A marine geologist is a scientist who studies the different natural processes that occur on ocean floors and beaches. He or she may survey a seabed, collect samples of sediment and rock, and analyze their age and composition in a laboratory. Scientists typically specialize in one or more areas of marine geology, such as sedimentology, mineralogy, or geochemistry, among many other subfields. A marine geologist might work for a university, a private research institution, an environmental protection organization, or an oil or gas company as an explorer.
Most marine geologists conduct field, computer, and laboratory research to learn about the oceans and the earth. A scientist might explore a site to gather mineral samples or survey the ocean floor. He or she often uses computer technology, such as global positioning system devices, to assist in the mapping or analysis of a certain area. In the laboratory, a marine geologist might try to determine the chemical composition of a sample, the presence of pollutants, or the age of different rocks. Geologists often write detailed scientific papers about their experiments and findings.
There are many specialties within marine geology. Scientists might focus on specific processes, such as plate tectonics, volcanic activity, ocean floor spreading, or weatherization. Experts may also concentrate on certain types of sediments, rocks, or minerals, tracking their movement, prevalence, and changes over time. Geochemistry experts investigate the chemical properties of different rocks and sediments, while marine paleontologists study fossils and remains from different plants and animals.
Scientists may find work in a number of different settings. A marine geologist may work for the government to survey and describe ocean floors, or for a nonprofit organization to promote conservation, cleanup, and education efforts. Other geologists conduct research with universities, private institutions, and laboratories dedicated to understanding more about certain ocean phenomena. Petroleum companies frequently hire marine geologists to explore ocean floors in hopes of finding new oil and natural gas deposits.
To become a marine geologist, a person must usually obtain at least a master's degree from an accredited university. Some marine geologist jobs, such as professorships and lead research positions, require a scientist to earn a PhD. Many new scientists take fellowship positions after completing their degree programs, where they assist established geologists and gain experience in the field. An individual who works for a government agency or petroleum company may be required to pass a written licensing exam, administered by his or her state or country before conducting surveys and research.