How many students, when they were younger, said they wanted to be marine biologists? While some gave up that dream when they learned it involved more than just swimming with dolphins, many others switched to that dream for the same reason—because they realized just how many exciting options would be open to them.
Marine biology study involves a broad curriculum that focuses on the study, observation, protection and management of marine organisms, including plant life. Seventy percent of the earth is covered in water, and many marine species are important to humans economically. Students in marine biology courses examine the impact of humans on the ocean and its life forms, and vice versa.
Marine biology graduate curriculums encompass numerous disciplines, such as oceanography, cellular biology, zoology, ecology, geology, meteorology, conservation and more. Students will use the scientific method, which includes characterization, hypothesis, predication and experiment. They can except to do a great deal of work in the laboratory as well as in the field. Marine biology courses provide graduate students with an excellent opportunity to spend time at beautiful ocean locales as well as study abroad. It certainly makes for an exotic, dramatic, constantly engrossing life.
Students can expect to take courses in microbiology, fisheries and aquaculture, environmental marine biology, deep-sea ecology, ichthyology and marine mammology. They will learn about the behavior of marine animals (marine ethology) in order to understand how to protect endangered species. Marine biology concentrations include marine bioscience, marine policy, oceanography and physical ocean science and engineering.
Other marine biology courses in graduate marine biology curriculums include mammalian anatomy, physiology and biochemistry, marine botany, ocean and coastal processes, marine conservation and marine birds and animals. Students will observe marine creatures in the laboratory and create theoretical models that predict their abundance. They may learn to sequence DNA, map out habitats and scuba dive.
Graduate curriculums in marine biology enable students to learn about the health of the earth’s oceans in terms of climate change, pollution and invasive species. Students will examine sustainability and biodiversity issues such as overfishing, endangered species and impacts on the food chain. They will engage in research and product development in pharmaceuticals, biomedical applications and alternate energy sources.
Marine biology courses teach students to use research tools including trawling, plankton nets, remotely operated vehicles and satellites. They will utilize fiber optics, sounding, sonar and computers to explore a variety of marine ecosystems, including habitats such as coral reefs, kelp forests and tidepools.
Students will examine issues such as the role of bacteria in marine food-web dynamics, the population genetics of marine organisms, molecular adaptations to environmental stress and the evolution of life history strategies in marine animals. They will compare the physiology of fishes in terms of swimming and buoyancy adaptation, respiratory adaptations and cardiovascular physiology.
Those who study toward a masters or PhD degree in marine biology will utilize their research, analytical, communication, computer and statistical skills. Students may choose marine biology concentrations on the ecology, evolution, behavior and systematics of coral reef organisms, or study to develop camera and acoustic instruments for monitoring deep-sea animal behavior.
Careers in Marine Biology
Students with a masters or PhD degree in marine biology will find that their choice in careers is nearly as diverse as the field of marine biology itself. They can find marine biology careers in environmental conservation, fisheries protection, water management, environmental consultancies and much more. But for all you dolphin lovers, please note: marine mammal scientists are hired because of their skills as scientists, not because they like or want to work with marine mammals.
Graduates with a masters or PhD degree in marine biology could start as an assistant professor at a university, running a research lab and teaching. These jobs, and most other careers in marine biology, pay around $40,000 a year to start. This obviously increases as promotions occur. They can also become marine mammal veterinarians or trainers, filed biologists, naturalists and researchers. Graduates can go on to marine biology careers working for museums or aquariums, as well as for government and industry agencies.
Marine biology curriculums strongly encourage students to participate in an internship to gain hands-on experience in the field. Research plays a large role in the careers of marine biologists, and graduate courses in marine biology will prepare students to continue their research after graduation. Graduate students will leave school prepared for entry- to mid-level positions. While not always a high-paying field, marine biology careers are popular, as well as on the cutting-edge of today’s scientific community.