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What Is Marine Science?

A focus on marine plants is one option for someone studying marine science.
Marine Science includes the study of ocean currents.
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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 04 July 2014
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Marine science commonly is called oceanography. As these names may reveal, this branch of science deals with study of oceans. Professionals in this field often are called marine scientists or oceanographers, but they also may take titles that refer to their specialties. The topics that are covered by marine science can widely vary, including such things as ocean currents, sea floor geology, and the chemical composition of ocean water.

Many people have only a vague understanding of marine science. One common misconception involves the use of the titles such as marine scientist and oceanographer. To a layperson, these may sound very specific. In reality, these titles hardly provide any information about what a person in this field does.

Marine science is so broad that it would require a lot of space to outline every possible career path. Many of the same components that are studied on land also are studied in the water. Marine biology, marine chemistry, and marine physics are three of the disciplines that fall into the category of oceanography. Within each of these disciplines there are numerous sub-categories in which a professional is likely to specialize. For example, within marine biology, one person could focus on plants while another focuses on microscopic organisms.

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In some cases, oceanographers have majored in some type of marine science program. More often than not, however, these professionals majored in more basic programs such as Biology or Earth Sciences. Then, somewhere along the way, they veered off and began to concentrate on oceanography.

People also tend to think that marine scientists carry out most of their duties in or on the water. This is a second misconception. A lot of the work done by such professionals typically is conducted in laboratories. Instead of wet suits and oxygen tanks, their gear commonly is composed of microscopes and computers.

It widely is believed that the oceans affect many components of the natural system of the Earth. For example, oceans have been linked to the global climate. Marine life also is responsible for supporting part of the human food chain. As this is the case, a common objective of marine science is to draw relevance between the oceans and other parts of nature.

Marine science often is treated as a novelty science which commonly results in funding problems: a third misconception. This vast area of science can play a vital role in environmental conservation. It also may be a large contributor in the search for solutions to environmental problems such as global warming.

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