Aquatic science is the study of the planet's oceanic and freshwater environments. Oceanography is the study of the biological, chemical, geological, optical and physical characteristics of oceans and estuaries, while limnology is the study of these same characteristics in inland waters (lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and wetlands).
For more information on what types of questions aquatic scientists ask, check out this ASLO Bulletin article from August 2013 on the top 10 paradigms and the top 10 problems to solve in the aquatic sciences.
Aquatic scientists use comparative studies, long term data, models, and theory to address a myriad of questions pertaining to water- water movement, water chemistry, aquatic organisms, aquatic ecosystems, movement of materials in and out of aquatic ecosystems, and the use of water by humans, just to name a few disciplines. Aquatic scientists study processes that cover time scales ranging from less than a second to daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, annual, decadal, or geological (millions of years), and spatial scales ranging from millimeters to ecosystems to ocean-wide.
Many aquatic scientists work at the boundaries of disciplines and therefore they often work in interdisciplinary groups. For example, physical and biological oceanographers collaborate to understand the effect of physical processes on organisms, while chemists and biologists work together to understand the ways in which the chemical constituents of water bodies interact with plants, animals, and microorganisms such as bacteria.
Aquatic scientists may be working at the scale of trying to understand global oceanic change or quantifying the global flux of methane from inland waters. Conversely, they could be working at the local, trying to understand the source of a pollution problem in a drinking water supply or working to conserve a local endangered population.
Job opportunities in aquatic science exist for individuals with all levels of education. Employers include state and federal government laboratories, universities, industries, magazines, book publishers, television, radio, legal firms, and environmental societies.
Check out this article in the February 2014 ASLO Bulletin about redefining career paths in aquatic ecology.
After four years of college you may find employment as a laboratory technician, particularly in government positions. If you have more training, you can do the same sort of work, but will have more freedom and responsibility and may supervise other staff. University research and teaching positions generally require a Ph.D. degree. Specific duties depend on the specialized field of study and the job description. Aquatic scientists may focus on areas such as research, teaching, administration, consulting, or writing. Virtually all jobs will involve more than one of these areas. As in all other professions, it is also necessary to develop good writing and speaking skills as an aquatic scientist in addition to a proficiency in science, mathematics and computers.
Click here for more information specific to those interested in pursuing careers in Policy.
Current job opportunities can be viewed by looking at the Positions Offered board.
Programs and workshops for recent PhDs can be viewed here.
Job opportunities are varied, and exist at all educational levels. However, as with other fields, the higher-level jobs require more education and generally pay better. Regardless of your particular area of interest, some basic recommendations apply: