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By Aanchal Mahajan

It is a well-known fact that all the sciences are inter-related but, how many times do we see actual solid proof of that? The age old saying that nature is the source for all sciences is indeed true, as we can see in the ocean; through the science of oceanography. Oceanography is the “branch of science dealing with the physical and biological components of the sea.” Thus, the oceanographers involve several aspects of physics, chemistry, biology, and technology to their research to get to know the sea better. The relations between these main branches of science in this inter-disciplinary field certainly make it easier to see the commonalities between all of them.

The physical oceanographer studies the properties of the sea water, for example, the temperature, the salt content, tidal patterns, currents, waves etc. The chemical oceanographer examines the chemical interactions between various organisms in the sea, the effect of pollutants, the carbon content, etc., while the marine oceanographer studies the marine plant and animal life within the ocean.

The geological oceanographers study the composition of the sea bed, while the data compiled by all of these researchers is then analysed by the computer modellers. However, as diverse as all these fields may sound, they are essentially a part of the same study – that of the ocean. The information obtained can be used to understand the ocean as one entity. The physical research provides us with the living conditions offered in a certain part of the ocean, helping to guess the marine life to be expected to be found there. This data helps the marine oceanographer to grasp a better understanding of the affable environment conditions required by a certain species. Not just this, the physical properties of the ocean on being compared with the chemical ones also provide a better glimpse of the marine life their, again benefiting the marine oceanographers.

At the same time, the chemical behaviour of a marine ecosystem of a particular area is the field of interest for a chemical oceanographer. The information obtained by a geological oceanographer doesn’t just provide industrialists with an idea of the minerals found in the sea bed, but also helps to predict the geological activity of an area, which is essential when it comes to the identification of subsistence zones (hotspots of tectonic activity) which in turn affects the entire ocean system of the area.

Technology forms the main base of oceanographic research as researchers make use of satellites, submarines, under-water cameras, sensors, and trackers in order to get the otherwise impossible glimpses of the sea. Computer models help the modellers to create accurate depictions of the region of the sea studied. With cheaper and more effective instruments like biological sensors being invented and improved day by day, the latest technology has revolutionised the field of oceanography. Researchers can now easily study the marine life with the help of higher resolution sensors that are being commercially produced. The role of oceans as carbon sinks is essential to the study of climatology, thus, several researchers study not just the marine life, but also the abiotic components of the sea in order to predict the climate changes in the future and thus, either prevent or mitigate them. The effect of disasters like oil spills on the ocean is also examined by the oceanographers by looking at the chemical changes brought about in the environment, and the biological impact on the aquatic life. The prediction of tides, and the study of currents is also important for studying marine life and the climate of a region. Studying the chemical and physical composition also helps researchers to detect the traces of pollutants and the environmental affect produced by them.

All in all, the oceans are cover about 3/4th of the planet’s surface, and the inter-disciplinary field of oceanography helps us to understand the massive water bodies a lot better.

Rohil Bahl