|MadSci Network: General Biology|
Dear Alex, Oceanographers are a very diverse bunch! Oceanography is usually divided into four sub-disciplines. They are biological, chemical, geological and physical oceanography. Oceanographers often concentrate in one of these areas. Many oceanographers work in more than one area at a time so that all oceanographers have to learn about all the different kinds of ocenaography. I am a biological oceanographer, so I consider myself a biologist AND an oceanographer. I was actually a biologist first, then I went to graduate school to learn the oceanography part. I learned about all the types of oceanography and more biology to earn my degree and be called a biological oceanographer. Other oceanographers also learn about the four subdisciplines of oceanography, and also added physics or geology or chemistry. I study marine algae. It has been called "the grass of the sea" because it is the base of the food chain for the ocean in much the same way that grass is the base of the food chain on a prairie. There are many reasons why I am interested in marine algae. One is because algae are important in the global carbon cycle. This is a concern to scientists because of global warming. Another reason is because of the variety of algae in the sea (and freshwater, too). There are so many kinds of algae, including one that may be a "missing link" between bacteria and the algae that led to the development of land plants! So there is a lot out there to discover. There are two other more personal reasons that I study algae. They are beautiful organisms to look at under the microscope and they perform photosynthesis which, to me, is the most remarkable of the many chemical reactions that take place in living organisms. And that is what this oceanographer does.
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