The oceans serve as our planet’s memory; storing vast quantities of heat, genomic information, chemical inventories, and of course, water. Marine sediments contain records of past lives and events, and the geologic processes occurring beneath the sea shape and impact the earth on a daily basis. The oceans help regulate earth’s climate, provide food and oxygen for earth’s inhabitants, serve as shipping lanes to connect regions, and drive weather patterns. Submarine volcanism accounts for >60% of the volcanism on the planet supporting some of the most extreme organisms on Earth. The oceans and the seafloor are repositories of natural resources and the source of devastating natural hazards. The field of oceanography provides access to, and interpretation of, this vast repository of information. Oceanography integrates the basic principles of biology, chemistry, geology, physics, geophysics, mathematics, botany, zoology, meteorology, and geography into scientific research in the marine environment.
Advances in technology for oceanographic instrumentation and research vessels, increasingly sophisticated computers, satellite remote sensing, and innovative methodologies are rapidly opening new possibilities for exploration and study. At the undergraduate level, Oceanography is presented as an integrated interdisciplinary science that prepares students for a broad range of careers. Oceanography partners with other departments to support interdisciplinary minors in Marine Biology, Climate Science and Arctic Studies. Graduate study is specialized into four areas of emphasis: Biological Oceanography, Chemical Oceanography, Physical Oceanography and Marine Geology and Geophysics.
The societal demand to train oceanographers and to study the ocean is vast. The need to make informed predictions of future conditions on our planet far outstrips the available infrastructure, both human and physical, that is currently available. Employment of oceanographers, environmental scientists and marine biologists is projected to increase by 7-10% percent between now and 2030, a rate that is 125% higher than that for all occupations (US Department of Labor). Much of that labor force will be focused in the state of Washington, which trails only California in predicted need for water-related scientists (US Bureau of Labor Statistics).