MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: What are you studying in Oceanography?

Date: Sat Oct 24 13:03:35 1998
Posted By: Karen Culver-Rymsza, Biological Oceanographer
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 908744816.Gb

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 

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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