If you like the idea of studying oceans and the organisms that live in them, you’ve probably considered marine science as a career. Dr Prue Francis, lecturer in Deakin’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, says it’s the breadth of the field that makes the marine industry so interesting. ‘A marine scientist has a multidisciplinary skill-set across all science fields such as biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, genomics and modelling,’ she explains.
Marine scientists might be found on a research vessel collecting data, snorkelling or scuba diving to monitor marine ecosystems or field sampling in a diverse range of marine habitats such as sandy beaches, estuaries, rocky shores or mangrove forests.
While most marine science careers involve spending time outside, there are some specialisations that guarantee maximum field time. ‘With careers in the marine edutourism sector you may conduct tours or collect citizen science data from underwater and hence, you would spend a lot of time snorkelling or scuba diving,’ explains Dr Francis. ‘If you became a fisheries officer or a marine park ranger you would spend a lot of time patrolling the marine and coastal environments within your jurisdiction which would involve a lot of time outdoors.’
So who thrives as a marine scientist? Basically, it’s creative problem solvers with scientific writing abilities, numerical and statistical skills, observational and communication skills. A love of teamwork and project management also helps.
Ecology and marine mapping
When you combine an ecological understanding and the ability to work with state-of-the-art technologies, you arrive at careers in marine ecology and marine mapping.
Dr Mary Young, Research Fellow in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, says marine mappers use mapping to understand how species are distributed throughout their environment and how changes in that environment may affect them (e.g. climate change, changes in fishing pressure).
‘We have to know where species are likely to be found to help us observe them using underwater visualisation techniques,’ she says. ‘We also need to map their habitats, including both the sea floor habitat (rocks, sand) and the oceanography (temperature, waves, currents, nutrients).’
Combining the observations with the data in their environment and using models to understand the correlation between species distributions and their environment allows marine mappers to predict the future based on anticipated changes in the environment.
It helps if you love being out on the water. ‘A lot of our data collection occurs on our vessel,’ Dr Young explains. ‘It’s also good if you like being underwater observing marine species in their habitat, either in person on scuba or virtually through the video collection.’
To succeed in these careers, you need a good background in spatial sciences. Think Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), spatial statistics and acoustics. ‘You’ll also want a good understanding of ecology and oceanography,’ says Dr Francis. Strong writing and critical thinking skills are also essential.
Depending on your individual skillset and the areas you’d like to develop in, there are options to suit everyone when it comes to outdoor careers. Finding your niche will help you to create a career that you will love.