MMS Core Areas of Study

Chemical oceanography is the study of the sources, distribution, forms of occurrence and reactions of chemical species in seawater. Global ocean circulation as revealed by chemical tracers is also a part of this branch of marine science, along with changes in seawater composition and circulation over time. Air-seawater and sediment seawater interactions, estuarine processes, temporal changes and human impact on the oceans are also important topics in chemical oceanography. Understanding of the variability in marine primary productivity, nutrient chemistry and marine carbonate cycling are critical to the development of accurate models of global climate change.

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Marine geology is the study of the earth at the sea’s edge and below its surface, and the history of the processes that formed the ocean basins. The composition and evolution of oceanic crust, deep oceans basins and continental margins is an important aspect of this science. The study of earth’s past oceanographic and climatic conditions form another important branch of this science. The geology of unique marine environments such as mid-ocean ridges, subduction zones, estuaries and coasts are also part of this discipline.

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Biological oceanography is the study of marine organisms and processes that control their productivity and global distribution, including nutrient cycling. The evolution and systematics of marine organisms, marine ecology, physiological and biochemical adaptations of marine organisms, marine microbiology, planktonology and marine mammalogy are important topics. The biology of unique marine environments is also a part of this aspect of marine science; these include estuarine biology, coastal biology, deep sea biology and coral reef biology.

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sPhysical oceanography is the study of ocean mixing and circulation, on spatial scales from millimeters to global and on time-scales from seconds to millennia. Physical properties of seawater including temperature, salinity and density are used in constructing global heat and salt budget to explain the distribution and transport of heat and salt throughout the ocean basins. These budgets include interactions between oceans and the atmosphere, and oceans and rivers in estuaries. The dynamics of ocean currents, waves and tides are driven by physical processes include gravity, wind, Coriolis effects, geostrophic flow, thermohaline circulation as well as effects from extreme events like hurricanes and tsunamis. Physical oceanography is important in understanding global climate and global climate change, oceanic mixing, and coastal processes, and it contributes to understanding of many interdisciplinary topics including marine primary production and development of hydrothermal vents.

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