked to teach, as well as supervise the training of research students at the PhD and Master’s level. You will need to be an active member of the community, such as joining committees in the academic department. You may also be tasked to apply for research grants. Funds are highly needed to do research.

About the Course and Other Requirements

Marine Biology is usually a major course in many universities. You can also choose to specialize further by going for areas like benthic biology or living on the ocean bottom, ichthyology or fish studies, etc. It is important to have a very keen mind, as well as the ability to be meticulous and careful. A lot of research will need you to repeat the same work again and again. Majority of scientific research does not lead to awards. You have to be patient with the developments. You will need to have a lot of positive reinforcement to stick to the course for the long term.

Tips to Get In

Always aim for good grades to stay competitive and possibly get scholarships. Focus on your writing skills and train more in your maths and computer programs. You should always volunteer as an assistant if the opportunity comes up, since what you learned in university may not entirely be the same as the actual job you will be performing once you get out of school. You will adjust to the situation more as you get more experience.

The Job Outlook of a Marine Biologist

Even though many people today are already familiar with the term marine biologist, several still do not realize the job title. The term can be used in different jobs and disciplines in marine science that deal with studying aquatic life. Even sociologists and economists dealing with marine resource conditions are included in the field of marine biology. You have to properly identify the job outlook to know which part you want to be included in.

Schools Offering Programs in Marine Biology

Several universities and colleges offer different degrees in marine biology, as well as other related fields. You can find more information about the various academic programs online. If you want to study along the Pacific Coast, there are a number of schools that you might want to look at such as the School of Fisheries at the University of Washington in Seattle, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State, Humboldt University in California, University in Corvallis and University of California Programs at San Diego.

If you want to study in the Midwest, you can enrol at the University of Wisconsin. If you intend to study on the East Coast, you can choose University of Rhode Island, University of Miami, University of Maryland and University of Georgia. Gulf Coast schools include Auburn University, Texas A&M University and Louisiana State University.

The Courses

If you want to pursue a marine biology career, you have to take preparatory courses in physics, zoology, biology, chemistry, mathematics, biometrics and statistics. English is also vital since you will be writing and publishing scientific papers. Other courses in the aquatic sciences are also vital, such as oceanography, fishery biology and ichthyology. Courses in the social sciences are needed which generally deal with management and public policies.


You undergraduate course does not have to be marine biology. You can graduate and have a degree in zoology, biology, fisheries or one of the animal sciences. Physical oceanographers may aim for an oceanography degree, having a lot of course work in computer modeling, math and physics. Biological oceanographers focus on both the physical and biological features of the sea and the interactions. You will need a bachelor’s or master’s degree to start any kind of marine biological research job.

Getting the Degree

An ideal sample degree will breakdown into the following: biology (45%) and zoology (28%). Undergraduate work may also be done in the following: fisheries (12%), conservation (3%), oceanography (5%), marine biology (2%), chemistry (2%), animal science (2%), biological oceanography (2%) and math (1%).

Among the individuals who acquired their master’s degree, majority chose either zoology or fisheries. Other popular picks include biology, marine biology, oceanography and biological oceanography. Other categories included are animal sciences, physical oceanography and ecology. Most Ph.D. degrees also chose either zoology or fisheries. Other doctorate degrees focused on marine biology, oceanography, biology, ecology and statistics.

Accreditation will depend largely on the school and governing bodies. You may also independently get accreditation by applying to the regional Higher Commission on Learning or regional association of colleges.

The Advantages of Being a Marine Biologist

Being a marine biologist can be a dream come true for some individuals. Once you finish university and start working for different institutions, you will find that a lot of privileges and opportunities start to unravel. You get to boost your knowledge and travel all over the world without having to worry about fees and unnecessary expenses. Marine biology is for the adventurous, bold and ambitious who want something more out of their lives.

Financial Privileges

In the beginning, one may only receive a meagre salary of $20,000 to $30,000. However, if you finish your doctorate degree and gain some experience, you will find that your monthly pay can increase significantly. There is little raise to be expected during the first 2 to 3 years, except if you get involved in major discoveries, studies or expeditions. Advanced professionals can start receiving $50,000 to $75,000 per year. If you have been working as a marine biologist for 10 years or more, you will notice that salary also increases significantly. Professors, managers and administrators can receive salary as big as $150,000 to $180,000 each year.


As a marine biologist, you will be given the opportunity to travel to different parts of the world. You will spend a lot of time both offshore and inland to gather data and observe for changes in the ocean and all organisms living in it. Although your manager will choose the destination most of the time, you get the privilege of not having to spend any cash on tickets and accommodations. You will most likely spend time in ships, vessels and submersibles. Inland, you will report to a lab and stay in special dormitories or a nice hotel.

Marine biologists can go on expeditions lasting several months. If you get assigned to a distant location for a major study, you may have the rest of the year off after you have completed all tasks. Marine biologists study all the oceans of the world from the Pacific to the Atlantic. You get to visit countries like India, the Philippines, Aruba and Cuba.

Access to Equipment

You get to use equipment and marine tools that cost several thousands or even millions of dollars. Marine biologists also have access to laboratories and other state-of-the art programs and technologies to further enhance their findings and come up with accurate and reliable results. As a professional, you will be provided with everything you need like uniforms, underwater gear, cameras, etc.

Boosting Knowledge

Depending on the institution you belong to, you also have the privilege of joining exclusive seminars, meetings and summits where you can witness the latest trends and developments in the marine world. You get to see the rarest species on earth and learn more about the history of the world. You get to meet important people in the industry and listen to some of the brightest minds in marine biology. You can also get special education and grants to further your studies and earn your master’s or doctorate degree.

Risks and Pitfalls of Marine Biology

Similar to other professions, there are a number of pitfalls that you have to watch out for as a marine biologist. You have to fully understand the nature and description of the job, as well as practice all the applications to get ahead. You will find that experience helps a lot in reducing the common risks and disadvantages. Find a mentor and excel in your endeavors. Here are some more details on how you can possibly avoid the risks.

Lack of Data

The ocean is a very vast area, majority of which still remains unexplored. It is important that you collect sufficient data to come up with the most adequate and convincing results. Some types of data have to be collected from different parts of the world. Others require years to fully unravel. As a marine biologist, you have to be very meticulous and patient with all the details. Data needs to be specific, since you will be dealing with organisms that are both visible to the naked eye and microscopic.

In many occasions, you have to collect data and test for results again and again to confirm. Some specimens tend to be limited, so you have to be very careful when conducting studies or risk spending several more weeks and months searching for more samples. Your observations should be put into writing, so that you can accurately compare and view the results.

Personality Pitfalls

Some individuals’ personalities simply do not match the job description, so they end up getting bored or worse, incompetent in assignments. There are several fields in marine biology that you can apply for. You have to understand which areas you are really interested in. Spend some time working on each field then decide which area matches your skills well. Marine biology requires patient, hardworking, adventurous and intelligent people.

To become a marine biologist, you need to finish a bachelor’s or master’s degree at least. Your grades have to be good or excellent if you want to be part of prestigious institutions. You also boost your chances of getting a grant or extra funding if you make sensible and significant research. If you want to become professor or a managerial position, you have to finish a doctorate degree.

Ocean Dangers

Being a marine biologist means that you need to spend a lot of time in the sea or in expeditions. Certain times, you are required to spend several weeks or months in ships or vessels. You will also spend many hours inside submersibles. It is already understood that weather conditions, the unknown depths of the ocean and other existing dangers lurk in many corners. You have to be aware of the dangers and make the necessary precautions by planning and preparing beforehand.

Reducing the Risks

Study the course carefully first before applying. Check for other types of profession as well, since you may realize that your skills and knowledge match a less adventurous job. Planning and working together as a team also greatly reduces the common dangers that one can expect from being a marine professional.

Related Fields and Marine Biology

Marine biology is a branch of science that deals with the study of aquatic life and underwater environments. You will be assigned both inland and offshore, depending on the topic. You may also find that other branches and related fields of marine biology can be equally or more interesting. Find out more about the details and features then decide which one will best suit your personal interests and needs. Here are some more tips.

About Marine Biology

The field of marine biology involves the study of aquatic organisms, the behavior and other interactions with the environment. It is considered one of the most diverse and interesting fields in oceanography. If you want to understand marine organisms and their different behaviors fully, you have to get a basic understanding of other disciplines and aspects of oceanography, like geological oceanography, chemical oceanography and physical oceanography. Biological oceanographers and marine biologists get to study these related fields during their careers to get a wider perspective during research.

Since there are several topics, marine researchers choose a specific interest and focus on it. Specializations can be founded on a specific organism, species, ecosystem or behavior technique. Marine biologists can select to review a certain species of fish or all kinds of fish that live in a given region.

Other Specializations

Marine biotechnology is a fast-emerging field that provides huge opportunities for marine biologists. The research shows a very wide array of opportunities and applications. A focus aspect involves the biomedical field, wherein scientists improve and test drugs, many that come from marine organisms. One type of an application of biotechnology research can be viewed in defense or industry, wherein researchers create non-toxic coatings that limit the build-up of organisms like zebra mussels and barnacles.

Molecular biology is another related aspect of specialization. Researchers will apply molecular techniques and approaches to different environments, in the deep sea and coastal ponds. They also apply these to different organisms, animals, plants and microscopic bacteria. Molecular biology can be used to identify the presence of a certain organism in a water sample via the use of molecular probes. When the organism is the same to other organisms or is microscopic, the data can be highly helpful.


Aquaculture is defined as the farming of shellfish, seaweeds and finfish. It is another field that is supported by molecular approaches and marine biotechnology. Aquaculture is quickly getting more attention since people are now looking for more fish and shellfish. Technological developments have also been made, making the approach more economically feasible. Economic value is increased as professionals discovered the way to extend the harvest and market season.

More Advances

Marine researchers are now looking for ways to provide drugs to affected populations of fishes raised in farms. The disease can be very detrimental for harvesting. Technology has allowed out fish tissue layers to be more permeable, thereby making the fish more receptive to antibiotic drugs and vaccines released into the water. As a result, healthier fishes can be raised in farms to provide for various populations.

Marine Careers

As a marine biologist, you will be expected to conduct different experiments as well as research on different animals and organisms. There can be several fields that you can readily be involved in. You can study organisms that have been existing for millions of years. You can also choose to study mammals and their behavior and habitats. You can choose to directly be a marine biologist, a teacher of it or a professor in a related field.

Becoming an Oceanographer

There are three main disciplines of oceanography namely physical oceanography, marine geology and geophysics and marine chemistry and geochemistry. All these three are related. Oceanographers using these disciplines usually work together to uncover the different mysteries of ocean science. Preference is provided to projects that mix the disciplines of oceanography and use vital principles from each one to create and learn an even, process or system.

Humans need to constantly look for more ways to provide water, shelter and food, since the global population continues to grow. The oceans still have a lot to offer to support human life for several centuries. Oceanographers work to learn more about the different locations and reactions of the ocean to find more ways to meet the growing demands of the world.

Engineering Underwater

If you are more interested in the engineering field, you can choose to become an ocean engineer. It provides vital links to other oceanographic disciplines like chemical and physical oceanography, marine biology and marine geology and geophysics. You get to help create and invent different oceanographic tools and devices that will change the way oceans and coasts are studied. Some of the well-known instruments include sediment traps, seismometers, acoustic measuring devices, underwater vehicles and underwater video equipment.

You can gather in a few minutes data that used to take years to complete. You can conveniently work even from remote places, such as laboratories and ships. The innovations and inventions of ocean engineers have allowed oceanographers to go farther offshore and into new depths. Discoveries have been made because of oceanographic engineers like ocean volcanoes, new species of plants and animals, physical processes and hydrothermal vents.

A Writing Job

Some marine biologists are very concerned about the current condition of the ocean. You may want to work as a reporter or writer to help people become more aware about the environmental effects of various inland processes. You can start a job in environmental reporting, science writing, public relations and communications. You may also want to teach and educate people directly in colleges, museums, aquariums and universities.

More Marine Jobs

If you finish Marine Biology, you can open a lot of career opportunities. You can become one of the related professionals: science writer, marine educator, ecotourism guide, maritime or environmental lawyer, aquavet, park ranger, filmmaker or photographer, marine historian, economist, marina manager, aquaculturist, spokesperson for grants or fundraiser, environmental planner, computer specialist, hatchery specialist or ship captain or mate. You have to gauge your own hobbies, knowledge, skills and specialties to determine the best potential career.

Marine Biology Jobs You Can Do

Marine biology branches out into several disciplines and professions. Once you graduate from university, you can choose a variety of jobs where you can truly become effective. You should also gauge your level of interest in each field to determine which one will be most suited for your skills and knowledge. Learning more about the job description of each one will help you decide better. Here are some tips on some of the most common functions.

Be a Geophysicist

If you want to be a geophysicist or research oceanographer, you have to earn your doctorate degree first. You may be assigned to a technical job if you finished bachelor’s or master’s degrees in engineering and science. Expect to earn about $80,000 to $130,000 every year as a geophysicist. The average work lasts about 20 to 50 hours per week. You may also continue working on weekends.

Your work mainly involves studying seafloor images and maps via different software programs that analyze the processes that make features under the water like submarine volcanoes. Some of the big discoveries that this type of profession has made include documenting huge submarine debris flows and submarine landslides. Other discoveries are also apparent such as finding amazing sites in the Pacific and finding vents that emit caustic fluids and liquid carbon dioxide.

Be a Fish Ecologist

The fish ecologist or conservation biologist can go on several expeditions every year in different parts of the globe. You will need to earn your doctorate degree to be a professor. There are many other field positions if you finish your bachelor’s or master’s degrees such as working up lab samples, diving, running advanced equipment and conducting sampling. The average ecologist earns around $80,000 every year. Work can last anywhere between 40 to 60 hours per week.

Research by fish ecologists focuses more on the functions of habitat in changing the availability and distribution of fishes. The work can take place in a huge range of locations like on tropical coral reefs, outer continental shelf environments and the deep sea. You will use a variety of materials like submersibles, cameras, snorkel and scuba to gather data. Most professionals want others to understand the needed balance and the ethical obligations to save plant and animal communities.

The Marine Archaeologist

If you become a marine archaeologist, you get to coordinate heritage activities of the maritime program. You should focus more on the starting phases of marine archaeology like finding and studying shipwrecks. Hydrographers make use of remote sensing tools to go through the ocean floor and make nautical charts for secure investigation. The tools can also be used to look for prehistoric landscapes.

Helping Other Researchers

Researchers can manage sites better if the marine archaeologist gives a sensible inventory and manage remote sensing data. You should work well with other existing programs to create shipwreck rules to meet the requirements of communities. Extra protection and preservation is needed for the new shipwrecks found. Researchers can find lost ships and other landscapes more easily with the given data.