What is Marine Biology?
Marine biology is the conservation and study of marine life. This can include restoring coral reefs or other ecosystems. Maybe you want to manage and recover fish populations endangered by overfishing. How about researching the behaviors and interactions of marine animals and plants? What about researching the physical, chemical, and geological aspects of the ecosystem? You can expect to have job titles or employers such as:
- Marine Biologist
- Environmental Consultant
- Government agency
- Non-profit organization
- Habitat Manager
- Fisheries Biologist
Not what you had in mind when you thought about marine biology. Instead of research, perhaps you're more interested in the care of marine animals and want to work at an aquarium, zoo, or rescue center? Maybe you're even thinking about being a Veterinarian that works primarily with marine animals. Don't worry, we still have you covered!
What Major and Option should you choose?
To obtain a career in one of these fields we recommend pursuing a degree in
Each of our majors also requires you to choose a specialization, known as an Option. We recommend one, or both, of the following options for those interested in marine life:
Animal Ecology Options
- Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
- Pre-Vet and Wildlife Care
Wouldn't it be better to go to a coastal school for Marine Biology?
If you were thinking this, then yes, you're probably right. With Iowa State University being land-locked, it's at a definite disadvantage when it comes to marine-related coursework and experience opportunities. But it's not impossible!
To start, for those interested in marine conservation and research, the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences option will help you to develop skills and techniques that are transferrable across ecosystems. In some instances, having a background in freshwater ecosystems might actually be an advantage for you.
While not many, there are currently a few courses offered at Iowa State University related to marine ecosystems. Additionally, there are often professors and graduate students who have had experiences in marine biology. Ask around and find who you might be able to network with and learn from.
With that being said, you are going to have to put in some effort to get where you want to go. Experience is going to be incredibly valuable for you, so it's important that you leave the Midwest once in a while to find those. Here are some ways in which you can start:
Exchange programs to coastal schools:
Further Your Education
To pursue a career in the research side of marine life, you will need a Master degree, or even a Doctoral degree, in marine biology. Start preparing for the coursework and experience you'll need to be admitted into these programs. If you are aiming for the care of marine life, you will only need a Bachelor degree
Other tips for pursuing these careers:
Dive in (perhaps literally)!
Dive into internships, job shadows, and other experiences. This will allow for networking opportunities and can help clarify your desired career path.
If you wish to work with captive aquatic animals, you'll need to understand filtration systems and maybe plumbing. Depending on your facility, you may need to have some construction skills to build enclosures. Find ways to build your knowledge in these areas.
Get comfortable with equipment and techniques used in aquatics. Learn to drive and care for a boat. Become SCUBA certified. All of these skills can be useful in your career.