Marine Biologist and Aquatic Scientist

Marine biologists study the distribution, abundance and life histories of animals and plants in the sea and the way in which these are governed by environmental factors. Marine biology is a diverse science concerned with all aspects of plant and animal life in the sea. Aquatic scientists have slightly different emphasis in that they study the physical, chemical, biological and ecological aspects of inland and marine water environments. 



Marine biology is a diverse science concerned with all aspects of plant and animal life in the sea. Marine biologists study the distribution, abundance and life histories of animals and plants in the sea and the way in which these are governed by environmental factors. Marine biologists are concerned with the effects of pollution on marine life, the effect of introducing commercially important species into the waters, identifying ecologically sensitive areas, and assisting in establishing the ecological effects of projects like the construction of harbours and piers.

The eventual aim of marine biology is to understand marine life and to ensure the production of food from the sea at a sustained level. Marine biologists are concerned with the effects of pollution on marine life, the effect of introducing commercially important species into the waters, identifying ecologically sensitive areas, and assisting in establishing the ecological effects of projects like the construction of harbours and piers.
 
The field of marine biology can be divided into research and technical work:
- Researchers study the marine system as a whole or focus on a particular marine species.
- Technical marine biologists are more involved in collecting samples, building and testing equipment and analysing data.
- Marine biologists may also be involved in teaching and training.
 
Aquatic scientists study the following aspects of the water environment: physical aspects - temperature, available light and water movement; chemical aspects - the organic and inorganic composition of water, the importance and role of nutrients; biological aspects - the types, migration, distribution, behaviour, environmental requirements of the different types of plants, bacteria, algae and organisms associated with water; interrelated aspects - the relationship between the organisms and environments; and pollution aspects - the occurrence, intensity, treatment and control of different types of pollution that results in the death of fish, the colour, smell and taste of pure water that is affected by the excessive growth of certain organisms.

Other areas of study include: the management and potential for multipurpose utilisation of inland and coastal waters such as the re-use of water for certain activities; and the cultivation of organisms for the manufacture of chemicals and for food, for example oyster-cultivation and the cultivation of shrimps and fish.
Aquatic scientists are also involved in the development of plans to ensure the ongoing health of aquatic ecosystems. Working time is divided between research in the laboratory and field research in a water environment.

Depending on academic qualifications, aquatic scientists use advanced technology and various methods, such as biological monitoring, chemical analysis and computer models. Aquatic scientists spend time in laboratories and in the field. The development of new methods and procedures forms an integral part of most of their projects. 


Personal Requirements

  • strong scientific aptitude
  • love nature, especially the sea
  • interest in the protection of natural ecologies
  • responsible
  • able to work as part of a team
  • excellent physical fitness for diving and long
  • periods at sea


How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics and Physical Sciences
Recommended Subjects: Life Sciences (Biology)

In addition to these entry requirements each institution has its own entry requirements.


What to Study

Degree: Various universities in South Africa offer training in Aquatic Science, as part of the Botany, Zoology and Ecology courses. The BSc degree takes three years to complete. NMU and UKZN offer courses in Marine Biology, US in Animal Science with Aquaculture, UWC in Environmental and Water Science, UCT in Oceanography, CPUT in Marine Science, CUT in Hydrology and Water Resources and Water Care at TUT.

Postgraduate: Specialisation through postgraduate studies is recommended. Specialised interdisciplinary training in Aquatic Science is given at universities such as UCT, RU.


Employment

  • consulting firms
  • universities
  • Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism
  • Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
  • CSIR and South African Navy
  • various water boards
  • municipalities
  • museums
  • Sea Fisheries Research Institute


Further Information

The Department of Water and Sanitation
Head Office
185 Francis Baard Street
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 336-7500
http://www.dwaf.gov.za/LearningA/

SA Association for Marine Biological Research
1 King Shaka Avenue
Durban,
KwaZulu-Natal
South Africa
Tel: (031) 328-8222
www.saambr.org.za


Getting Started

  • you could learn more about aquatic life by taking scuba diving lessons
  • make an appointment to speak to an aquatic scientist about this type of career
  • try to obtain vacation work in an aquarium or oceanarium, for example
  • make an appointment to speak to a marine biologist about this type of career


Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations


How to become a Marine Biologist

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