From the innovative Jacques-Yves Cousteau, inventor of the Aqua Lung, to George Constanza in a classic Seinfeld episode, many of our most beloved members of society have dabbled in marine biology over the years. The inky depths of the world’s oceans are one of the last remaining untouched frontiers, often attractive to young scientists with a sense of adventure.
With nearly 72% of the Earth’s surface covered by oceans, plumbing these vast ecosystems is not a job for those who are not fully committed. Fortunately, marine biologists are passionate about their field and devoted to uncovering our oldest ecological mysteries. Budding marine biologists may feel that they are a step behind their competition, however; in a field dependent on experience and fieldwork, it is sometimes difficult to get started. Fear not, deep divers: here are a few steps available to get in on the ground (ocean) floor:
California Sea Grants
The state of California has a long-standing relationship with oceanography and marine biology. Home to some of the world’s premiere aquariums in Monterrey and Los Angeles, the Golden State is proud of its 840 miles of Pacific coastline and often ties the ocean into their culture. Located in the state’s naval hub, the University of California San Diego often makes a concerted effort to attract students of all stripes to their school to pursue majors in marine science.
The California Sea Grant program, which combines academic efforts to study marine biology with funding stipulations, is one of the more popular graduate grant programs in the country for students in the field. Including scholarships, fellowships, and internships, the California Sea Grant program is a fantastic opportunity for marine biologists to gain field experience, assisting with ongoing research, before beginning their own. The programs offered are rolling, meaning that scholarships or fellowship opportunities are announced and filled irregularly, so it is best to keep an eye on their webpage for further information.
National Ocean Scholar Program
Founded in 1997 to increase interest in marine sciences among the youth, the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) is an academic competition centered around the ocean, its ecosystems, and its effects on human life. According to the NOSB webpage, nearly 28,000 students have participated in the program over the past two decades, averaging out to 1,400 a year. As a way to give back to the student community at large, the NOSB sponsors the annual National Ocean Scholar Program to their alumni who aim to work in either oceanography or marine biology. The NOSB holds both academic excellence and integrity in high demand, necessitating both for inclusion in the field.
Usually, the application consists of academic transcripts as well as a choice between two essay questions, varying by the year. In 2016, for example, students were asked to either write a persuasive essay about a challenge facing marine biologists or to explain the environmental effects of an ocean feature. Given that the 2016 winners were recently announced, students interested in becoming a NOSB scholar should keep themselves apprised of important dates in the 2017 competition and, obviously, sign up to compete in the NOSB, one of the most rewarding academic challenges for young marine biologists worldwide. In total, four or five scholarships are awarded to high school seniors, to be put towards their education in a field of marine science.
Don Reynolds Memorial Scholarship
Deadline: December 15, 2016
According to recent statistics, there are over 3.5 million registered SCUBA divers in the United States, making it one of the country’s more popular recreational activities. To buoy (no pun intended) support for SCUBA, many organizations have sprung up worldwide since the activity first took off among the general public in the 1990s. Many of these organizations recognize the importance of studying the marine ecosystems often visited by divers. One such organization, Beneath The Sea, bills itself on its website as “America’s Largest Consumer SCUBA and Dive Travel Show.
Beneath The Sea is devoted to the ongoing expansion of SCUBA as an activity, as well as increasing knowledge of our oceans. Beneath The Sea rewards young marine scientists with the Don Reynolds Memorial Scholarship, open to students pursuing a career in a marine field that necessitates SCUBA knowledge. Marine biologists often dive to reefs and other underwater locations to explore the life beneath the sea (again, no pun intended), so experience as a SCUBA diver is, without a doubt, a plus for anyone interested. To apply, students must be US citizens between the ages of 17-21 who hope to work a job where SCUBA training would supplement their resume.
Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship
Deadline: January 31, 2017
Named for Ernest Frederick Hollings, a Democratic Senator from South Carolina who served in congress from 1966 to 2005, this scholarship offers a ten-week internship working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Perhaps the most prestigious field scholarship for undergraduate marine biology majors, the Hollings Scholarship offers an academic stipend of up to $9,500 a year as well as a $700 weekly salary for the paid internship.
In total, some Hollings scholars are awarded nearly $17,000 a year, as well as the invaluable experience provided by working in a NOAA facility. Hollings scholars are expected to assist researchers with their studies as lab interns and, at the same time, gain hands on experience in their chosen field through practical work. Another perk offered by the Hollings Scholarship: scholars are invited to NOAA’s annual conference to present their research, an opportunity that all marine biologists would love to have.
Interested in becoming a marine biologist? Use College Raptor’s free match tool to discover the best school for you that has a great program!