Oceanography is the branch of Earth Science which deals with the study of oceans and seas with specific importance to coastline, estuaries, coastal waters, shelves and the ocean bed. It includes the study of marine organisms and ecosystem dynamics; ocean currents, waves, and geophysical fluid dynamics; plate tectonics and the geology of the sea floor; and fluxes of various chemical substances and physical properties within the ocean and across its boundaries. It is an interdisciplinary science that integrates principles of Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Meteorology and Physics. This emerging field gives in Oceanography is really challenging and gives the opportunity to gain scientific knowledge as well employment in various public and private organizations.
A person who studies these aspects of the oceans is known as Oceanographer or Marine Biologist who should have the curiosity and a desire to venture into the vast realm of the unknown within our oceans. They generally work for long hours in the sea collecting samples, conducting surveys, analyzing data using sophisticated equipment. The job involves the study of motion and circulation of the ocean waters and their physical and chemical properties, and how these properties affect coastal areas, climate, and weather. There are different fields of oceanography like marine biology, geological oceanography, physical oceanography and chemical oceanography and depending upon ones specialization they get employed.
Oceanography subdivides into a number of branches. They are
Chemical oceanographers are interested in the distribution of chemical compounds and the many chemical interactions that occur in the ocean and the seafloor. The aim is to research and develop such technology that will be able to recover valuable elements from the sea. This area is also involved in developing methods of solving pollution problems in estuaries.
Geological and geophysical oceanographers describe the shape and material of the seafloor and study the geological and geophysical characteristics of coastal margins, for the selection of suitable locations of marine structures as well as the exploitation of the oceans mineral resources.
Physical Oceanography studies about all the physical properties of the ocean. Remote sensing is one of the important areas in this field.
Marine Biology is the field which studies life processes in marine environments.
Marine archaeologists are involved in the systematic recovery and study of material evidence, such as shipwrecks, graves, buildings, tools, and pottery remaining from past human life and culture that is now covered by the sea.
Marine and ocean engineers
apply scientific and technical knowledge to practical uses.
Career in Oceanography is vast and challenging as well as rewarding. They can get employment both in public and private sectors.
• In government establishments they can be absorbed as scientist, engineer or a technician in departments of Geological Survey, Meteorological Survey and oceanography.
• Private sectors with interests in the marine industries also employ oceanographers.
• An oceanography professional can thus be absorbed as
• Environmental Scientist
• Oceanographer or mining engineer
Lieutenant Matthew Fontaine Maury - "Father" of Oceanography
Matthew Fontaine Maury was born on January 14, 1806 near Fredericksburg, Virginia. The years of his youth were spent in Tennessee; but he looked forward to joining the navy, emulating his older brother who was a naval officer. From 1825 to 1834, Maury made his first three voyages: Europe, around the world, and to the Pacific coast of South America. In 1834, he married Ann Hull Herndon.
During 1834 to 1841, Maury produced published works on sea navigation, detailing sea journeys. He began writing essays pushing for navy reform. In 1842, Maury was appointed superintendent of the Depot of Charts and Instruments of the Navy Department in Washington. In this position, he began publishing his research on oceanography and meteorology, as well as charts and sailing directions. His system of recording the oceanographic data of naval vessels and merchant marine ships was adopted world-wide. In 1855, he published The Physical Geography of the Sea, which is now credited as 'the first textbook of modern oceanography.'
In 1868, Maury accepted the position of professor of meteorology at Virginia Military Institute. Two of Maury's books were donated to the College of Sciences and are part of the display, "The Vessels of Oceanography," which can be seen in the Atrium of the Oceanography/Physics Building on 4600 Elkhorn Avenue.
James Rennell "was the founder of oceanography: that branch of geographical science which deals with the ocean, its winds and currents". Thus wrote Clements Markham CB FRS and president of the Royal Geographical Society, in his biography of Rennell in 1895.
Rennell was born in 1742 in Chudleigh, near Exeter, and showed his skill as a cartographer while still at school. His school boy map of Chudleigh is in the archives of the Royal Geographic Society. Soon after his 14th birthday, he joined the Navy as a midshipman, and for the next seven years he sailed the world, saw active service, and learnt his trade as a surveyor, mapping coasts and harbours even in the midst of battle. So strong was his talent that he was appointed, soon after his discharge from the navy, as Surveyor-General of Bengal. The year was 1764, and Rennell was only 21 years old!
When the Bengal survey was completed, Rennell and his wife sailed home from Calcutta in March 1777, arriving in Portsmouth in February 1778. During the long voyage round the Cape of Good Hope, he mapped "the banks and currents at the Lagullas", and his daughter Jane was born in October 1777 during a stopover at St Helena. Rennell's memoir on the Agulhas current (as it is now known) was published in 1778, and was the "very first contribution to the science of oceanography", writes Markham, so that James Rennell "was the father of oceanography".
During the next 50 years, until his death in 1830, Rennell was the leading geographer in England, if not in Europe. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1781, and became a great friend of its President, Sir Joseph Banks. He received the prestigious Copley medal in 1791 for his work on India. He was offered the post of first Hydrographer of the Admiralty in 1795, but declined it to continue his academic research, and the post was accepted by Alexander Dalrymple, another great friend and colleague of Rennell.
Rennell returned to his hydrographic work in 1810 at the age of 68, and it occupied him for the last twenty years of his life. He was before all things a sailor, and his numerous naval friends furnished him with a great mass of data from their logs and notebooks, which Rennell sifted and assimilated to chart the currents of the Atlantic Ocean. The work could not have been undertaken earlier, as Rennell himself pointed out, because it was not until the invention of the chronometer in the mid 1700s that longitude could be accurately determined. This accuracy was essential so that current drift could be inferred from the offset between dead reckoned and observed ship's positions. Writing the chapter on the Gulf Stream in 1822, Rennell recognized that "The want of simultaneous observations is an incurable defect". Even today, many oceanographers would agree with him. In an attempt to secure data from sources other than British vessels he asked Sir Joseph Banks in 1819 to approach US sources for data from ships' logs.
Rennell looked upon the Gulf Stream in the nature of an immense river descending from a higher level into a plain. The idea was adopted and amplified by Maury in his "Physical Geography of the Sea", but the original idea was Rennell's, and is described in his final work, "Currents of the Atlantic Ocean", published posthumously by his daughter Jane in 1832. He noted the meandering of the Gulf Stream and discussed the formation of large eddies with cold cores - "divides into branches, which have cold water between them". Richardson, writing in 'Oceanography the Past' in 1980, describing the Gulf Stream charts of Frankin and Folger states that "The next two significant improvements in charting the Gulf Stream were by Rennell (1832) and Iselin (1936)". It is surely a tribute to the scientific method of James Rennell that his work was not significantly overtaken for a century.
Perhaps James Rennell's greatest service to geography and hydrography was the introduction of scientific method. Rennell carefully examined and sifted all data and theories, and discarded either when unsupported. In consequence, his data were accurate, his methods logical, and his conclusions were right "in almost every instance". The informal meetings of geographers and scientists that took place regularly in Rennell's and his friends' houses between 1780 and 1830 led to the formation of the Royal Geographical Society two months after Rennell's death. The Society received the patronage of King William IV, to whom Jane Rodd dedicated Rennell's final book. His opening statement that "the winds are to be regarded as the prime movers of the currents of the ocean" remains unchallenged to this day.
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