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Oceanographer

Employs mathematical, engineering and scientific theories to investigate the relationships between fresh water, seawater, the biosphere, atmosphere and polar ice caps.

Job description

Oceanography is the study of the chemistry, biology and physics of our oceans, seas and inland waters. Sometimes called oceanology or marine science, oceanography is an interdisciplinary science which involves investigating oceanic phenomena, including the complex relationships between salt and fresh water, polar ice caps and the atmosphere.

Oceanographers analyse ocean currents, storms, waves, marine ecosystems, ocean plate tectonics, and features of the ocean floor, including exotic biomes such as cold seeps and hydrothermal vents. They collect data and do laboratory research and use their knowledge to make use of marine resources, and minimise environmental damage and pollution.

There are four main areas of study in the profession, focussing on the biological, chemical, geological and physical aspects of oceanography. From studying the ocean's interaction with the atmosphere and the part it plays in the carbon cycle, to the seismic activity of sub-oceanic plates, and the movement of light, sound and radio waves through the water, oceanography encompasses a wide range of scientific activities that help us understand the workings of the natural world. They are employed in various sectors, from mineral exploitation, fishing and shipping, to environmental agencies and meteorology.

Work activities

  • Studying wave heights and storm tides, and using their findings to help decide the location of an offshore oil rig.
  • Analysing wave energy to help prevent coastal erosion.
  • Researching and developing the use of waves and tides as alternative energy sources.
  • Using geophysical techniques like seismic surveying, to find oil, gas and mineral reserves on or under the sea floor.
  • Monitoring the effects of chemicals on marine food chains.
  • Taking samples from fish to establish if they have absorbed dangerous levels of radiation from nuclear waste dumped at sea.
  • Monitoring environmental damage to coral reefs.
  • Measuring and observing sea levels, ice masses and ocean currents, and using their observations to monitor climate change.

Typical employers

  • Physical oceanography consultant services
  • Ocean engineering
  • Commercial or scientific organisations involved the construction of oil platforms, ships, harbours.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not a requirement.