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Introduction to oceanography

Why study the oceans? "Oceanography is a diverse subject because it combines all the different sciences with the study of the ocean." (paraphrased from Joseph Valencic)

There are many things that make the ocean fascinating to study:

  • It is so large; 75% of the planet
  • It controls the Earth’s climate and maintains the Earth’s oxygen balance
  • It is relatively unexplored, and challenging to explore
  • It contains valuable resources
  • It was vital to communication and continues to play an important role in transportation

Life most certainly originated in the sea and was probably restricted to the oceans for the first three billion years of evolution. This explains why, in terms of sheer variety of animal form, the marine environment is much richer than the land.

Oceanography is interdisciplinary; it combines all sciences with the study of the ocean. It is often divided up into its geological, physical, chemical and biological parts.

Geological oceanographers study the composition and processes of sea-floor structures. Physical oceanographers study the physics of the seas, the physical properties and physical movements of the oceans. Chemical oceanographers study the chemical make-up of the sea. Biological oceanographers, or marine biologists, study marine organisms, from the smallest single-celled organisms to the largest fish and mammals and their interactions in marine ecosystems.

Marine creatures can and do affect our lives. We use them for food. We are discovering that they contain interesting compounds that may have important medicinal value. However, disposing of hazardous chemicals, mining of minerals and other human activities can have a negative impact on this relatively undiscovered and unexplored environment.

We need to study it to learn more about it so that we can manage it sustainably for the future.


Latitude and longitude review

Concentric circles running E-W
Parallel to each other
Equally spaced
Equator is the reference line
Measure latitude N or S Equator
Equator is 0 degrees. Poles are 90 N and 90 S
Measure latitude in degrees, minutes, and seconds

Run from North Pole to South Pole
Each meridian is exactly half of a Great Circle
Converge at the Poles
The distance represented by 1 degree varies with latitude
Prime Meridian is the reference line
Measure E or W of the Prime Meridian
Measure in degrees, minutes, and seconds

Definitions from Dr. Judy A. Massare from SUNY Brockport

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