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Marine Biology Misconceptions

Though the field of marine biology is fun and exciting, there are many common misconceptions about the field that may leave an aspiring marine biologist disappointed. However, if you understand these misconceptions from the get-go, you will see how exciting the life of a marine biologist can really be. Below, you will find three common misconceptions about what marine biology actually is and their explanations.

  1. Small vs. Large Animals. Unlike what you may have gathered from movies or television, most graduates of top rated marine biology colleges do not work with large marine life. Though it is true that some marine biologists will study the sonar communication of whales or the tool use of dolphins, marine mammalogy is not the go-to subfield of marine biology. Most marine biologists work with smaller marine organisms. The research of algae, coral, plankton, and small creatures like mollusks and clams is important because they are at the base of the ecosystem. To study the beginning of an ecosystem is important because all nutrients–or toxins for that matter–that are a part of these smaller creatures, will spread to the rest of the sea animals.
  2. Only a Field Research Job. Many people when thinking of the field of marine biology imagine a group of people who spend all day and night on boats for years and years. Well, though it may be important to spend a long period of time on a boat to conduct research, this is not the only thing a marine biologist does. Marine biologists do conduct observations in the sea, but they also do a lot of work in laboratories. It is not uncommon for a marine biologist to take sample organisms back to a lab to conduct tests and record his/her findings. Not only that, but when the research is done, the marine biologist must put on another hat. The marine biologist must become a writer. Research is only half of it. The really important thing is getting the research out there, and to do that one must write and publish books and articles. Also, many marine biologists spend their time teaching high school or college classes. Universities usually have state-of-the-art laboratories and disperse research grants.
  3. Marine Biology Concentrates on Large Environmental Problems. Though marine biology is concerned with our environment, it is not in the way that many people think. Ocean acidification is a huge issue nowadays. Ocean acidification is the decrease in pH and the increase in acidity in our planet’s oceans and seas. This is affecting many underwater organisms. Here is where the misconception lies. While a marine biologist will study the organism affected by the ocean acidification (coral for instance), it is the oceanographer’s job to monitor and research the changes in the ocean carbon balance of the actual sea water. So you see, while the oceanographer focuses on the big picture, the marine biologist focuses on the life itself. Of course it is fair to say here that many oceanographers and marine biologists earn good salaries in both fields.

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