Plunge into marine biology

Careers Pallavi Deshpande explores the treasure trove underwater

Plunge into marine biology

Marine biology is one of those fields which can be rewarding and challenging in equal measure. If you have a strong appetite for research and an avid interest in developing a ‘rapport’ with marine life, read on.

The field of marine biology is intriguing as it is about the study of marine plants (flora) and animals (fauna). It covers the ecology of organisms which means the interaction of the marine organisms with their surrounding environment. The organisms included are from sub-micron viruses and microbes to large fishes and whales.

So, are there many interesting fields which come under this vast field? Yes. These include marine botany, marine zoology, marine microbiology and marine biotechnology, to certain extent.

If you are one of those, constantly seeking out a larger purpose in all you do, this field will not disappoint.

Marine biology is indisputably a very important field as it is a window to understanding how man can meet his basic requirements of food and medicine from the marine environment. Marine biologists play a pivotal role in being ‘effective communicators’ for the world of ocean organisms and the ecosystem.

Professor K V Radhakrishnan, Principal Investigator at INCOIS Project-Karwar, sums it up: “Marine biotechnology helps scientists discover the rich flora and fauna that have the potential to be beneficial to society.”

Academic pathway
With a graduation background in any stream of biology, students can take up the masters programme in marine biology. Some of the universities offering related post graduation programmes are:

East-coast universities:
* Andhra University, Waltair-530003
* Annamalai University
West coast universities:
*Karnataka University,  Dharwad 580003
* Goa University- 403206
* Bhavnagar University, Gujarat - 364002
* Cochin University, Kerala-682022

Career growth
Marine Biology is an up-and-coming field which offers many   avenues for employment in the research and teaching line. Dr P A Loka Bharathi, a scientist (Biological Oceanography division) at National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, is someone who has taken this path.

Speaking from her experiences, she shares, “Students interested in pursuing research careers will find opportunities in academia, industry, government, non-governmental organisations and consulting firms.”

The media is yet another sector, marine biologist can venture into. “Those who have a flair for writing and adventure can get into science journalism which is quite rewarding too,” she adds.

In the academic landscape, most jobs involve conducting research and teaching undergraduate and graduate students, and require a master’s degree or a doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree.

Work for NGOs
There are opportunities for the marine biologists in nonprofit organisations like the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy which focus on environmental advocacy and marine conservation.

The career graph can be promising if the students join institutes like National Institute of Oceanography for CSIR. Scientist can move along a ‘grade’ trajectory from scientist B to C, E1, EII, F and Director grade G  in about 25 years.

Pay scales
A student armed with a masters’ degree can join as project assistant on a salary Rs 12,000 per month. Research fellows who have successfully cleared certain exams are also eligible for additional emoluments like HRA. As a regular scientist ‘B’, a fresher can draw a salary between Rs 8000 to 13,500.

Working as a lecturer’s in a university is yet another avenue.   The scales are much higher here, thanks to the new pay commission.

The work of a marine biologist is more research project-oriented and field-based and thus it calls for good analytical and thinking skills.

And as with other fields, technology can form a big part of your daily routine. So comfort and knowledge of technical advances in this profession is a must. Professor K V Radhakrishnan says, “Research in marine biology involves using cutting edge technology like remote sensing to gain an insight into the dynamics of marine world. For example, this could mean, prediction of potential fishing zone for the benefit of fishermen and weather forecasting.”

Students can gradually develop their areas of specialisation like aquaculture, satellite oceanography, marine microbiology, microbial ecology and biological oceanography.

New frontiers
As this is a field with an immense scope for research and  development there are many emerging fields of study which are significant. As Dr U G Bhat, Administrator of PG Department of marine biology at Karnataka University puts it, “Sea is the last frontier for all our demands. Marine geochemistry, marine biochemistry and marine ecotourism are some of the new and interesting fields marine biologists can work on.”

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