Head for the Andamans, filled with marine diversity, for studying the treasures of the sea.

Marine sciences — an area of study for students interested in exploring various aspects of marine resources including ecology and ocean management — continues to be a fascinating and promising field for many. With the need for manpower being increasingly felt in this discipline, the subject is all set to scale greater heights, according to experts.

“The study of marine water, its resources and disaster started to evolve as a science in the world nearly 100 years ago. In India, we are witnessing a fast track development in this science from the beginning. More than 8,000-km-length of coastline, including islands, provides an ample opportunity to develop this science,” says P.M. Mohan, Head, Department of Ocean Studies and Marine Biology, Pondicherry University. The department functions at the Brookshabad campus of the university at Port Blair, Andamans.

Citing the United National Convention on the Law of the Sea, he says the country has around three million sq.km. area for exploration of living and non-living resources. “In the present scenario, we need a huge manpower for the development of this science. But we are lacking in manpower.”

Aimed at developing skilled human resources for marine sciences, the department has been offering courses at the M.Sc. and Ph.D levels. The study programmes offered are two-year M.Sc. courses in Marine Biology (46 seats) and Coastal Disaster Management (31 seats) and Ph.D in both the disciplines.

“The programmes are primarily designed with the objective of developing trained manpower with skills required to cater to the need in the arena of marine biology and disaster management. In fact, the department has the mandate of exploring the potential of marine living and non-living resources, its application and sustainable management, creating a database on oceanographic parameters including physical, chemical and geological aspects,” Professor Mohan explains.

Location

Established in the year 2000, the university's campus here is turning into a hub for postgraduate education in this field for students from across the country. Being a strategic location, Port Blair's natural environment comprising estuarine, mangrove and marine environmental conditions have come as an advantage for interested students.

“The department's location at Port Blair provides a unique opportunity for students to get extensive exposure to a variety of marine environmental conditions comprising estuarine, mangrove, island and marine ecosystems,” he says. The campus is 10 km away from the airport and seaport. It has hostel facilities.

Eligibility

Admission to the courses is through entrance examination. For M.Sc Marine Biology, students who have completed graduation in B.Sc. biological sciences are eligible. Those with graduation in any science, civil and mechanical engineering are eligible for the M.Sc. course in Coastal Disaster Management. Students enrolling for the master's are offered a studentship of Rs. 1,000 per month.

Curriculum

Marine Biology deals with basic oceanography characteristics, biological aspects of animals, specialised fishery sciences, marine ecology, ocean management, coastal aquaculture and marine biotechnology. M.Sc. Coastal Disaster Management focuses on different characteristics of the coast, oceanographical parameters, basic concept of disaster management, remote sensing and geographical information system for disaster management. “The institute provides an opportunity for students aspiring to study marine sciences and also deep-sea sciences. We are planning to bring in add-on courses for the existing courses,” Professor Mohan says.

Career scope

There is no dearth of employment opportunities in this arena. “On completion, students have opportunities to join government departments such as fisheries, ocean development, universities and colleges conducting courses in marine sciences as faculty members. They can join coastal and inland state and private fish processing industries as quality managers and executives,” he says.

Student experience

For students and research scholars, life in Port Blair comes as a unique experience. “There are 572 islands but only 34 have human inhabitations. So, 85 per cent of the place comes under forest and is non-polluted,” says P. Divya, currently doing her second year Ph.D here, who belongs to Tamil Nadu.

Sweta Jha of Delhi, who is also a Ph.D scholar, says that Andaman and Nicobar Islands is filled with marine diversity.

Sampath Ganta of Andhra Pradesh, currently a student of M.Sc. Marine Biology at the department, shares similar views. “Marine Biology is definitely an upcoming branch of science and has plenty of opportunities. Accessibility and transport is not a problem here,” he remarks. Subbu Raman, a Junior Research Fellow at the centre, said the place had sandy shores, mangroves, and rocky shores and was suitable for deep-sea studies.