STUDENTS UNDER 16

COASTAL MARINE SCIENCES

The coastal seas and estuaries of the world are home to a great variety of plants and animals. Most of the world’s fish for food are caught in coastal seas, and aquaculture for shell and fin fish most occurs inshore. Deep in the underlying rocks there can be rich deposits of oil, gas and coal.

The coastal zone is where the ocean comes into direct contact with humankind. Globally, more and more people live near the coast. There are a number of reasons for this. In wealthy countries, the coast is often the favourite place to buy a home or spend weekends at leisure – after all the coast is a very beautiful place. In countries which are still industrialising, country folk move to the great cities which often are sea ports. Year after year, the human population of the coastal regions steadily increases. Their sewage flows into the sea, often without any treatment. To feed these people, and those inland, fishing boats comb coastal waters with nets so efficient that whole shoals can be caught at once. Without careful management, fishing vessels may catch even the juvenile fish needed to restock the adult population.

The coastal zone is where the ocean comes into direct contact with humankind. Globally, more and more people live near the coast. There are a number of reasons for this. In wealthy countries, the coast is often the favourite place to buy a home or spend weekends at leisure – after all the coast is a very beautiful place. In countries which are still industrialising, country folk move to the great cities which often are sea ports. Year after year, the human population of the coastal regions steadily increases. Their sewage flows into the sea, often without any treatment. To feed these people, and those inland, fishing boats comb coastal waters with nets so efficient that whole shoals can be caught at once. Without careful management, fishing vessels may catch even the juvenile fish needed to restock the adult population.

Meanwhile factories built on the coast use the sea water for cooling machinery and carrying away wastes. Great ships carrying products and raw materials from all over the world travel through coastal waters on their way to and from harbours. Usually these ships pass by harmlessly, but every now and then a ship is caught in a storm, or hits rocks, or is involved in a collision, and the ship’s precious cargo can turn into a deadly one, especially if the cargo is crude oil or noxious chemicals. Less obvious damage is done by alien species carried into new waters in ballast water, or clinging to the hull of ships.

The coast is where most of us go for our holidays. We swim, snorkel, sail, fish, dive and surf in coastal waters. We sun–bathe on the beaches, and eat and drink in the beach–side bars and hotels. Here the conflicting uses we impose on the coastal sea become noticeable. No–one wants to swim where the water is polluted, or visit a beach covered in industrial waste. Yet our very presence puts pressure on the adjacent sea – when you flushed the toilet at the beach side bar, where do you think the waste went? If your family hired a car, what happened to the oil that drips from the engine? If you flew to a beach abroad, was the kerosene in the airliner’s fuel tank obtained from wells deep under the ocean?

With so much at stake, marine sciences are very important. By learning how the coastal zone operates, what types of creatures live there, what kind of habitats they need, how the coastal currents flow, what kind of sediments lie on the seabed, how the ocean dilutes pollutants and so on, scientists can advise industry and government how best we can live with the sea, without wrecking it for ourselves and future generations.

This type of research needs chemists to analyse water quality and chemical pollutants; biologists to identify organisms, quantify population size and record interactions; physical oceanographers to measure offshore currents and ocean circulation; computer modellers; usually mathematicians, to develop predictions of future changes and demonstrate theoretical pollution pathways; surveyors and cartographers to map the coastal zone and monitor erosion; legal experts to deal with the mass of organisations that have conflicting demands for coastal zone use; remote sensing scientists who use data from satellite or aircraft mounted cameras, radar’s and other sensors to monitor the coastal zone and measure changes, and any number of experts in a myriad of fields, from human health to yacht marina designers.

There are many other people involved because of the diverse nature of the coastal zone. There are farmers and fishermen, representatives of the leisure industry, politicians, surfers, fossil hunters, rock climbers. You name them – they probably have some interest in what is going on at the coast. In many nations a whole new career specialisation, the “marine spatial planner” is beginning to appear – i.e. in the UK there is a new “Marine Management Organisation” and a whole raft of new legislation to control use of coastal waters.

If you are interested in coastal marine sciences as a possible career, consider what a wide range of possibilities exist. Whichever science you are best at, there is a way in which you can use it in the coastal zone. Aim for high grades in your exams and get involved in coastal activities, there are many organisations that can teach you more about the coast, from learning what lives in rock pools to analysing water quality around sewage out–falls.

For more information contact:

Challenger Society for Marine Science
Room 346/10
National Oceanography Centre
Waterfront Campus
Southampton
Hampshire SO14 3ZH
UK

e: jxj@noc.ac.uk
www.challenger–society.org.uk

CoastNet
The Gatehouse
Rowhedge Wharf
High Street, Rowhedge
Colchester
Essex CO5 7ET

t: 01206 728644
www.coastnet.org.uk

Manager, Professional Affairs
The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology
Aldgate House
33 Aldgate High Street
London EC3N 1EN

t: 020 7382 2600
e: ed.hansom@imarest.org
www.imarest.org

The Marine Biological Association
The Laboratory
Citadel Hill
Plymouth
Devon PL1 2PB
UK

t: 01752 633100
f: 01752 633102
www.mba.ac.uk

Marine Conservation Society
9 Gloucester Road
Ross–on–Wye
Herefordshire HR9 5BU
UK

t: 01989 566017
www.mcsuk.org

Marine Management Organisation
PO Box 1275
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE99 5BN
Tel: 0191 376 2543

e: media@marinemanagement.org.uk
www.scotland.gov.uk

Marine Scotland
St Andrew’s House
Regent Road
Edinburgh EH1 3DG

t: 0131 556 8400
www.scotland.gov.uk

The Scottish Association for Marine Science
PO Box 3
Oban
Argyll PA34 4AD
UK

t: 01631 559000
f: 0161 559001
e: mail@dml.ac.uk
www.sams.ac.uk

 

Australian Institute of Marine Science
The UWA Oceans Institute building(Level 4)
35 Stirling Hwy
Crawley 6009,
Western Australia, Australia

t: (08) 6369 4000
f: (08) 6488 4585
e: web@aims.gov.au

Tel international: +61 8 6369 4000
Fax international : +61 8 6488 4585
www.aims.gov.au

 

University of New South Wales
UNSW Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

t: +61 2 9385 1000
f: +61 2 9385 3327
e: bees@unsw.edu.au
www.unsw.edu.au

 

Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
6300 Ocean Dr.
Corpus Christi
Texas 78412

t: +61 361 825 5700
biol.tamucc.edu/bs/marine.html

 

Institute of Marine Sciences
Earth & Marine Sciences Building Rm A317
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064

t: +61 831 459-2464
ims.ucsc.edu/