Marine Mammal Biology
How many different jobs are there and what education is needed?
I decided to do a report on Marine Mammal Biology. I have a deep interest in this subject and one day would like to pursue a career in Marine Mammal Biology.
There are about 100 species of aquatic or marine mammals that depend on fresh water or the ocean for part or all of their life. These species include Pennipeds (seals), sea lions, fur seals, and walruses, Cetaceans (baleen and toothed whales, ocean and river dolphins and porpoises), Sirenians which are manatees.
Scientists try to study there animals’ genetic, systematic, and evolutionary relationships, population structure, community dynamics, anatomy and physiology, behavior and sensory abilities, diseases, geographic distributions, ecology, management, and conservation.
The average salary a biologist makes a year ranges depends on the amount of experience one has. Most biologists make 30,000-40,000 a year. The work is usually back breaking and long hours out on the sea, extensive work on the computer, hauling buckets of fish to feed the animals, hours of clean-up, numerous reports, typing grant applications and permit applications.
In fields of science, jobs dealing with marine mammals vary widely. Marine mammal jobs include researcher, field biologist, fishery vessel observer, laboratory technician, animal trainer, animal care specialist, veterinarian, whale watch guide, naturalist, educator, and government or private agency position in legislative, management, conservation, and animal welfare issues. Many marine mammals’ scientists work with museum displays and collections, as a curator, an artist, an illustrator, a photographer, or a filmmaker.
A broad education is necessary for finding employment in marine mammal science. High school courses such as biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, and language, will provide a good educational base. You can talk to a guidance counselor for help in selecting course work. Good grades are important for admission to a university.
Most entry-level marine mammal jobs require a B.S. degree, with a major in biology, chemistry,
physics, geology, or psychology. A minor in any science, computer science, mathematics, statistics, or engineering also can be helpful. Good language and technical writing skills are essential. Many people are surprised by the amount of writing involved marine mammal professions. Because marine mammals are found worldwide, foreign language training is often useful.
The master’s degree is usually the first opportunity that college students have to specialize
in marine mammal science. Care should be taken to select an advisor with experience in the subject and a reputable university with a diverse curriculum that will enable a focus on marine mammal science. Students who have dual majors or interdisciplinary training sometimes have more employment opportunities. Because the field of marine mammal science is so diverse, students who train in specialized areas have practical tools that may help them gain employment.
With a B.S. degree, positions include animal care specialist, animal trainer, field technician, laboratory technician, consultant for industry, and entry-level government position. Jobs at this level offer little opportunity for self-directed work. The M.S. degree can facilitate individual work with marine mammals, like designing research projects, developing management plans, supervising field or laboratory studies, or heading programs in education, husbandry, or training. The acquisition of a Ph.D. or D. V. M. provides more career opportunities, including design and management of field and laboratory research programs, university faculty positions, coordination of government and industry programs, and management positions in oceanaria or museums.
There are very few universities that offer a marine mammal science curriculum. To select an undergraduate university, visit campuses and talk with professors and students about career interests. Most university libraries or counseling centers have university catalogs to look up schools who can provide you the classes you need.
As a high school or undergraduate student, practical experience can be gained by volunteering at federal, state, or local organizations that work with marine mammals. This volunteer experience provides practical skills, an employer reference, a network of contacts in the field of marine mammal science, and most importantly helps determine whether this type of work is appealing. Many oceanaria, zoos, museums, and government agencies have internships that provide practical experience. Many careers in marine mammal science require experience in the marine environment. SCUBA certification, boat-handling experience, or sea time can be helpful in securing employment in