There are many ways to focus your studies or research in marine biology, and it can be difficult to know where to start. The University of Washington has faculty with expertise in a diverse range of research areas related to marine biology. To help you explore these areas, we group many topics of interest into four ‘core research areas’. Click on a specific topic to find faculty who teach or research in the areas you’re interested in.


Many Marine Biologists research specific groups of organisms. How and why did they evolve? What is unique about this group of organisms? Many people have an early interest in sharks, whales and fish. Try exploring a group you aren’t as familiar with – lesser-known groups such as marine invertebrates or seaweeds may surprise you!

Marine Microbiology Salmon Sharks Fish Invertebrates Marine Mammals Seabirds


How do organisms in the marine environment move, get energy, or reproduce? How do they adapt to the stresses of their environment? How do they interact with each other? When we examine processes, we think about the physiology of an organism (i.e, how does it work?) as well as how that organism is similar to or different from other life in the ocean. This can advance our understanding of life in the sea, and may even have implications for human health or engineering.

Evolution & Adaptation Animal Behavior Genetics/Genomics

Habitats and Ecosystems

Marine life does not exist alone. It is part of a complex system of interactions with other organisms and the physical environment. Studying the ‘big picture’ through ecology or oceanography is a critical part of marine biology.

Salish Sea Ecology Tropical Ecology & Corals Oceanography Arctic Ecology Quantitative Ecology & Modeling

Changing Oceans

The oceans are constantly changing due to the natural cycles of tides or seasons to longer-term changes in global climate. Humans influence change in the oceans as societal and economic forces drive what we take out of the ocean and what we put in. Marine Biologists have an important voice in decisions about conservation and marine policy.

Image of the SSV Robert C. Seamans alongside Nikumaroro.

Science Communication Resource Management Climate & Global Change Conservation

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