Biological Oceanography

This is vast subject area which often overlaps with marine biology although there are differences between the two.

Marine biology explores individual marine species in depth, looking at their physiology, behaviour, mating rituals and their habitat. The focus is on the organism itself rather than its environment.

Whereas biological oceanography takes a holistic approach: it looks at the oceans and species as a whole and views both of these as an entire system.

Biological oceanography is a sub-division of oceanography: oceanography is a specialism within the Earth sciences field whose area of expertise is the oceans of the world.

Hawaii is situated in the Pacific Ocean which covers one-third of the earth's surface and is the largest ocean in the world. It is divided into the North and South Pacific Oceans and is driven by two sets of winds: the trade winds from the east and westerly winds.

It is home to vast array of fish and other marine life which includes sharks, squids, molluscs and crustaceans. Plus recent developments in deep sea exploration have led to the discovery of organisms existing at depths which were thought to be not conducive to life.


All types of species

Biological oceanography encompasses all types of species, from microscopic plants through to animals, fish and finally, the larger sea mammals such as dolphins and whales.

Oceanographic processes

This subject includes not only marine life but the processes which support them in their environment. These processes range from small, molecular level systems which are vital for each individual species existence through to large scale processes which affect an entire ecosystem.

One example of an ecosystem is a marine ecosystem: this includes coral reefs, mangroves, lagoons and oceans and is based upon interactions between plant and animal life. This co-existence involves processes in which food and energy flow between the two organisms.  

Aspects of marine life

This refers to the numerous biological processes that form part of the life cycle of every marine organism such as respiration, food consumption and utilisation of nutrients and photosynthesis.

Marine ecology

Biological oceanography investigates these processes but then considers them in the context of their environment, e.g. the ocean. It looks at how all types of marine life interact with the processes inherent within the ocean such as waves, ocean currents, geology of the sea bed, chemicals present in the water and air-sea interaction.

Another name for this is 'marine ecology'. 

It is based upon a multidisciplinary approach in which knowledge is sought and acquired from a range of areas such as geology, physics, chemistry and molecular biology.

Methods of studying oceanic life

Researchers in this domain use a variety of methods and tools which enable them to study the biological processes in the oceans. These studies include research undertaken into a specific marine organism which use laboratory experiments as part of the methodology: other types of research are based upon a particular ecosystem, for example plankton and require a larger scope.

Large scale projects such as these require a team of researchers to observe and collect samples directly from the ocean. This involves the use of diving equipment and/or underwater vessels with deep water equipment to gain access to a particular ecosystem. 

These are supported by new technology in the shape of robotic underwater vehicles, high-tech digital imaging, satellite sensors and lasers. These further improve knowledge and understanding of the ways in which marine life interacts with physical processes in the oceans.