The exploration of the earth's oceans and ocean life is as old as humans living in coastal ocean areas. Egyptian maritime activity dated back to 4,000 BC, Polynesian migration to the islands of the Pacific Ocean to 2,000 BC, and Phoenician exploration of the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic to 1,000 BC.
Greek and Roman explorations followed that with the Norsemen later executing trans-Atlantic crossings to Canada and the Arctic around 1,000 AD. Ocean exploration has continued unabated from these earliest forays. In 1831 Charles Darwin studied marine life aboard the H.M.S. Beagle, while from 1872 to 1876 the H.M.S Challenge expedition conducted worldwide scientific collection of data and marine life species.
Over the last 30 years, Marine Biology has entered a golden age of exponential growth in knowledge fueled by modern technological advances. As a discipline Marine Biology encompasses the study of microbes, invertebrates, seaweeds and sea grasses, and vertebrates, including mammals, examining symbioses, physiological adaptations to extreme stress, population dynamics, predator prey relationships, global ocean photosynthetic production and its transfer through food webs, life designed around the use of chemical rather than light energy sources, the structure, metabolic pathways, distribution and significance of viral, bacterial and protistan microbes in the sea, and the parts they play in the cycling of nutrients and other gaseous, dissolved and particulate material via earth's biogeochemical cycles. Much current marine research is centered around the role of the oceans and its life forms in influencing and controlling global climate. Marine Biology is at the forefront of our developing understanding of ecological principles, and deeply embraces and employes modern biochemical, molecular, genetic and biogeochemical knowledge and methodologies. As the source and cradle of all life on earth, the oceans continually offer new understanding of evolutionary history and relationships among life forms, while simultaneously drawing on, synthesizing and merging chemical, physical, geological and biological knowledge.
At Saint Mary's College, students can engage in and immerse themselves in this exciting field of study through courses and research, and tailor their Biology degree to specialize in Marine Biology.