Research about the sea

07 March, 2024

Fish behavior, toxic algae, and the role of the sea in climate. These are some of the topics that marine research can address. Diverse subjects, but with a common goal: to better understand what happens beneath the surface.

The oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface. Despite this, we know less about what happens in the ocean than in space. Marine research is about trying to fill these knowledge gaps. Increasing the fundamental knowledge about the ocean without directly pointing to any application is usually called basic research. But sometimes, basic research sparks thoughts on how the knowledge could be applied in society. Then, basic research becomes the foundation for so-called applied research that aims to solve a problem with direct benefits for society. Since the connection between humans and the sea is so significant, it is not uncommon for research projects to shift between basic and applied research.

The study of the movements and properties of the sea

The oceans are studied by a multitude of researchers in physics, chemistry, biology, and geology. All these subjects can be linked to oceanography, which is the study of the movements and properties of the sea. This is usually done through observations from expeditions, satellites, and the creation of models. Understanding the movement of water is crucial because it affects the climate worldwide.

Many oceanographers work on environmental, energy, and climate issues in government or the private sector. As an oceanographer, one can also engage in research. Oceanography is a science with a broad spectrum of topics such as ecosystem dynamics, ocean currents, and the flow of various substances in the sea. One who has dedicated her life to the sea is the oceanographer Sylvia Earle, who has become one of the internationally known forces for protecting and restoring the world’s oceans.

Oceanography differs from marine biology because it does not always involve studying what lives in the sea. A marine biologist focuses on living organisms in all parts of the ocean and seeks to understand dynamic interactions on different scales, from a specific location to global.

To understand the complexity of the ocean, oceanographers and marine biologists often combine several fields such as biology and chemistry. Weighing in multiple disciplines is particularly important today to create a comprehensive picture that can contribute to the efforts against climate change, pollution, and other factors threatening the oceans and marine life.

Studying the inaccessible

Since many places in the ocean are relatively inaccessible to researchers, technological measuring aids are often used today to study these areas. They can remain in the sea and keep measuring the water’s characteristics around the clock. This makes it easier to obtain more measurement values than if researchers had to travel to the measurement site for each reading.

Oceanographic measurement stations at sea are sometimes called ocean observatories where relevant data is collected for researchers. This can include temperature, salinity, and oxygen levels, as well as wind and waves. The Voice of the Ocean (VOTO) Foundation, for example, works to facilitate data collection for researchers. The team working on research and data collection at VOTO consists of oceanographic technicians and researchers. They use so-called gliders to collect data from five locations along the coast of Sweden, and this information can be closely followed through their observation portal.

Text: Lina mattsson
Foto: Hans Berggren, Kimmo Hagman, Johan Candert, Simon Stanford

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