What does a marine biogeochemist do?

Would you make a good marine biogeochemist? Take our career test and find your match with over 800 careers.

Take the free career test Learn more about the career test

What is a Marine Biogeochemist?

Marine biogeochemists are scientists who study the chemical, biological, and geological processes that govern the composition, structure, and dynamics of marine environments. They investigate how various chemical elements and compounds cycle through marine ecosystems, how they interact with marine organisms, and how they are affected by natural processes and human activities. Ultimately, marine biogeochemists play a vital role in unraveling the complexities of marine systems and their significance in global biogeochemical cycles, climate regulation, and ecosystem sustainability.

What does a Marine Biogeochemist do?

A marine biogeochemist taking a water sample from the ocean.

Duties and Responsibilities
Here are some common tasks undertaken by marine biogeochemists:

  • Conducting field research to collect water, sediment, and biological samples from marine environments
  • Analyzing collected samples using various techniques, such as spectrophotometry, chromatography, and mass spectrometry, to measure the concentrations of different chemical compounds and elements
  • Studying the biogeochemical cycling of elements, such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and oxygen, in marine ecosystems
  • Investigating the influence of biological processes, such as photosynthesis, respiration, and microbial activity, on the cycling of nutrients and elements in marine environments
  • Examining the impact of environmental factors, such as temperature, salinity, pH, and nutrient availability, on biogeochemical processes in marine ecosystems
  • Developing and applying mathematical models to simulate biogeochemical cycles and predict the response of marine ecosystems to environmental changes
  • Collaborating with other scientists, including biologists, oceanographers, and climatologists, to integrate biogeochemical data into broader interdisciplinary research projects
  • Communicating research findings through scientific publications, presentations at conferences, and engagement with policymakers, stakeholders, and the public
  • Contributing to conservation efforts and management strategies aimed at preserving and restoring marine ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Teaching and mentoring students at academic institutions, as well as providing training and guidance to technicians and research assistants involved in field and laboratory work

Types of Marine Biogeochemists
Now that we have a sense of the scope of the marine biogeochemist’s work, let’s look at some different types of marine biogeochemists, often based on their specific research interests, methodologies, and expertise within the broader field:

  • Organic Geochemists – These biogeochemists specialize in studying the composition, sources, and fate of organic matter in marine environments. They may focus on the biochemical processes involved in the production and degradation of organic compounds, as well as their role in nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration.
  • Isotope Geochemists – Isotope geochemists study the isotopic signatures of elements in marine samples to trace biogeochemical processes and environmental changes. They use techniques such as stable isotope analysis and radiogenic isotope dating to investigate the origins of nutrients, the pathways of element cycling, and the history of marine environments.
  • Microbial Biogeochemists – These scientists examine the role of microorganisms, such as bacteria, archaea, and phytoplankton, in mediating biogeochemical cycles in marine ecosystems. They investigate microbial metabolism, nutrient transformations, and microbial community dynamics to understand their impact on ocean chemistry and ecology.
  • Paleoceanographers – Paleoceanographers study the history of marine environments and biogeochemical cycles over geological timescales. They analyze sediment cores, fossil records, and geochemical proxies to reconstruct past ocean conditions, including changes in nutrient availability, ocean circulation, and climate.
  • Ecosystem Biogeochemists – Ecosystem biogeochemists focus on understanding the interactions between biotic and abiotic components of marine ecosystems and their influence on biogeochemical processes. They investigate how factors such as species composition, trophic interactions, and habitat structure affect nutrient cycling and ecosystem function.

In addition to working in one or more of the niches described above, marine biogeochemists may specialize further. Here are some examples:

  • Nutrient Biogeochemistry – specializing in the study of the cycling of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and silica in marine environments, including their sources, transformations, and effects on ecosystem dynamics
  • Carbon Biogeochemistry – focusing on the cycling of carbon in marine ecosystems, including the processes of carbon fixation, organic matter degradation, and carbon dioxide exchange with the atmosphere, as well as the role of marine ecosystems in carbon sequestration and climate regulation
  • Trace Metal Biogeochemistry – specializing in the study of the distribution, behavior, and biogeochemical cycling of trace metals in marine environments, including their sources, sinks, and interactions with organisms and particulate matter
  • Sediment Biogeochemistry – focusing on the study of biogeochemical processes occurring in marine sediments, including organic matter degradation, nutrient regeneration, diagenesis, and the burial and preservation of organic carbon and other compounds
  • Microbial Biogeochemistry – specializing in the role of microorganisms in mediating biogeochemical processes in marine environments, including microbial metabolism, nutrient cycling, organic matter degradation, and the interactions between microorganisms and their environment

Marine biogeochemists have distinct personalities. Think you might match up? Take the free career test to find out if marine biogeochemist is one of your top career matches. Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of a Marine Biogeochemist like?

Marine biogeochemists can be employed by a variety of organizations across different sectors, including:

  • Research Institutions and Universities – Many marine biogeochemists work in academic settings, conducting research, teaching, and mentoring students. They may be affiliated with departments such as oceanography, marine science, environmental science, or Earth sciences.
  • Government Agencies – Government organizations, such as environmental protection agencies, fisheries and wildlife agencies, and oceanographic institutes, employ marine biogeochemists to conduct research, monitor marine ecosystems, and develop policies and regulations for marine resource management and conservation.
  • Non-profit Organizations – Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and environmental non-profits often employ marine biogeochemists to conduct research, advocacy, and conservation projects aimed at protecting marine ecosystems and promoting sustainable ocean management practices.
  • Industry and Consulting Firms – Some marine biogeochemists work for private companies and consulting firms that specialize in environmental assessment, resource management, and marine engineering. They may be involved in projects related to offshore energy development, coastal infrastructure, or environmental impact assessments.
  • International Organizations – International organizations and intergovernmental agencies such as those affiliated with the United Nations (e.g., UNESCO, UN Environment Programme, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission) may employ marine biogeochemists to support global oceanographic research, marine conservation initiatives, and international collaborations.
  • Laboratories and Research Centers – Marine biogeochemists may work in government or private research laboratories and centers focused on marine science, oceanography, environmental chemistry, or biogeochemistry. These facilities often conduct interdisciplinary research and provide analytical services to support marine research and monitoring programs.
  • Educational Outreach and Science Communication – Some marine biogeochemists work in science communication, outreach, and education roles, engaging with the public, policymakers, and stakeholders to raise awareness about marine science, environmental issues, and conservation efforts.

Based on the nature of their work and focus, marine biogeochemists may transition between different settings. Much of their time is likely to be spent in the field, specifically in marine ecosystems such as coastal regions, open oceans, estuaries, and coral reefs. Fieldwork may involve expeditions on research vessels, diving expeditions, or collecting samples from coastal or intertidal areas. In addition, marine biogeochemists may find themselves in laboratories equipped with specialized instruments and equipment or in offices, classrooms, lecture halls, meeting rooms, and conference settings.

Frequently Asked Questions


Related Degrees

Continue reading



Continue reading

See Also
Scientist Animal Scientist Anthropologist Archaeologist Atmospheric Scientist Behavioral Scientist Biochemist Bioinformatics Scientist Biologist Biomedical Scientist Chemist Conservation Biologist Conservation Scientist Cytotechnologist Dairy Scientist Developmental Biologist Ecology Biologist Entomologist Evolutionary Biologist Food Scientist Forensic Scientist Geneticist Geographer Geologist Geospatial Information Scientist Horticulturist Hydrologist Marine Biologist Mammalogist Materials Scientist Meteorologist Microbiologist Molecular Biologist Natural Sciences Manager Neurobiologist Neuroscientist Paleontologist Particle Physicist Pharmaceutical Scientist Pharmacist Physicist Poultry Scientist Social Scientist Soil and Plant Scientist Systems Biologist Zoologist Astronomer Climate Change Analyst Forensic Science Technician Industrial Ecologist Epidemiologist Biostatistician Immunologist Astronaut Agronomist Food Science Technologist Veterinary Pathologist Forensic Pathologist Pathologist Volcanologist Soil and Water Conservationist Neuropsychologist Geodesist Physiologist Astrophysicist Biotechnologist Toxicologist Oceanographer Ecologist Wildlife Biologist Biophysicist Botanist Engineering Physicist Cellular Biologist Cytogenetic Technologist Sociologist Political Scientist Criminologist Forester Biotechnician Chemical Technician Ethologist Comparative Anatomist Herpetologist Ornithologist Ecotoxicologist Wildlife Ecologist Ichthyologist Zoo Endocrinologist Marine Ecologist Marine Mammalogist Marine Fisheries Biologist Marine Microbiologist Marine Conservationist

Marine Biogeochemists are also known as:
Marine Biogeochemical Ecologist Marine Biogeochemical Scientist