Aquatic Biology: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Aquatic Biology:  Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Aquatic Biology

Biologists study living organisms and their relation to one another and to the environment. Aquatic Biologists focus specifically on plants and animals living in water. They may conduct research, educate others or work to conserve our natural resources. Aquatic Biology includes the study of both freshwater and saltwater systems. Marine Biologists study saltwater organisms. Limnology is the technical term for Biologists who study freshwater systems, but, in the field, you will often hear Limnology referred to simply as Aquatic Biology. Both branches of Aquatic Biology are important, combining our need for unpolluted fresh water and natural resources with our desire to leave plants and animals the habitat they need to survive.

The Academic Requirements

Aquatic Biology students will study the physical, geological, chemical, and biological processes influencing fresh- and saltwater systems. In addition to studying the natural processes of these systems, students learn about human influences in our lakes, streams, rivers, ponds, and oceans. Pollution, erosion, over-fishing, and the alteration of natural areas around and within bodies of water all have serious consequences for the environment and, often, for human health.

Students also learn about the laws governing the use of freshwater systems, as well as the local, state, federal, and international agencies that enforce these laws. Laws help to control how fishing is conducted, so that we can use this important food source in sustainable ways. These laws also protect endangered species, such as sea turtles, and vulnerable species, such as coral.

Here are some courses that we've seen:

  • Limnology
  • Aquatic Vascular Plants
  • Microbiology
  • Conservation Biology
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Stream Ecology
  • Aquatic Insects
  • Community Ecology
  • Marsh Ecology
  • Phytoplankton Physiology
  • Marine Zoogeography
  • Oceanography
  • Scientific Data Management
  • Water Resources Law
  • Environmental Modeling

Professional Outlook

Aquatic Biologists do work similar to those in other fields of biology, but they focus specifically on issues in freshwater systems. A Ph.D. is usually required to do independent research, but those with Master's degrees or Bachelor's degrees can still participate in research. While many Aquatic Biologists work in the field, exploring the ecology and environmental conditions of freshwater systems, some also work in the policy field, working to ensure that environmental regulations are up-to-date with industry knowledge.

Working conditions vary. Biologists in the field can expect to trek through lots of mud and water. Those who work in offices or academia keep more regular hours. Researchers can expect to spend a significant amount of time obtaining grants, reviewing their work, and submitting research results to others.

Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Aquatic Biology:


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