Our more than 60 oceanography faculty, staff, postdocs, and graduate students direct their work at both solving practical problems and pursuing scientific discovery in the oceans. The Strait of Georgia and Salish Sea provide natural oceanographic laboratories in our backyard, but we also work in the Arctic, Antarctic and all other oceans in between. Our department has a wealth of analytical facilities to support this work, including the world-renowned Pacific Center for Isotopic and Geochemical Research (PCIGR).

Many of our oceanography projects are interdisciplinary and collaborative. We work together with scientists and engineers in other departments at UBC, at government labs in British Columbia, and in other national and international institutions. Our oceanography courses are equally interdisciplinary, and many are co-taught by faculty with expertise in different areas.

UBC Calendar Description

Our department administers a number of Oceanography degree options including Honours, Majors, a Minor, and many combined degrees with other sciences. Honours programs involve a field course in which students develop and carry out their own research program. Advising is encouraged for the Combined Majors and Honours programs. Enrolment in combined programs requires formal approval from advisers in both departments.

About the Discipline

Oceanography is the study of our oceans, including their circulation, physical & chemical properties, and life. Earth’s oceans contain most of our planet’s water, carbon, surface heat, and much of its biomass. More than half of the world’s population lives within 50 km of the ocean.

Physical, biological, and chemical oceanographers often work together in this richly interdisciplinary science to better understand how the ocean works, affects global climate and impacts communities. We tackle challenges of safe shipping, sustainable food supply, sanitary sewage disposal and healthy recreation. The oceans are a major component of the earth's climatic system — they take up heat and carbon from the atmosphere (and give it back at other times and places). But, they are also a source of wonder, containing many fascinating phenomena, processes, and organisms. Much of the ocean is yet to be explored.

Oceanographers conduct research from a variety of equipment. Some measurements are taken at sea — ranging from day trips on our own 7 meter R/V Kraken to 3 week voyages aboard 80 meter long government research vessels. Other oceanographers get their data from ice camps in polar regions, autonomous platforms and instrumentation, and even from satellites. Measurements are also made in the laboratory to investigate specific issues in areas such as flow instability, plankton physiology, and chemical interactions. Computers at all levels of sophistication are used, from desktop to supercomputers, to acquire & process data and to simulate & model the ocean's behavior.


Oceanographic work is carried out in research laboratories, universities, and in industry. Research jobs in universities or government research labs usually require a PhD, while MSc or undergraduate degrees will prepare you for technician positions. Undergraduate training, including laboratory and computer skills, as well as knowledge of the oceanic environment will qualify you for a wide range of jobs in environmental organizations affecting policy, commerce, and education.