CAREERS IN MARINE SCIENCE
WHAT IS MARINE SCIENCE?
Science is the systematic discovery of knowledge about the natural world. Marine science is the general term used to describe the research conducted in oceans, nearshore or inland waters connected to the sea. In Barbados, this field is expanding and there may be opportunities in the future for careers other than those presently found on the island.
Marine scientists work in a surprising variety of disciplines. These disciplines may be highly specialized and marine scientists may have multiple specialties or work as part of a multi-disciplinary team. Disciplines include:
- Coastal Geomorphology – Coastal Geomorphologists study coastal landform features e.g. beaches, cliffs, arches, stacks etc. and their forming processes.
- Environmental Science – Environmental Scientists apply a scientific understanding of the natural world to the protection of nature by balancing human needs with the needs of organisms and the needs of future generations.
- Fisheries Biology – Fisheries biologists find ways to protect species, manage fisheries and get rid of undesirable species e.g. lionfish in Barbados, in the best way possible using data gathered.
- Oceanography - Physical Oceanographers will focus on the physical properties of the ocean that influence processes such as mixing, circulation and currents.
- Marine Geology - Marine Geologists concentrate on coastal processes, cliff stability, dynamics of the continental shelf or slope, and the structure of the ocean floor.
- Natural and Protected Area Management - Persons involved in this field create and monitor activities associated with areas deemed ecologically and socially significant. These areas include national parks, marinas, forests, monuments etc.
Marine Archaeology – Marine archaeologists uncover how people and communities existed before our era, by discovering and analysing archaeological remains and finds in or near coastal waters. These finds include wrecks, harbours, jetties, boat houses or other remains of people’s living and working by coastal waters.
Marine Zoology - Marine Zoologists focus on the study of various animals living in the marine environment, from the intertidal to the abyssal depths. e.g. whales, sharks dolphins etc.
Marine Biology – Marine biologists study the various living organisms - plants, animals and other organisms - that depend directly on the marine environment, from the intertidal to the abyssal depths e.g. corals, crustaceans, algae etc.
Marine Ecology - Marine Ecologists study the interactions between the various plants, animals and other organisms and their environment, from the intertidal to the abyssal depths. e.g. the interaction between clown fish and sea anemones or temperature and coral. They will use data including abiotic factors such as temperature and salinity to determine the effects on the marine ecosystem.
Marine Chemistry - Marine Chemists are concerned with the chemistry of the marine environment. For example they may study the influx of terrestrial materials, exchanges at the air-sea interface and within the seabed.
In addition to professional salaries, marine scientists may be richly rewarded for their work in intangible ways. Salaries depend on each person’s education, experience, specific discipline, whether public or private sector and location. Some example of marine sciences that presently pay above average salaries include physical oceanography, marine technology, engineering and computer modelling. Marine scientists may be self-employed or employed by:
- International Organizations
- Private Companies
- Non-Profit Laboratories
Persons interested in careers in the marine sciences should take biology, geography, chemistry, physics and mathematics as part of their secondary school education. A student’s preparation for university study and a career in marine science should be based on a minimum goal of earning a bachelor’s degree. Extracurricular activities in marine science may be enjoyed while at secondary school such as swimming and SCUBA training and prospective employers will be impressed if students participate in structured off campus activities related to marine sciences such as internships with local and international organizations e.g. the CZMU internship program. Marine science is progressing at a rapid rate. Most career advancement for entry level scientists results from on the job training or from retuning to university for graduate studies.
Most entry level positions require the minimum of a bachelor’s degree in natural science from an accredited university.
The bachelor’s degree certifies that the graduate has successfully completed a formal introduction to the core curriculum in the given field.
A master’s degree means that the graduate has mastered the design and collection of quantitative data and the ability to analyse and report results. An applicant for a position in marine science with a master’s degree may play a major role in research projects or the design and management of research programmes.
A doctorate in marine science means the graduate has received advanced training in a discipline and has applied the skills of research to make a unique contribution to knowledge in that field.