Many of us are fascinated by the oceans. Their rich diversity and the depths of these seas are largely undiscovered. Oceans make up over 70% of the Earth's surface, and the life in our seas ranges from tiny algae and protozoa to whales, sharks, dolphins and a multitude of plants and fish. This means that marine life is extremely diverse and the oceans have their own ecosystem. Marine biology is the study of life in the oceans, the process of how marine organisms develop and relate to each other and how they adapt to their environment and interact with it. This is important if they are to be preserved.
Marine life helps determine the nature of the Earth. Marine organisms produce much of the oxygen we breathe and help to regulate the Earth's climate. The shoreline is partly shaped and protected by the sea and its life. However, these environments are beginning to suffer. The sea is quite often used as a dumping ground for chemicals and waste from industry and agriculture, our seas have been over-fished and the sea is used for our recreation. All of these things can have a detrimental effect on the life in our seas. As well as studying the ocean itself, sustainable fishing, pollution, marine mammals and ocean plants and coral reefs should all be of interest to the marine biologist.
Higher education courses in the subject are multidisciplinary, incorporating subjects such as biology, ecology, physical and environmental sciences. You may also study areas such as sustainable fishing, pollution, marine mammals and ocean plants and coral reefs. All of these things are intrinsically linked and present marine biologists with many challenges. The work of a marine biologist involves tasks such as collecting samples and data, developing and testing equipment and carrying out analyses of data and experiments. Marine biologists may also be involved in the pollution and conservation research fields.
Example areas of study
Some of the subjects you may study on a marine biology course are listed below. It is worth checking with the institutions themselves before submitting an application.
- Marine organisms
- Cell biology
- Marine information technology
- Marine ecology
- Biological resources
- Environmental biology
- Plant biology
- Coastal science
- Diving science
- Marine biotechnology
- Aquatic bioscience
- Aquatic ecology
- Vertebrate zoology
- Phytoplankton ecology
- Marine plants and animals
- Deep sea science
- Tropical biology
- Marine and coastal conservation
- Pollution science
- Freshwater ecosystems
- Palaeoclimate change
- Oceanography from space
Some career possibilities
A qualification in marine biology will present you with a number of career possibilities. The transferable skills that you will acquire mean that you will be very employable both within the field, and in the business world. Marine biologists can be employed by government and conservation agencies, environmental laboratories, the water industry, coastal authorities, pressure groups and within the leisure and tourism industry. Eco-tourism is becoming very sought after, and more and more opportunities may be available within this sector. There are also a number of postgraduate study opportunities available.
What do I need to get on a course?
The entry requirements for marine biology courses vary widely. The qualifications and grades listed below are an indication of what you may need to get on a course. It is best to check with the institutions themselves before submitting an application.
- UCAS Tariff: 260-320 points
- International Baccalaureate: 24-34 points including a biological science
- SQA Highers: BBB-BBBB including a biological science
- SQA Advanced Highers: CCC-AAB including a biological science
- HND: Relevant science subject
- European Baccalaureate: 65% including a biological science
- A-level: DDD-AAB including a biological science
- Irish Leaving Certificates: BBBB-AAABBB including a biological science
For your application or interview, the following may be useful:
- Marine biology is quite a competitive subject so gaining some work experience during the summer break or by taking a gap year could be useful
- Further information on marine biology and working within the field is available from the Marine Conservation Society and The Marine Biological Association
To find out more about the typical subjects you will study, potential career paths and further information useful for your application log-on to Course Discover at www.coursediscoveronline.co.uk*
*NB: Your school or college will need a subscription to Course Discover in order for you to gain access, for further information go to:www.coursediscover.co.uk