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Oceanographers apply the basic sciences to studies of the sea, its contents, and the surrounding environment. Often, they are chemists, physicists, biologists, or geologists who bring their special skills to ocean studies. They collaborate with one another and with engineers and social scientists on complex, challenging problems and issues as they expand our knowledge of the world ocean. They work in laboratories ashore, on ships and submersibles at sea, and in coastal environments.

Oceanography is a relatively young discipline. Work done during this century, ranging from the deepest seafloor to outer space, has brought the first global glimpse of how the oceans work. Our knowledge of the global ocean with its coastal and polar margins has expanded dramatically in recent years. Today we understand that the ocean, atmosphere, ice, solid earth, and living organisms are part of the global Earth system that regulates our climate. Through research and new technology, we are learning how the oceans affect life and the future of our planet.

Those in marine-related fields, including biologists, mathematicians, physicists, geophysicists, computer scientists, meteorologists, chemists, geologists, engineers, and public policy experts, are working together to advance our knowledge of the ocean and its effects on society. Their efforts are leading to improvements in weather and climate prediction, transportation, waste disposal, the recovery of oil and minerals, and the discovery of new medicines and foods. The next century promises new technology that will substantially expand the frontiers of oceanography, and growing interest in environmental issues and the ocean sciences promises new job opportunities.