The discipline of microbial oceanography strives to understand the role of microorganisms in the structure and function of marine ecosystems. Accordingly, microbial oceanographers make field observations of the distributions, abundances, diversity and metabolic activities of microorganisms in the sea and use this information to develop and test ecological hypotheses about the role that microbes play in global biogeochemical cycles, energy transduction and related ecosystem processes.
Scientists are currently using cutting edge technologies to study a wide range of microorganisms, including the microscopic marine algae known as phytoplankton, marine bacteria and archaea. These tiny organisms play important roles in marine food webs and even in regulating the Earth's climate. Many of the smaller marine algae and microbes cannot be cultured in the laboratory, but are being studied by analyzing their genetic material.
Classification is the systematic arrangement of organisms (or any objects) in groups or categories according to established criteria. The classification and study of organisms with regard to their natural relationships was originally designed to organize the enormous number and variety of known plants and animals into categories that could be named, remembered, and discussed. Living organisms are classified according to physical characteristics, genetic information and evolutionary history. Scientists around the world use a common classification scheme in order to make research and communication about organisms clear, accurate and consistent across disciplines and languages.
Understanding processes in the coastal ocean is very challenging and very important. People are closely tied to the coastal ocean economically, environmentally, and socially. We impact the ocean environment by our diverse activities of resource extraction, recreation, and dumping. The ocean environment impacts us through diverse processes such as sediment and pollutant transport, anomalous ocean/atmosphere phenomena, harmful algal blooms, and natural variation in fisheries. The array of coastal ocean processes and our interaction with them across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales creates tremendous complexity. We seek to enter that complexity and to extract knowledge that can not only guide environmental decision making, but also lead the ocean science community in the study of oceanic processes across disciplinary boundaries. Advancing this science requires diverse yet integrated methods of environmental sensing and merging of observational and theoretical approaches.
Back to top
Plates from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur (Artforms of nature) (1904)