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Seaweek 2011: Spotlight on Marine Science

What are the Marine Sciences?
Adapted from Wikipedia Marine science and Wikipedia Marine biology

Marine Sciences are often grouped under Oceanography, the branch of Earth Science that studies the ocean. Oceanography covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • marine organisms and ecosystem dynamics;
  • Ocean currents, waves, and geophysical fluid dynamics (the movmnt of water in the ocean);
  • Plate tectonics (a scientific theory which describes the large scale movement of the Earth's lithosphere (the outermost shell of the planet)) and the geology of the sea floor;
  • and the flows of various chemical substances and physical properties within the ocean and across its boundaries.

Oceanography includes the fields of biology, chemistry, geology, meteorology, physics and geography. People who train in one or more of these fields often work as marine scientists although they may not have done a Marine Science course at university.

The main branches of Oceanography are:

  • Marine biology and ecology - the study of the plants, animals and micro-organisms of the oceans and their ecological interaction with the ocean;
  • Marine chemistry - the study of the chemistry of the ocean and its chemical interaction with the atmosphere;
  • Marine geology - the study of the geology of the ocean floor including plate tectonics;
  • Marine physics - the studiy the ocean's physical properties including temperature-salinity structure, mixing, waves, internal waves, surface tides, internal tides, and currents. Some special fields include Acoustical oceanography (the behaviour of sound in the oceans) and Optical oceanography (the behaviour of light in the oceans).

Marine biology

Marine biology is the scientific study of the organisms, ranging from bacteria and plankton to whales, in oceans, seas or other salty (brackish) water . Marine ecology looks at how organisms interact with each other and the environment.

Our oceans are a vast resource providing food, medicine, and raw materials, in addition to helping to support recreation and tourism all over the world. Marine organisms contribute significantly to the oxygen cycle, and are involved in the regulation of the Earth's climate. Shorelines are in part shaped and protected by marine life, and some marine organisms (e.g. mangroves) even help create new land.


A large amount of all life on Earth exists in the oceans. Exactly how large the proportion is unknown, since many ocean species are still to be discovered. While the oceans make up about 71% of the Earth's surface, due to their depth they contain about 300 times the habitable volume of the land (terrestrial) habitats on Earth.

There are many sub-fields and related fields of Marine biology including:

  • Phycology (the scientific study of algae)
  • Invertebrate zoology (the study of invertebrates)
  • Ichthyology (the study of fish)
  • Fisheries science (A multidisciplinary science involved in managing and understanding fisheries)
  • Marine conservation ( the protection and preservation of ecosystems in oceans and seas)
  • Environmental studies (the study human interaction with the environment)

There are many other specialist fields of Science which could form part of Marine Science. These include:

Biogeochemistry; Biogeography; Coastal geography; Environmental science; Geophysics; Glaciology; Hydrography; Hydrology; Limnology; Meteorology; Ocean dynamics; Physical geography and more.

Another area is Marine engineering. Marine engineers use the information obtained by Oceanographers and use it for any tasks including the design and building of oil platforms, ships, harbours, and other structures that allow us to use the ocean safely.



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