Taking into account that around 70% of the earth is covered in oceans, marine biology is evidently a vital discipline in the protection of life in the waters. Marine biology is the scientific study of oceanic organisms or brackish and aquatic bodies in the water. This also includes plants and the terrestrial environment which has a direct impact on the sea waters. There are several disciplines in marine biology such as biological oceanography, physical oceanography, astronomy, chemistry, zoology, embryology, taxonomy, cellular biology, natural history and geology, molecular biology, morphology, and meteorology. A new aspect of marine conservation has lately drawn new scientific disciplines such as biogeography, marine ecology, botany, anthropology, zoology, fisheries biology, genetics, economics and law. This paper seeks to look at the principal aim of marine biology and discovering how aquatic organisms are controlled by ocean phenomena.
Marine biology is concerned with various aspects of living in the waters. E.g. the way in which various organisms are adapted to the physical and chemical properties of oceanic water, the currents and movements of the ocean, the availability of light to various oceanic depths, and the solid surface of the sea floor. The marine is also a huge source of food supply, e.g. fish and shrimps. The weather and climatic conditions are also affected by the ocean circulation, and a lot of income is generated through international commerce, tourism and recreation. The dynamics of existence is also of essence in the study of marine biology. For instance the oxygen cycle by coral reefs, the predator- prey relations and the food chains, population and distribution, overfishing, invasive and endangered species. Another aspect of interest is the effects of pollution to the life of organisms in the oceans, especially oil spillages caused by shipping, inorganic wastes, sewage effluents, fertilizers and pesticides run-off from terrestrial land sources and silting owing to coastline construction activities.
The marine is home to various aquatic beings. These include seabirds such as penguins and auks, various types of fish, invertebrates like the jellyfish, mammals such as whales and dolphins, reptiles such as sea snakes and sea turtles, marine fungi such as algae, plants like the mangrove, sea grass and seaweeds, and other microscopic organisms such as the zoo and phytoplankton. These organisms survive in different habitats in the ocean. There are two major categories of marine habitats namely pelagic or coastal habitat and demarsal or open ocean habitat. The pelagic habitats are those at the surface of the water while demarsal habitats are found deep in the sea. Marine organisms are consequently categorised depending on their habitats. i.e. pelagic organisms and demersal organisms, (Trist, 1999).
Various technologies are used in marine biology to help in discovering the nature of survival and providence and the importance of marine life to man, e.g. in the provision of not only food and water, but also medicine, raw material and hydraulic energy. There are special tools that marine researchers use so as to effectively study marine life. These include trawling, which is used in collection of marine specimen and plankton nets to catch microorganisms in the water. These methods are mainly used for sampling. Tracking methods are also used and these encompass photo- identification research, critter cams, and hydrophones for detecting and recording acoustic signals in the ocean. The sound data is effective in monitoring the waves, ships, marine mammals and other oceanic activity. The sonar, which is similar to sounding, is essential in tracking larger objects in water and measuring the bathymetry (ocean depth). The sonar works by detecting echoes under water since sound waves in water last longer than in air. Satellite tags are also used for tracking marine life. They are usually tagged with sensors that determine their migratory patterns. The satellites are also useful in measuring oceanic geographical data such as the colour and temperature of the water. These data helps in analysing oceanic characteristics such as the climate, the cold upwelling the warm water and the currents. There are also observational equipment used under the sea, these include the Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) which are unmanned robots that transmit data to researchers where diving is considered a health hazard. The ROVs are usually fitted with specimen retrieval tools, still and video cameras as well as other mechanical equipment necessary for carrying out measurements. Fibre optics is also an observational tool that uses LED light and cameras with low light, which are not distractions to deep marine life, to capture behavioural and characteristic aspects of sea creatures. Some sophisticated computerized technology is as well used in the collection, procession, analysis and display of data captured from sensors positioned strategically in marine environment to enhance measurement of temperature, salinity, navigation, depth and meteorological data. Researchers also operate under the waters. They live and work beneath water surfaces for lengthy periods. This was termed as the Aquarius by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (NOAA).
The impact of humans on the ocean is often more damaging than constructive. This is through pollution which causes severe and diverse changes to the marine life, which subsequently results to a hazardous ecosystem. Pollution causes acidifying and warming of the ocean, expansion of dead zones within the oceanic depths and changes in water circulation. As a result, there is little abundance of sea grasses, mangroves, coral reefs and fish. The aquatic food chains are also altered as the distribution takes a new angle. More pests and diseases also become apparent in marine life, (Global Change Institute, 2010). However, what humans do not realize is the importance of marine life in the existence and survival of man and the earth at large. Most notably is the role of marine biology in land formation through erosion and displacement. This is quite relevant to the creation of the earth. According to history, the earth was initially a huge mass of land called the Pangaea. This super continent had a ridge at the middle known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The hot spots in the ocean floor, holes underneath the ocean, released hot magma and lava from the core of the earth which caused a big crack. The cooling of the magma and lava formed a solid known as land. This is said to be a continuous process as the hot spots continue releasing colossal amounts of lava each year. Currently the frozen solids formed on the ocean surfaces are called islands. This shows how influential the ocean can be in the entire ecosystem. The air quality on earth is also influence by coral reefs, which are said to produce approximately 82% of the world’s oxygen while there is dissolution of carbon dioxide in the water. Coral reefs are also a source of food for marine life and a natural habitat for them. They are also a source of income as they are a site to the tourists, (Pandolfi, 2003). Therefore, lots of conservation needs to be done on marine life.
There are various positive impacts of the marine life to humans. For example, it is a hub for future medical and pharmaceutical advancements. This is seen in cone snails (conidae) which are highly venomous. They produce neurotoxins which have a relaxing effect to the muscles. i.e. they are nerve inhibitors. This inhibitory action may be potential in providing alternative medications to the morphine which are significantly powerful and non-addictive. Another research advancement made in the biomedical applications is the identification of a special type of glue from a particular marine worm that tends to harden aqueous environments and seal veins and bones. This invention came from the discovery that this particular worm builds its habitat underwater by gluing up sand particles. Sponges have also been known to heal wounds faster and are thus used in surgical operations. Raw materials from the sea could also help in provision and supply of industrial and building materials, (Guldberg, 2010).
Marine biology is palpably a vital discipline in realising the dependence of all terrestrial life and the planet as a whole on the ocean. It is thus, important to prevent more damage mainly caused by human ignorance and work to conserve and restore the damaged marine ecosystem and preserve vulnerable marine species.