Marine Scientist

South Africa has extensive marine biodiversity with over 10 000 marine species within 150 diverse ecosystems. The oceans economy also contributes 4.2% to the country’s economy and the marine environment is key in supporting coastal livelihoods. Threats of overfishing, pollution and the effects of intensifying climate change impact marine resources and the overall functioning of the marine environment. Understanding marine systems, interactions with and within it and threats and opportunities is key to safe guarding the health of the marine environment and associated biodiversity.

Marine scientists research the oceans and coasts and interactions between organisms, sea floors, coastal areas and the atmosphere. Some research interactions between the marine environment and communities who rely on this resource for livelihoods. They study varied aspects of marine systems, collect samples and make observations to analyse and predict changes to oceans and coastal infrastructure. They can use this information to advise on maritime policies and legislation and develop environmental protection and conservation projects.

Marine scientists engage with climate change scientists, marine engineers, other natural science professionals and coastal communities. They work between an office, laboratory and ocean and coastal sites where research can be done over weeks or months at a time.


A comprehensive and extensive knowledge of the marine environment and an understanding of the social and economic interactions within and surrounding it, is needed by marine scientists, along with:

  • Ability to conduct extensive and complex fieldwork and research
  • Analytical and logical problem-solving ability
  • Mathematical modelling and mapping ability
  • Understanding of maritime policy and legislation


Plan and undertake laboratory and field-based research

Record, analyse and interpret data from biological and physical processes

Report on and present research findings

Advise on and make input into maritime policies


B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Marine Biology at UCT and UKZN

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Biological Sciences specialising in Botany or Zoology at all universities

Diploma, Advanced Diploma, M.Tech in Oceanography at CPUT


National, provincial and local government.

NGOs, community-based and development organisations and private consultancies.

Research institutions.

Engineering companies.

Related career paths