Oceanography: From Krill to Whales

What is an Oceanographer?

An Oceanographer is a scientist that studies all salt water, including oceans, bays and seas, providing more information on the natural ecosystem. Oceanographers record data according to their area of expertise. They can be engineers and others are zoologists or even marine biologists.

An ocean is defined as any major body of water that contains salt, and different oceans have different concentrations of salt. More than half of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans. As there is more water on the Earth than land, there is plenty of science and exploration to dive into!

Life in the Sea

Some Oceanographers study living animals of the sea. Most scientists and oceanographers believe that life began in the ocean more than 3 billion years ago. Today, there are over one million known species of animals and plants living in the ocean. Oceanographers think that there could be as many as 9 billion living species in the ocean, many of which have not yet been discovered. There are many creatures that are well known such as whales, dolphins, fish and sharks. Other common animals include octopi, live corals, crabs, shrimp, krill oil and seahorses. Some of the more forgotten life includes sea cucumbers, sponges, anemone and reptiles such as tortoises, snakes. Marine or ocean animals come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and they live in all different types of environments within the ocean.

Ocean Tides

Every object has a gravitational pull. The larger the object, the greater the pull. The reason that the Moon orbits around the Earth is because of Earth’s gravity. But the Moon’s gravity also effects the Earth. This can be observed by watching the Tides of the oceans go in and out. Tides are the natural rising and falling of the ocean water. Waves are created when wind and currents push the top of the water while the moon is pulling back under the surface, creating a circular force. Since the moon rotates around the Earth and they both travel around the sun, the gravitational pull creates tides twice daily, similar to sunrise and sunset. This also makes tides predictabe which is beneficial to oceanographers, fishermen, and even towns surrounding the oceans.

Mapping the Ocean Floor

To map an ocean floor means to create a profile or side view diagram to observe the possible features. Using these diagrams, Oceanographers can see mountains, plains, abyss’, slopes and trenches along the bottom. Measurements can be taken by dropping a weight to see ocean depth, or using sound equipment known as sonar. Basic mathematics is required to create an outline or profile of an ocean floor as well as attention to detail.

The Five Oceans 

Globally, there is only one ocean. This means that the seas on the planet are all connected and are just divided because of geographical, cultural and historical reasons. Scientists have also concluded that due to varied water temperature, depths and differences in under water life, dividing the large water mass into smaller sizes is much more efficient for research and identification purposes. Up until 2000 there were only 4 mapped out and named oceans, though another has been added. There are five named oceans which are the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern (also known as Antarctic) and Arctic. These oceans can be broken down further into seas. For example, the Atlantic ocean includes the Baltic Sea, Caribbean Sea, Black Sea, North Sea, and Mediterranean Sea.

Coral Reef

Coral are sessile animals, which mean they never move. They are from the same family as jellyfish, hydras and sea anemones. Some coral eat by ingesting small fish and plank tonic creatures that are stunned by stinging cells located on the tentacles. However, it is more common for coral to get the nutrition needed from Zooxanthellae, which is unicellular algae that obtains nutrition from the sun during photosythesis. Corals live in polyps or coral colonies and secrete a hard calcium carbonate. This naturally creates a hardened shell, a larger colony and naturally beautiful underwater scenery. It also creates a home and entire ecosystem for many tropical sea life.

Mysteries of the Deep

Since the beginning of mankind, there have been folklore and stories pertaining to mysterious creatures that reside within the sea. As the surface area of Earth is commonly researched, there rarely are new species found. In the deep of sea, however, there are many undiscovered species. The reason is the greater expense and increased difficulty to access. The more we learn about the sea, the more mysteries we are discovering. Tales of gigantic squid are becoming more plausible increasing the possible validity of many other creatures of folklore.

For more information on the use of krill, visit this link.

Ocean Protection 

Pollution is a major concern for everyone involved in Oceanography. Currently, over 80% of the seas pollution is because of human actions. This includes oil spills, waste run off, trash, sewage dumping and even radioactive waste. The food chain is a very sensitive web that requires all members to stay healthy. This means if the water or food that comes from the sea becomes tainted, it will have a greater effect to the entire web. Keeping the oceans clean is very important!

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