"So What Do You Study?"

A lot of people ask me if I’m a marine biologist, or refer to me as one when they talk about my work. There’s nothing wrong about it, exactly, but I don’t really identify as one. My PhD will technically be in biological oceanography, and while the two disciplines are similar there are some key differences. The distinction between the two isn’t codified by anyone, as far as I know, and there is probably a lot of overlap. This is how I was taught they are different. Feel free to comment with your (constructive) thoughts.

Marine biologists study the biology of organisms that live in the ocean: things like anatomy, physiology, behavior, disease, etc. A marine biologist knows the ins and outs of marine organisms. Because there is a huge amount of diversity in the ocean, marine biologists usually have a specialty, such as fish, cephalopods, mollusks, seaweeds, sponges… 

These jerks…

A biological oceanographer, on the other hand, studies the relationships between marine organisms, and the relationship between these organisms and the ocean. In other words, they are more concerned with things like food webs, predator-prey interactions, and nutrient availability than they are with the anatomy of an octopus, for example. Of course anatomy and behavior and things like that are important to ecology, but we’re less concerned with the details than we are with the overall outcome. Biological oceanography is also called ocean ecology, a term I think is WAY easier to understand, but that’s not what will be written on my degree, sadly.

More this, less dolphins.

To complicate the matter further, I specifically study the ecology of marine microbes, which makes me a marine microbial ecologist (or a microbial oceanographer). But I also work with DNA a lot, so you could call me a marine molecular ecologist. These terms mean absolutely nothing to most people. I can wax eloquent about how there are more microbes in the ocean then there are stars in the universe, but at the end of the day, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s work is going to be way more accessible than mine. The ocean, to most people, is a big blue mystery full of dolphins and Sharknado. Even when people do talk about all the amazing life in the ocean, microbes aren’t even on the radar. Vampire squid and mantis shrimp are relatable. You can’t teach a dinoflagellate to do tricks at Sea World. They are, however, watching you while you swim.

Maybe not as scary as this guy, but definitely creepy.

Anyway, this is why I experience a tiny rage every time someone asks me if I want to work in aquarium. Marine biologists work in aquariums, right?

P.S. I also cannot give you superpowers, develop a zombie plague, or cure your herpes. Please stop asking.

CORRECTION: DUGONG // Sea Cow // Marine Mammal
This was originally posted as a Manatee photo. My appologies for the error and thanks for the feedback.
Photo Credit: Samy A Mostafa // PADI
More information from Yahoo Answers:
They are different species. There is only one species of dugong (Dugong dugon), and three species of manatee - the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), the Amazonian manatee (T. inunguis) and the West Africa manatee (T. sengalensis). A good way to tell a dugong from a manatee is by the tail - dugongs have a fluked tail, like a whale, whilst manatees have a rounded paddle. Here’s an image:

I am so fucking excited to start my profession, even if that means going trough 10 torturous years of schooling. I’m only now just putting every thing into perspective. After Christmas I’m going to do my damnedest to make my grades the best they can be. I will achieve absolute greatness academically during the next year and a half of high school.
I will be the best marine biologist to ever be and I will make a difference.

I missed the standard start-of-the-year, scaring-you-into-doing-work introductory lecture. I felt bad so I decided to print of the slides to the one (and only!) lecture I have tomorrow. Except the font and layout and the everything of it was ugly so I just spent the past two hours editing the fonts and the sizes and the layout and the pictures to make it all pretty.

Sea Turtle
Taxonomy – Kingdom: Animalia // Phylum: Chordata // Class: Reptilia // Order: Testudines (=Chelonii) // Suborder: Cryptodira // Clade: Polycryptodira // Superfamily: Chelonioidea
Photo Credit: Shah Akashah // Sport Diver magazine

"The turquoise waters of the coral reefs are packed with species that still harbour many secrets. This is the case of Onuxodon, small fishes that live inside the shells of pearl oysters. An unusual and discreet shelter that makes any behavioural studies rather difficult. And yet, recent research conducted at the University of Liège has established that they emit sounds from dusk till dawn. A nocturnal activity that complicates observations, but has led scientists to assume that this is a call for a mate during reproduction cycles. One convenient yet surprising particularity seems to be the role of the amplifier, played by the oyster shells."

Credit: University of Liege // (1) Loïc Kéver, Orphal Colleye, Marco Lugli, David Lecchini, Franck Lerouvreur, Anthony Herrel, Eric Parmentier, Sound production in Onuxodon fowleri (Carapidae) and its amplification by the host shell, The Company of Biologists, 2014 //


Credit: Richard Kirby // Plymouth University // David Attenborough

"Ocean Drifters, a secret world beneath the waves is written, produced and directed by Dr Richard Kirby (Marine Institute Research Fellow, Plymouth University) with a narration by Sir David Attenborough and music by Richard Grassby-Lewis.

Drawing upon Richard Kirby’s plankton imagery, Ocean Drifters reveals how the plankton have shaped life on Earth and continue to influence our lives in ways that most of us never imagine.”