What Do Oceanographers Study?

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Oceanographers study all aspects of the ocean. Individual oceanographers typically concentrate on a small aspect of the ocean, such as the ocean’s temperature, water movements, effect on the Earth’s climate or marine life. Often several different oceanographers work together on a single project, each of them bringing a unique specialty to the study.

Marine biologists study the living creatures of the ocean. Most marine biologists specialize in a small group of animals, such as sharks, cephalopods or bony fish. Marine botanists study the plants and algae that live in the ocean. Scientists called marine microbiologists study the microscopic organisms that live in the ocean.

Many governmental agencies employ oceanographers. For example, the United States Navy utilizes many oceanographers to provide information on ocean conditions to naval ships and to supply oceanographic knowledge as it affects national security. Frequently oceanographers study the movements of major currents in the ocean or use sonar technology to map the sea floor.

Climatologists often work closely with oceanographers because the ocean has such a significant effect on the Earth’s climate. Understanding how the oceans' ability to hold and absorb heat affects the climate provides important insights into the atmospheric and oceanographic mechanisms that drive weather and climate.