Personality Traits & Skills of a Marine Biologist

by Clayton Browne

The ocean is the mother of all life, and an environment with an amazing diversity of life forms. Marine biology is the study of marine organisms, their behaviors and their interactions with the environment. Marine biologists seek holistic understandings as they study the flora and fauna of the oceans as well as the related fields of chemical, physical and geological oceanography. Professionals in the field of marine biology need intellectual curiosity fed by a strong imagination, tempered with empirical rigor and perseverance.

Intellectual Curiosity

Like all scientists, a marine biologist needs a strong sense of intellectual curiosity. Intellectual curiosity can be defined as the desire to find answers to the "Why?" questions of life. Therefore, understanding why a walking catfish evolved to walk needs to really matter to you if you are going to undertake a career in marine biology.

Strong Imagination

A successful marine biologist needs a powerful imagination. Understanding the myriad wonders and methods of mother nature requires creative thinking, and a marine biologist must be able to lead herself to that eureka moment of imaginative insight when she recognizes a function or relationship that enables her to move her research forward.

Empirical Rigor

Marine biologists must also be dedicated scientists who always approach their research with intellectual rigor. They must formulate a hypothesis, test it and announce the results of their research to colleagues. Working as a marine biologist requires skills in research design, data collection, lab analysis, statistical methods, technical writing and even public speaking when you present your research results at a scientific conference.


Perseverance is a must for marine biologists. For instance, a marine biologist might spend decades conducting research into the life cycle of a particularly rare marine species, perhaps actually seeing it only a few times, if at all, over the course of three or four decades. Even when you do "complete" a marine biology research project, it is not like you are closing the book on the subject. Your research almost inevitably opens new doors or poses new questions – questions that you or the next generation of marine biologists will eventually tackle.

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