Marine Biology is a specific area zone in biology which deals with the study of organisms or other natural bodies of the aquatic life. It is often mistakenly misinterpreted as marine ecology; however both the fields are diverse and different from each other. Marine ecology deals with the interactions between the aquatic life and marine biology deals with the aquatic life itself. The subject area for both the fields associated with aquatic life is entirely different from each other.
It is a vast field and categorized into a number of subfields such as psychology and zoology. The job front may include the study of aquatic life including plants, algae, reptiles, mammals, fish and seabirds. Choosing a particular specialization from the group described above is the key to convert you from a simple marine biologist to specialized marine biologist. However the process requires years of study and constant observation but helps a lot in the longer run towards career growth and monetary issues.
The earnings of a marine biologist vary across countries by a large amount. However, they all balance out each other in longer term. Estimates taken from marine professionals have shown that an entry level marine biologist earns close to $ 20 hourly making a total of $ 41,400 yearly. This entry level is predefined with 4 or more years of college education. As every career path is defined with increased remuneration as experience grows, marine biology is sure to cash out a lot of money after a certain experience level. The mean employee earnings with an experience level of 3-6 years earn more than $ 54,000 yearly or $ 26 hourly. Extensive experienced marine biologist comprising of the 10-15% of overall marine biologist population earns as much as $ 70,000 yearly, which is very much comparable with the other industry standards.
Choosing a subfield is the most important step in defining your salary package in the longer run. Some of the subfields in marine biology are yet to be discovered and a lot of companies and organization may pay you way much from the industry standards for these subfields. Also some subfields require constant extensive research work and knowledge transfer, so they generate a constant source of wealth for marine biologist. However, the ability to cash out your skills and knowledge is still in your hands and you can use it smartly to obtain an “out of the line” pay package.
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* Jonathan visits the School for Field Studies in the Turks & Caicos Islands to learn how college students conduct field work in their pursuit of degrees in marine studies. He helps tag sharks, study conch and investigate marine protected areas!
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I’m off to the sunny but remote island of South Caicos, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, just southeast of the Bahamas.
Here, the School for Field Studies operates a field research facility where college students from all over the United States come for some hands-on marine biology field work.
Faculty at the School for Field Studies have ongoing research projects investigating fisheries management, reef health, shark populations and even human impact.
My day begins with the shark research team led by Professor Aaron Henderson. Henderson and his students are investigating how the marine protected areas around South Caicos are affecting the shark population.
Their first task for the day is to deploy some baited camera rigs. These rigs will hopefully attract and film several species of sharks. The goal: to learn how many and what species of sharks are here in the marine protected area.
Many different species visit the cameras including Nurse sharks, Caribbean Reef sharks, Tiger sharks, Lemon sharks and even Great Hammerheads!
Next the team deploys what are known as “drum lines.” These are baited hooks attached to a float and a weight. The goal is to catch sharks so they can be tagged and released.
With five drum lines set, the team goes back to the first one and checks for a shark.
Dr. Henderson places a tag on its dorsal fin, while the students take a small tissue sample from is tail for an isotope analysis of the shark’s diet.
Another group is studying the fish population of the island, trying to determine the effectiveness of marine protected areas.
Underwater, the team heads to a nice section of coral reef and begins a transect. Essentially they reel out a very long tape measure over the reef, which defines a specific path of a specific length.
By comparing the transect results inside and outside of the marine protected areas, the students can learn not only how well the marine protected areas are working but on which species.
Of course, fishing pressure is what affects fish populations, so it makes sense to also try to get a handle on what species of fish are being caught. The students work with the local fishermen who volunteer to allow the students to come down to the docks at the end of the day and see what kind of fish they are catching and how big they are. The fishermen know that research like this and marine protected areas will help to insure that there are always enough fish to catch.
Another team of students, another research project. This team is working in snorkel depths without scuba–studying a big snail called a conch.
The conch is one of the most popular seafoods in the Caribbean, and a whopping 10% of the world’s supply comes from the tiny island of South Caicos, so it’s an important resource.
This transect in the seagrass bed is being used to count conch. They also collect a few conch for additional research on land.
Back at the shore, alongside a representative from the Turks & Caicos Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs, the students crack the conch open in the traditional way.
Fishermen often take the meat out of the shell at sea and return with only the meat and no shell. How can the government recommend or enforce size regulations if there is no shell to measure? So Daniel’s research is looking at other ways to gauge the maturity of a conch, without a shell.
Baby sharks live in the mangroves, where they are safe from a lot of larger predators.
A couple of nights a week, Dr. Henderson and his students head over to the mangrove areas to catch baby sharks.
They start by setting a net in the chest-deep water, hoping to snare small sharks as they cruise by. Every 15 minutes they check the net, and when they have a shark, they bring it back to a makeshift lab on shore where they will weigh it, tag it with a electronic tag, take a small tissue sample, some ID photos, and then quickly get it back into the water.
One of the students will swim the baby shark around for a few minutes to re-oxygenate its gills, and then they send it on its way.
From sharks, to fish to conch and more sharks, my day with the marine biology students at the School for Field Studies in South Caicos was exhausting but exciting.
Jonathan Bird’s Blue World: Marine Biology