Earth and Ocean Sciences

Oceanography Program

What is Oceanography?

Gulf StreamOceanography is simply the "study of the oceans" but the study includes its geological, physical, chemical, and biological properties and processes; in this regard it is truly an integrative science. Most oceanographic studies involve collection of data from satellites, ships, submersibles, remotely or autonomously operated vehicles and underwater observatories.

The oceans cover 70% of our planet and contain more than 97% of all of the water on Earth. They are a critical source of food and resources, a major control on the water and carbon cycles, and ultimate control on weather and climate. In order to better monitor and understand our oceans many different aspects of the oceans from the deep sea to the shallow coastal oceans are examined. Physical oceanographers investigate the waves, tides and currents of ocean waters and how light and sound propagate through the ocean. The chemical properties of the ocean and its chemical interactions with the atmosphere and the carbon cycle are studied by chemical oceanographers. Geological oceanographers study bottom topography, rock and sediment composition, and the evolution of the ocean basins within the global plate tectonic system. Productivity and biological diversity, and the interactions of plant, animals and microbes in the oceans are the research focus of biological oceanographers. Others areas of study include understanding and managing human impacts on the ocean, identifying natural resources provided by the ocean, and designing sensors and vehicles to observe the ocean.

UNCW Career Center: Careers in Oceanography