It is possible to become involved in Marine Biology in a number of different capacities. Academics require technicians, and amateurs can play a role.
Marine Biologists study everything that lives in the oceans. This includes all marine plants and animals, as well as micro-organisms. It also occupies itself with the ecology of these many organisms, from the study of the requirements of individual species up to the consideration of entire habitats and how they work. Most end up specialising in a single field of study, be it microscopic diatoms or enormous whales, but they all need to know about the ocean as an environment and have some understanding of oceanography (the physical, chemical and biological properties and phenomena of the sea).
Becoming a Marine Biologist
Before studying marine biology itself it is essential to have a sound grasp of Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, and Physics. Maths and English are also very important. Enthusiasm is paramount and cannot be learnt – any true marine biologist will have developed an almost obsessive interest in some aspect of the subject long before he or she decides to follow this career path, and it is a good idea to consider summer courses, camps, and internships in the area. Some universities have summer residential research programs for high school students.
Marine Biology Schools
Research the institutions that specialise in teaching Marine Biology. While initial studies should concentrate on science in general (and especially Biology and Chemistry), further studies in whatever aspect of Marine Biology is intended is made so much easier if the same institution provides a route for progression. Advanced academic studies require a supervisor – an expert in the topic of interest. Again, it is good if this expert is nearby!
Study and Conserve Whales
There is enormous competition for the opportunity to work with whales, and this is one of the most ‘glamorous’ (and worthwhile?) branches of Marine Biology.
Non Academic Routes into Marine Biology
Never forget that for every research scientist there are dozens, or hundreds, of people making his or her work possible. Much whale research, for example, is dependent on instrumentation (satellite tracking, hydrophone recording, photography), and competent technicians are essential. Most Marine Biologists don’t know how their gear works – they just rely on it and the people who keep it functioning!
Amateur Contributions to Marine Biology
In the past all Marine Biologists were self-taught amateurs, and research is always about ‘finding out for yourself’. If, for whatever reason, a career working as a Marine Biologist is not feasible then pursues your enthusiasm nevertheless – amateur naturalists make a huge contribution to science.