A new article over at Red Orbit tackles the age old question. The article rightly presents the case but glosses over the fact that sometimes the marine biologist and biological oceanographer are not so easily separated.
Typically, biological oceanographers concentrate on the ocean system seeking to understand how interactions between life within the pelagic and benthic realm are related to physical and chemical oceanographic processes. The approach usually tackles ecosystem and global scale questions such as plankton dynamics, surface production, and carbon cycling.
A marine biologist, concentrates on the organismal physiology, behavior, evolution, and ecology. The questions often center on individuals, species, and communities.
However, often to understand the ocean system a biological oceanographer will focus on behavior, evolution, ecology, and physiology. In turn a marine biologist seeks to understand organisms in the greater context of what is occurring in the physical and chemical environment. O’ the gray area runs a muck.
Perhaps the easiest way to tell the two apart is this way…
If you scuba dive, on a small boat, or wading in the intertidal you are probably a marine biologist.
If you are on a large research vessel using CTD’s, trawls, and other equipment over the side of ship you are probably an oceanographer.