Ocean systems

"Knowledge of the oceans is more than a matter of curiosity. Our very survival may hinge upon it."

President John F Kennedy, Jr., March 1961 message to Congress


Ocean systems takes a global perspective on some of the fundamental science questions that humanity faces when trying to understand, predict, and protect our oceans for the future.

Earth is a watery planet. The global ocean makes up 95% of the space in which life occurs and is a key planetary life support system. The ocean influences the global climate, weather systems, ecosystems, and human livelihoods, yet it remains the least understood component of our planet. 

From the beginnings of our organisation in 1884, understanding the fundamental physics, chemistry, geology, and biology of the oceans has been at the heart of our research. Today, interdisciplinary discovery science remains a fundamental component of our work. 

The Ocean Systems research area brings together scientists who undertake vital research to discover the key processes that comprise the interconnected systems by which our oceans function. The research activities span spatial scales from the molecular to the planetary across all scientific disciplines. Ocean Systems research feeds into international scientific panels and organisations such as the IPCC and the UN, and informs international policy and governance.


Our expertise

Much of our Ocean Systems research relates to climate change and we have a geographic focus on the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. plays an international role in large-scale and regional ocean observing and development of leading-edge numerical models with these observations. We examine the implications of varying ocean properties (circulation, heat, ice cover) on the climate system, marine biology and biogeochemistry. We also investigate how marine biogeochemical cycles and ecosystems function and contribute to changes in ocean chemistry and global carbon export. Using complementary observational, experimental, and modelling approaches, we work to understand the ecology of marine organisms, from microbes to larger animals and plants, and how species interactions and natural and anthropogenic drivers affect wider ecosystem functioning.


Ocean Systems leaders

Dr Laura Hobbs

Dr Robyn Tuerena