7 Crucial Organizations That Study & Protect The Ocean

Oceans cover most of Earth's surface, and marine ecosystems are closely linked to life on land. Even if you don't live in a coastal community, you probably interact with products or ingredients that came from the ocean every day, from sushi to sea salt to a number of medicines that fight cancer and heart disease. If you want to help experts learn more about the ocean's mysteries and support efforts to protect marine life and underwater habitats, check out the seven organizations listed here. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Organizations Dedicated To Researching & Conserving Oceans

Organization Headquarters Location Mission
Ocean Conservancy Washington, DC Create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it
Reef Check Marina Del Rey, CA Empower people to save reefs and oceans through education, research, and conservation
Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation Annapolis, MD Protect and restore ocean health by providing science-based solutions
Reef Environmental Education Foundation Key Largo, FL Protect biodiversity and ocean life by actively engaging and inspiring the public through citizen science, education, and partnerships with the scientific community
Oceanites Washington, DC Utilize the power of science, policy, and education programs to monitor and assess penguins, the Southern Ocean ecosystem, and the fragile, changing planet
The Wild Dolphin Project Jupiter, FL Study and report on a specific pod of free-ranging Atlantic spotted dolphins
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences East Boothbay, ME Investigate the microbial drivers of global ocean processes through basic and applied research, education, and enterprise

5 Tips For Responsibly Viewing Marine Wildlife

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

  1. Learn about wildlife, viewing sites, and local regulations before you go
  2. Use binoculars and zoom lenses to get a good look without getting too close
  3. Never touch, handle, or ride marine wildlife
  4. Do not feed wildlife or attempt to lure it with decoys, sounds, or light
  5. Never chase or harass wildlife

Fascinating Facts About The Ocean

  • Oceans cover nearly three quarters of the earth's surface
  • Cigarette butts are the most common form of ocean litter
  • Hurricanes are formed by a combination of thunderstorms and warm ocean waters
  • Sand is composed of decomposed rocks, volcanic material, organic by-products, and fish feces, among other things
  • Some waves are caused by friction between wind and the water's surface and others are caused by the pull of the sun and moon
  • The ocean produces over half of the world's oxygen and stores 50 times more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere
  • Seventy-six percent of all U.S. trade involves some form of marine transportation
  • Many medicinal products come from the ocean, including ingredients that help fight cancer, athritis, Alzheimer's disease, and heart disease
  • The ocean transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulating climate and weather patterns

Where Water Is Found On Earth

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior

Location Percentage of Earth's Water
Oceans 97.2%
Ice caps & glaciers 2.0%
Groundwater 0.62%
Freshwater lakes 0.009%
Inland seas & salt lakes 0.008%
Atmosphere 0.001%
Rivers 0.0001%

7 Things We Don't Know About The Ocean

In Depth

The oceans are the planet's largest bioregion and the origin of all life on Earth. Despite their vast importance to the well-being of our species, humanity still knows comparatively little about the intricate systems that support the flora and fauna of the seas. This shortfall is compounded by ecological challenges like climate change and pH disruption, which are changing the world's waters almost as fast as scientists can study them. The seven organizations presented here, in no particular order, are working to combat the threats facing ocean wildlife and expand humankind's understanding of the marine ecosystems on which we depend.

#1 in our roundup is Ocean Conservancy, an international nonprofit that has been fighting threats to global marine ecosystems since 1971. They sponsor research into problems like climate change and ocean acidification, and into potential solutions like sustainable practices for industries that impact the seas. The organization also pushes for changes in public policy to curb pollution, overfishing, and other threats to vulnerable maritime habitats.

Ocean Conservancy forges partnerships to tackle the complex problems facing the world's waters, with efforts like the Trash Free Seas Alliance and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative bringing industry leaders together with conservation groups to cut down on harmful seaborne trash. They also mobilize volunteers for cleanup projects and legislative advocacy on behalf of the oceans. Readers looking to help can donate to the cause, join the group's political outreach network, or assist with garbage pickups on coastlines around the globe.

Readers looking to help can donate to the cause, join the group's political outreach network, or assist with garbage pickups on coastlines around the globe.

#2 on the list is Reef Check, a "citizen science" project to monitor and care for some of the world's most rich and fragile aquatic ecosystems. At the core of their mission is the EcoDiver program, which trains scuba enthusiasts to gather data on the ecological health of coral and kelp habitats around the world. Their Global Reef Tracker compiles these reports, enabling research to develop conservation strategies like the designation of protected marine reserves where threatened species can recover.

Reef Check works to inform the public about undersea ecology with its EMBARC youth education program, its interactive expeditions and workshops, and its research publications. The organization also engages in cleanup and outreach efforts in partnership with other nonprofits. There are a variety of ways to support Reef Check's mission: scuba-certified volunteers can train as EcoDivers, while others can assist with administration and community outreach, and individuals and corporations alike can help fund the organization's programs with a donation or a reef adoption.

Coming in at #3 is the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, which sponsors research and outreach to bring public attention to the crises faced by marine species. The group partners with scientists worldwide to study oceanic habitats, with the aim of better understanding what these ecosystems need to thrive. The Foundation also promotes education about maritime ecology by offering resources for students and teachers, organizing events like the Science Without Borders Challenge, and producing workshops, seminars, and graduate fellowships.

The group partners with scientists worldwide to study oceanic habitats, with the aim of better understanding what these ecosystems need to thrive.

Alongside its research mission, the Living Oceans Foundation seeks to inspire interest in the welfare of ocean wildlife by producing engaging films and photographs depicting the beauty of undersea life, like the award-winning documentary Sharks of the Coral Canyon. The Foundation organizes screenings and other events highlighting its work, and keeps the public up to date via its newsletter and blog. Anyone looking to offer support can make a donation today, and Caribbean students may be able to help out as researchers through the Mangrove Detectives program.

#4 is the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, an international organization recognized by GuideStar and Great Nonprofits for its work in ocean conservation. The Foundation empowers recreational divers to assist in scientific research, training participants to collect data on biodiversity in aquatic environments. The organization targets specific ecological challenges with initiatives like the Exotic and Invasive Species Program and the Grouper Moon project. With the information REEF gathers, scientists can better understand how to preserve marine ecosystems.

The Foundation offers a number of resources to help the public learn about ocean science, including their instructional "Fishinars" and the REEF Explorers program, which teaches students of all ages about marine ecology and research methods. The organization also produces events like the Lionfish Derby and the annual REEF Fest to engage community interest in conservation. Those interested in providing support can make a donation or offer a sponsorship; those looking for hands-on involvement can help as volunteers or conservation interns.

Those interested in providing support can make a donation or offer a sponsorship; those looking for hands-on involvement can help as volunteers or conservation interns.

Next up at #5 is Oceanites, Inc., a non-profit corporation conducting research into human impacts on penguins in the Antarctic. Through initiatives like the Mapping Application for Penguin Populations and Projected Dynamics and the Antarctic Site Inventory, they document the ecological effects of the changing climate in the south polar region. Oceanites publications, like their annual State of Antarctic Penguins Report, spread awareness of the threats these species face.

As part of an ongoing conservation effort, Oceanites partners with krill fishermen in the Antarctic region to define crucial mating and feeding grounds as sanctuaries for penguin populations. They also engage public interest in seabird ecology with educational materials like the children's book Ron Counts Penguins or the 4-part documentary series Warnings From Antarctica, produced in partnership with PBS. Oceanites urges anyone concerned about climate change to donate in support of their research work.

#6 is The Wild Dolphin Project, a research organization engaged since 1985 in ongoing observation of a community of Atlantic spotted dolphins. Their primary goal is understanding how these animals interact and socialize, assisted by a computerized interface that simulates the sounds their subjects use to communicate. The group also tracks the pod's genealogy and responses to habitat disruption. Through their videos, articles, blog, and appearances in magazines like National Geographic, the WDP helps the public appreciate the richness of dolphin social behavior.

The group also tracks the pod's genealogy and responses to habitat disruption.

The Wild Dolphin Project aims to serve as a resource for education, inviting classes aboard their vessel Stenella and organizing trips on which students can participate in hands-on research. The group also invites graduate and undergraduate students to apply for internship opportunities, and organizes outreach events like the Wild Ocean Science presentation. The WDP is supported by donations from members and corporate sponsors, and observers in the Bahamas can contribute directly to the study by submitting dolphin photos to the Flukebook project.

Closing out the list at #7 is the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, a Maine-based research institute studying the microorganisms that form the foundation of maritime food webs. Their cutting-edge facilities explore topics like algae cultivation, genetic diversity among seaborne microbes, and the impacts of climate change and acidification on marine ecology. Bigelow also offers a diverse array of educational programs like the semester-long Sea Change undergraduate course and the Keller BLOOM professional development program for local teachers.

The Bigelow Laboratory is committed to sharing scientific knowledge, collaborating with institutes like the University of Maine's Darling Marine Center to further their studies. The organization also works with industry partners including BioProcess Algae and Zivo Biosciences to develop advanced research and production methods, publishing a wealth of journal articles and reports detailing their advances in the field of ocean microbiology. Readers interested in supporting Bigelow's programs and scholarships can make a donation at any level desired.