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7 Famous Marine Scientists You Should Know

Marine scientists and biologists have contributed an incredible amount to the health, wellbeing and safety of our planet, and that needs to be celebrated.

With that in mind, join us as we lift the lid on seven famous marine scientists and biologists that you need to know about. We’ve profiled some of the most pioneering and influential figures in the world of marine discovery, and provided some tips and advice on how you can follow in their footsteps with an exciting career in marine biology and science.

Marine scientist vs marine biologist: What’s the difference?

Before we put our list of famous marine scientists under the microscope, it’s worth defining what we mean by “scientists” vs their closely related counterparts, “biologists”. After all, while these titles might be used interchangeably a lot of the time, there are some pretty big differences between the two roles.

What is a marine scientist?

A marine scientist is a researcher who studies the physics, geography and chemistry of our seas and oceans. They might, for instance, find themselves measuring salt content or researching ways to curb pollution, or else predicting how our changing seas might influence coastal erosion in the future.

So, what’s a marine biologist?

While a marine scientist studies the chemistry, physics and geography of our oceans, marine biologists are concerned with the flora and fauna that live within them. Marine biologists study all animals, plants and organisms that live in the sea, with much of their research used to influence future conservation work.

There you have it – a clear dividing line between marine scientists and marine biologists. While it’s tempting to use these terms interchangeably, it’s always worth bearing in mind the subtle differences between science and biology – particularly if you plan to study one or the other at university!

How do you become a marine scientist?

Like the sound of studying our seas and oceans to glean invaluable insights into the role they play in our ever-changing world? Perhaps you’ve fallen in love with our animals and are keen to work closely with them as a marine biologist?

We can’t tell you that becoming a marine scientist or marine biologist is easy. You’ll need a good head for science and a strong aptitude for learning, not to mention a relevant university degree in a field like marine biology, animal science or zoology. Of course, there are lots of transferable skills required too, including attention to detail, teamwork, observation skills and analytical thinking.

But what we can tell you is that a super rewarding career awaits. No matter how small, every marine scientist and biologist plays a vital role in supporting the health and wellbeing of our seas and oceans – whether that’s researching water quality or pioneering new conservation techniques.

7 of the world’s most influential marine scientists

If it’s your life’s ambition to become a marine scientist, you’ll certainly be in good company. Thousands of talented, knowledgeable and inspirational scientists have devoted their lives to studying our seas and oceans, to the point where we had a pretty hard time narrowing it down to the seven figures listed below.

But with that said, here are the researchers we chose as our leading lights of the field of marine science and biology – from Rachel Carson to Charles Wyville Thomson.

1. Rachel Carson

Credited with huge advancements in the field of marine conservation, US biologist Rachel Carson was one of the figureheads of the 20th century’s environmental movement. Raised in Pennsylvania, Carson spent much of her career working for the US Bureau of Fisheries, a role which gave her unique insights into the health of our seas. Among other accolades, Carson is credited with raising awareness of the dangers of synthetic pesticides, culminating in the ban on DDT in 1972.

2. Ruth Gates

Born in Cyprus in 1962, the late, great Ruth Gates would go on to devote her life to the conservation and protection of coral reef systems. Having attended Newcastle University, where she studied biology, Gates later became the first woman to be made President of the International Society for Reef Studies. In her later years, Gates moved to Hawaii where she continued her research in earnest, becoming the Director of the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology – one of the world’s most esteemed centres for multi-disciplinary research into our seas and oceans.

3. Eugenie Clark

The opportunity to swim with sharks at Blue Planet Aquarium might not have been possible without the tireless work of legendary marine biologist Eugenie Clark. Born in New York in 1922, Eugenie Clark earned the affectionate moniker of “The Shark Lady” thanks to her tireless work in helping to raise the profile of these often-misunderstood creatures. A skilled ichthyologist (a fancy term for someone who studies fish), Clark spent much of her career researching sharks and is today credited with helping to rid them of their bad reputation. Interestingly, Clark is also famous for helping to pioneer the use of scuba diving equipment to aid marine research.

4. Sylvia Alice Earle

An expert oceanographer and explorer, New Jersey-born Sylvia Alice Earle has devoted her life to researching the properties of the sea, and continues to do so to this day. In 1990, Earle became the first woman to be appointed as Chief Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a government body responsible for safeguarding the health of the water around the US seaboard. Earle’s work for NOAA coupled with successful expeditions to the Caribbean and the Galapagos led her to be named Hero for the Planet by Time magazine in 1998.

5. Leanne Armand

Australian oceanographer Leanne Armand is among a list of scientists credited with invaluable research into the Southern Ocean – one of the least-studied oceans on our planet. Along with pioneering new techniques on the identification of plankton, Armand became one of the first researchers to raise the question of a correlation between climate change and melting sea ice, devoting much of her later career to studying ocean temperatures. Armand is also recognised for her work in helping other women to enter the field of marine science and biology, having mentored several high-profile researchers who are still working today.

6. Jacques Cousteau

Few names are as synonymous with oceanography and marine science as pioneering French scientist Jacques Cousteau. Born in 1910, Cousteau would go on to have a truly colourful and momentous life, from his time as a naval officer to his filmmaking days in the 1960s. Of course, from a marine science perspective, Cousteau is perhaps best known as the inventor of the “aqualung”, the world’s first underwater respiratory device, from which all modern scuba equipment is still derived. If it wasn’t for Cousteau, his aqualung, and his momentous documentaries, the world of marine exploration, discovery and education would be very different.

7. Charles Wyville Thomson

Knighted for his work in the field of early oceanography, Scottish scientist and historian Charles Wyville Thomson was one of the figureheads of marine research in the 19th century. Having worked in several university lecturing roles early in his career, Thomson was selected to carry out ocean telegraphy work for the Royal Navy, leading to several highly successful expeditions from 1868 onwards. The biggest and most fruitful of these research voyages came in 1872 when Thomson set sail aboard the HMS Challenger on a global expedition of some 68,890 nautical miles, during which Thomson discovered a host of new species and the deepest trench on Earth, the Mariana.

Our contributions at Blue Planet Aquarium

Here at Blue Planet Aquarium, we employ marine biologists to oversee the safety and wellbeing of our animals, whilst also partnering with conservation groups to promote the health of our seas and oceans. From safeguarding sharks with Bite-Back to protecting bees with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust – be sure to check out all the different ways we’re working to help protect our natural world for future generations.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this fascinating glimpse into some of our favourite marine scientists. If you’d like to talk to our resident marine experts here at Blue Planet Aquarium, tap here to plan your next visit.

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