A Marine Biologist's Tools

To study sharks, a marine biologist needs a boat and tools of the trade.

To study sharks, a marine biologist needs a boat and tools of the trade.

A marine biologist may work primarily in the field -- or water -- or in a laboratory. Whatever her particular specialty within marine biology, and whether she must be able to study her organisms of choice in the natural environment or a controlled setting, she needs several specialized tools to get the job done.

On and in the Water

Marine biologists working in a watery environment are likely to need both a boat for travel and scuba gear so they can get up close and personal with the subject of their study. Boats may be simply a way to get where they need to go, or they may include equipment like sonar to find fish or shipwrecks, as well as storage areas for samples. Not every marine biologist immerses herself in water, but those who do may use either simple snorkels and fins, or complex closed-circuit underwater breathing apparatuses, which have "rebreathers" to prevent the more common open circuit gear's stream of water-disturbing air bubbles.

Collecting Samples

Marine biologists may find that simple tools like nets, bags and buckets play a crucial role in sample collection techniques. Depending on what she's studying, a marine biologist may be able to just dip a bucket into the water to scoop plankton or may have to use a net to snare an elusive fish. Other tools for collecting samples could include traps for creatures, or water samplers for studying microscopic water organisms.


Some marine biologists may rely on expensive underwater photo and video cameras to capture footage of creatures too large to "take home" to the lab. Video cameras also the examination of how creatures interact with the natural environment. Sometimes biologists even attach cameras to the creatures. Remote-controlled equipment may even keep her nice and dry while the camera does the underwater work.

On Dry Land

Once back at the lab, she uses a variety of different tools to study her subjects. These may include basic lab equipment such as centrifuges, flasks and scales. Or she may use water-specific equipment such as a flow chamber that directs currents where she wants them to go, such as over a specific part of a sea creature or in a specific direction in a tank. Marine biologists also use computers, both to record data and to conduct research through online databases and other scientific sites.

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About the Author

Eric Strauss spent 12 years as a newspaper copy editor, eventually serving as a deputy business editor at "The Star-Ledger" in New Jersey before transitioning into academic communications. His byline has appeared in several newspapers and websites. Strauss holds a B.A. in creative writing/professional writing and recently earned an M.A. in English literature.

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