Tag Archives: marine biology

How to become a Marine Biologist in Queensland

What is Marine Biology?

Marine biology is the study of ocean life – organisms and ecosystems in saltwater environments. Marine Biologists study interactions between marine plants, marine animals and coastal areas and the atmosphere. Marine biology is a broad term which includes many specialisations.

What does a Marine Biologist do?

Marine Biologists are research based, so research projects are the main focus (as well as ocean education). These involve collecting specimens at sea, compiling research data, and laboratory-based experiments. Research areas may include human impact on reef systems, migration patterns and the underwater ecosystem.

Where could I work as a Marine Biologist?

Marine Biologists can work in many research and education specialisations. These include conservation and marine parks, fisheries and the fishing industry, planning and management, universities, museums, marine science institutions, power generation (sustainable please!), engineering and consulting government and industry.

Key responsibilities of a Marine Biologist:

  • Developing, planning and carrying out experiments
  • Operating tracking technology, fishing nets, sonar and remotely operated vehicles.
  • Using specialist computer software to aid data interpretation
  • Writing research papers and reports.

Skills Required to Become a Marine Biologist

  • Patience and determination
  • Excellent problem-solving skills
  • Finding solutions to challenges whilst out on the ocean – sea legs required!
  • Practical skills – boat handling, scuba diving and first aid knowledge
  • Thorough attention to detail
  • Team working and interpersonal skills

Research Skills for a Career in Marine Biology

Marine Biologists must be able to conduct successful research and complete a literature review, plan a research question, design the study, collect and analyse data and accurately publish results.

Teamwork & a Career in Marine Biology

Marine Biologists rarely work alone. They therefore need to be able to work as part of a team and communicate well with everyone. Communication and coordination are key attributes.

Observation Skills for Marine Biologists

Marine Biologists spend extended periods of time observing and studying ocean life. Therefore, they need a passion for this in order to generate new ideas for research and understandings about how sea life works.

Analytical Skills for a Career in Marine Biology

Excellent research means analysing in a new or insightful manner so Marine Biologists need to be able to decide which analytic methods would prove most useful to a particular set of data.

Qualifications required to Become a Marine Biologist

A degree in marine science, biology, geology, ecology, oceanography or zoology is usually required, followed by a Masters to work in a research position. Many marine biologists collaborate with universities and also teach when not out working on research projects in the field, whilst others work for consultancies, coastal authorities, charities and aquariums.

Where can I study for a career in Marine Biology in Queensland?

You can study for a career in marine biology in the following universities in Queensland:

  • University of Queensland
  • James Cook University
  • Griffith University
  • Southern Cross University (external studies)

Check out our fascinating Marine Biologist for A Day programs to get things rolling…

 

 

A Shout out to Sharks

They are the most feared, yet the most misunderstood, of all marine animals – apex predators that pre-date the dinosaurs by an estimated 200 million years.

Of the almost 500 species of sharks swimming in our oceans, only a handful are the complex killers we hear about on the news – the majority have a far more sensitive side.

The reality is sharks don’t have a mean bone in their body… in fact they have no bones at all! Their skeletons are comprised of cartilage which is flexible and lightweight – allowing some to reach speeds of close to 100 kilometres an hour.

But while their sleek, race car bodies have helped them to survive for so long, ironically, it is also contributing to their downfall. Shark cartilage is used in beauty treatments and alternate medicines – a part of the reason 100 million of them are killed every year by humans.

It seems we have a love/hate relationship with these fish – while movies like Jaws are enough to keep some of us high and dry on the sand during a trip to the beach, others go to great lengths to absorb nutrients from sharks, adopting an eat or be eaten approach.

Shark fin soup is a delicacy in Asia and demand for the prestige product has led to the decimation of some species including the scalloped hammerhead. The process of removing the dorsal fin from a live animal is illegal in Australian waters, but the practise is difficult to police.

But what many of us miss in our obsession with sharks, is some of their truly extraordinary abilities. Unlike humans, they breathe through gills, so their nostrils are purely dedicated to smelling. Their sense is so refined, they can detect one drop of blood in 100 litres of water. Even more astounding is they can identify which of their two nostrils picked up the scent to determine the direction to swim to track their prey.

But it’s not just smell they’re tuned into – their ability to pick up on electrical impulse and vibrations is so acute, they can sense a Double A battery from 3 kilometres away. And while these skills are designed to help them locate food, some species can survive for up to 3 months between meals – the ultimate fasting regime!

Apart from their unparalleled skill in sensing their next feast, sharks are also well equipped to chow down their catch. They are known for their multiple rows of razor sharp teeth – and it appears they have an endless supply. While humans have one set of large teeth to last a lifetime, many species of sharks can grow tens of thousands, quickly replacing any that have gone blunt and fallen out.

And while this may seem terrifying to us, the reality is we are not on their menu. Attacks on humans are generally a case of mistaken identity – surfers are the most common target, mimicking the shape of a seal on the surface. While it may be of little comfort, statistically, you are more likely to be killed by a falling coconut or a flying champagne cork than to be taken by a shark.

Ocean Life Education runs a Shark Discovery program that helps to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the most feared fish in the sea. It is one of our most popular presentations as we explore all the fascinating features that make these apex predators such effective hunters yet strangely vulnerable at the same time.

When all the hype and hysteria is removed, it is easy to see how sharks play a vital role in maintaining balance in the marine eco-system. Deep down, (and also on the surface of their snout!), they really are quite sensitive.

Marine Biologist for a Day

Over the past few years, hundreds of primary schoolers have enjoyed our holiday sessions that inspire them to care for the ocean – now it’s time for the high schoolers to get in on the action.

Due to popular demand, our Marine Biologist for a Day program has been adapted to cater for an older audience who want a more in depth look at the world of marine science.

Students will have the chance to examine in detail our impact on the ocean including environmental stress on coral reef systems, water acidification and plastic pollution.  We will discuss a wide range of ideas on how to better care for the health of our seas.

The aim of the program is to making learning fun and relevant, examining animal classification to discover how each creature fits into the aquatic world.

The program will be very interactive, with students observing the dissection of a dead fish to reveal the organ make-up and development of a mullet.

And our most popular feature will still be included – the chance to gently touch our living sea creatures – an opportunity that never gets old at any age!

This program will provide a valuable insight to the workings of the aquatic world for any high schooler who has a passion for the ocean or is considering a career in marine sciences.

But we haven’t forgotten the younger students – our classic Marine Biologist for a Day will still be running in school holidays – we’re just expanding the program to grow with your kids.

For more details check out https://www.oceanlifeeducation.com.au/programs/marine-biologist-for-a-day/

Monitoring marine debris

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Marine Debris event at Sealife Mooloolaba

By Katie-Anne

During my time as a Marine Education Officer I have been invited to many open conversations, workshops and conferences, so when I was invited to attend a night of conversation around marine debris at Sealife Mooloolaba, I thought it was a great networking and information sharing opportunity. What I wasn’t expecting, was that the night would cause a shift in my understanding of the importance of data collection and the sway that citizen science can have.

The night was organised by the Sunshine Coast Council and included guest speakers from Targaroa Blue, Sealife Mooloolaba, Coolum and North Shore Coastare, Reefcheck Australia and the SCRC Turtlecare program. These stakeholders have a volunteer or not-for-profit element to their conservation work and as such the passion exuded by each speaker was all encompassing.

One statement said it all.

Naomi Edwards from Tangaroa Blue foundation opened with a statement:

“If cleaning the beach is all we do, it is all we will ever do.”

A very bold statement which had everyone sitting up and listening with open ears. What Naomi meant was that collecting debris is an amazing opportunity to identify what is washing up, where it comes from and how it entered the marine environment.

Citizen science creating real change

Through this train of thought the Australia Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) was born. The organisation has a global database in which volunteers, community groups and organisations can input data based on the size, material and type of item collected from the beaches and river clean ups. This means me, you and the little old lady down the road can contribute to the collection of scientific data.

Tangaroa Blue then uses this data to work with Industry and government organisations to create change on a large scale. Once upon a time this type of citizen science was dismissed as ‘not scientific’, however, it appears this broad quantitative science is gaining more traction within the scientific and government communities. The exciting thing that I discovered was that local government authorities are willing to see this as a feasible data collection means for identifying possible trends within the environmental systems.

But how is the raw data used to do this? Well, I thought the same thing until I discovered that the data can be viewed by anyone and can be collated to create reports on the website and can be (including a variety of graphs…..everyone loves a good graph) tailored for specific beaches or communities. This opens the opportunity for the identification of trends and problematic pollutants within this locality and to identify where the most common types of pollutants have originated from. Once specific pollutants or trends have been identified, this data can be used as a basis for change in the form of prevention by a strategic approach within the local community.

It is this type of focused solution planning, or pollutant focused planning, that the Sunshine Coast Council is showing an interest in. An example of the positive use of this data is with the implementation of a ban on the release of balloons at council events and in council-managed reserves by the Eurobodalla Shire Council. This was the direct result of collation of data relating to balloons found on the local beaches and the education on balloon impacts on the marine environment that was given by the local environmental officers.

Community action is important for scientific data

This is the key shift in thinking from simply cleaning the beach (which I do not want to underestimate the importance!) to using this necessary and vital community action as an opportunity for data collection and potentially as a platform for societal change. Essentially this database and others like it are enabling members of the community access to relevant data to drive changes from a community based ground roots level.

More information

For more information about Tangaroa Blue, the Australian Marine Debris Initiative or upcoming clean up events, visit www.tangaroablue.org.

Other organisations mentioned:

Sunshine Coast Council TurtleCare program

Sealife Mooloolaba

Coolum and North Shore Coastare

Reefcheck Australia