What is a Marine Biologist?
A Marine Biologist is a specialized type of Scientist. Also known as: Marine Life Biologist, Marine Scientist,
A marine biologist is someone who studies all types of sea creatures, and can choose to specialize in studying large ocean animals, all the way down to microscopic organisms. Everything from whales to the plankton they eat, and everything else in between, can be studied.
Marine biology is a learning and research field, and many marine biologists, therefore, work in coordination with universities and other educational institutions. In fact, many marine biologists are also teachers and professors during the winter months when less work is being done in the field. Research projects are at the heart of what most marine biologists do, whether it be actually collecting specimens in the field, compiling research data, finding real life applications for the research data, or classroom teaching.
What does a Marine Biologist do?
Some of the possible careers for a marine biology graduate would include teaching at a high school or college level, being a research scientist, an oceanographic laboratory technician, working for an aquarium or zoo, or any number of possibilities for consulting with different government agencies and universities.
Another potential career for a marine biology graduate would be to become a hydrologist, which is a scientist or researcher that studies bodies of water and helps to find ways to eliminate water pollution. There are actually many environmental careers that can be attained with a degree in marine biology. Even a fish and game warden, which is something akin to an environmental police officer, is a possible career move for a marine biology graduate.
Marine biotechnology, one of the possible specializations, involves developing and testing new drug treatments and protocols that are derived from ocean life. Another specialization is molecular biology, which is helpful in identifying microorganisms as well as diagnosing diseases that are caused by microorganisms.
What is the workplace of a Marine Biologist like?
Oceanography centres, laboratories, aquariums, research boats and vessels are some of the possibilities for field workplaces. It would not be unusual to find a marine biology graduate working in a tide pool, a swamp, a mangrove forest, a coral reef, or any place on earth that supports marine life. Travel to interesting places is one of the possible perks for a career in marine biology.
Laboratory work could involve working directly with the federal government, or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or on behalf of a university's research program. Virtually every body of salt water on the planet is being studied by marine biologists, from the Caribbean seas to the arctic ocean. Nonprofit organizations are also a major employer for marine biology graduates since they fund studies and research projects for commercial products. Drug companies conduct marine research as well, as marine life is often at the cutting edge of research.
Is there a lot of travel associated with being a marine biologist?
Travel is really dependant on what type of marine life you are going to study. If you work in a lab, then obviously you will do very little travelling, if at all. If you get a job at the zoo or at an aquarium, the position will be based there, with perhaps the occasional need to travel for a research project. If you are researching the migration of whales or are doing deep sea research, then you can expect to be travelling and to be out at sea for extended periods of time.
What is some good advice for marine biology students?
The best way to learn about marine life and how the ocean works is to do research. Talk to your professors, and get to know them. It is one of the best investments you can make as they are the ones that are running the labs and doing the research. They also know other professors/scientists doing research, and know who needs help, with what, and where.
If you are interested in scuba diving, learning how to dive is a valuable skill. One of the quickest ways to get in with the researchers at a university is to know how to dive. Researchers are always looking for divers, and you'll probably get many offers to help out with various research projects.
Take some computer programming courses. Scientists live in a world of data, so knowing how to program is essential.
Consider taking a research semester abroad. There are quite a few programs that will allow you to go abroad, do research, and get course credit.
What is it like being a marine biologist?
There really is no typical day for a marine biologist, since there really isn't a typical marine biologist. There are millions of unknown and known species that exist in our seas, and a marine biologist may perform any number of things each day.
Much of the work focuses on research. For example, a marine biologist may study the effects of oil or chemical spills released into the ocean on plant and animal life. They may also collect various types of data. An example might be where the marine biologist goes scuba diving for mussels in the morning, brings them back to the lab for observation in the afternoon and records any relevant data. He or she may also do some statistical analysis (using a computer) by comparing studies already done by other scientists. As well, marine biologists may sometimes present their research papers at scientific conferences, and/or publish the results of their research in scientific journals.
Marine biologists cover a broad range of research in all aspects of life on Earth and how the oceans maintain that life. It can also lead you to examine ecological, social and geographical aspects of our dynamic Earth and how they affect marine life.
I advise you to study all the topics associated with marine biology, at least superficially, to see which area you'd want to specialize in. My field of study involved marine mammals and, more specifically, dolphins and whales. My study of neuroanatomy of cetaceans was illuminating in itself, but also opened the door to many other aspects of their natural history, biology and future.
Right now, the biggest and most important areas of marine biology have to do with trash in the ocean and the warming seas that are killing our reefs, the laboratory for variability in species. These studies will lead you to understanding the relationships between the atmosphere and the sea, the polar regions with the equatorial ones. You should be getting the idea by now.
If you are still in high school, I recommend you take all the science you can, and plenty of math including calculus. In college, your undergraduate work will major in biology with strong chemistry, physics, geology and geography minors. Teach yourself to become a good writer so that your research and study will be well-communicated. Pick a school like MIT (Wood's Hole) or UCSD (Scripps Institute of Oceanography), UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, Humboldt State University, etc. for your advanced degrees. You will need them to qualify you for the few jobs available in the field. I don't think I have to say it, but making great grades at all levels will improve your chances greatly in choice of graduate programs and employment.
Go get 'em!