Friday, June 20, 2008

How to become a marine biologist?

I have written an article for MSMS Newsletter for the above title mentioned few months back :). It is an introduction to UKM Marine Science Program :D.

"How to become a marine biologist? What are the criteria of becoming a marine biologist? Can we do it in Malaysia?

Ever since finding nemo hits the silverscreen worldwide, many children or even adults is becoming aware of marine biologist as a job prospects. Everybody loves the idea of working in environment like how it was portrayed in ‘National Geographic’ or in ‘Animal Planet’. How we want to be the marine biologist in Jacques Cousteau expedition team to explore the underwater wilderness or becoming part of the ‘Blue Planet’ production team for its second season.

To become a marine biologist, one must at least have a degree in marine science or aquatic science, or equivalent higher degree. And yes, there is such a course in Malaysia. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) offer Marine Science degree to whom who is interested to pursue in this field. The marine science programme in UKM was established since 1985 and was based in UKM branch in Sabah. The programme was moved to the main campus in Bangi in 1995-1996. The marine science programme was under the Faculty of Natural Resource Sciences (FSSA) then, but after huge restructuring, the marine science programme was merged with other programmes under one faculty, Faculty of Science & Technology (FST), and it has been producing graduates with Bachelors of Science with Honours in Marine Science, Master in Marine Science and even Ph.D graduates eversince.

As a Marine Science undergraduate in UKM, one will be exposed to the biology, chemistry, physical and also the microbiology world of the marine ecosystem. We in UKM have a number of lecturers cum researchers to teach and supervise research in marine sciences. The research conducted in marine environment in Malaysia is still considered in its infant stage. There are still many questions, especially the basic knowledge of the biodiversity status from the marine microorganisms, marine fauna and flora to the marine mammals of Malaysia which need to be addressed.

As for facilities, we have numerous functioning laboratories which are capable to deal with issue regarding marine toxins, marine pollution and oceanography, so students will not be running out of topic for their final year dissertation. Every year, the whole marine science programme, from 1st year to 3rd year students, post-graduate students, lecturers, research assistants, laboratory assistant…basically everybody will be in one of the island of Malaysia Marine Parks to conduct field classes and research’s. It will be a 7 – 13 days of sleep deprivation and exhaustion period, but a very good exposure of conducting field research as a marine biologist. No matter how tired or exhausted everybody is after the fieldwork, all of them will always remember the fun time they gone through during that learning process, and it will be the favorite topic of the year :).

As for Post-graduate students, all of the lecturers have research grants which need to address various aspects of marine research and UKM have some impressive research laboratories and equipments. We also have a research centre, Marine Ecosystem Research Centre (EKOMAR) and it is actively pursuing much research in the area of Johor state marine environment. With the up and coming facilities of EKOMAR in Mersing, more opportunities and research facilities will be available which is indeed good news for everybody, especially to whom need to be close to their research area. For those whom prefer coursework, UKM also offer Master’s degree in Marine Science by coursework. It is a one year course which will be taught by various capable professors & lecturers.

If anybody is interested to know more, please browse through or email our head of programme at and EKOMAR coordinator at "