What is marine geology?

Geology is the study of the Earth. This includes how the Earth was formed, how the Earth has changed since it was formed, the materials that make up the Earth, and the processes that act on it. Marine Geology focuses on areas affected by our oceans including the deep ocean floor, the shallower slopes and shelves that surround the continents, and coastal areas like beaches and estuaries. USGS marine geologists also study some coastal river areas and some large lakes.

More than half of our nation's population lives within 50 miles of the coast. Healthy coastal and offshore resources are vital to our nation's economy. The USGS studies coastal change, hazards that impact coastal areas, ocean resources, and coastal and marine ecosystems.

Learn more: Coastal and Marine Hazards and Resources Program

Related Content

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January 25, 2007

PubTalk 1/2007 — The Hidden World of the Golden Gate

How tides, currents, and humans have created an array of sea-floor features

By Patrick Barnard, Marine Geologist, and Peter Dartnell, Physical Scientist

  • A century of technical advances allow scientists to identify and visualize spectacular sea-bottom features
  • Recent collaborative research outside the Golden Gate found that 100
Image shows gas hydrates in marine sediments from a drill core
December 31, 2006

Gas Hydrates in Marine Sediments from the Indian Ocean

This image shows gas hydrates (the white material) in marine sediments from a test well drilled in the Indian Ocean in 2006 during the Indian National Gas Hydrate Program (NGHP) Expedition 01.

The NGHP Expedition 01 was designed to study the gas-hydrate occurrences off the Indian Peninsula and along the Andaman convergent margin with special emphasis on

Marine terrace San Clemente Island, California
April 23, 2006

Marine terrace San Clemente Island, California

San Clemente Island, California: "Stair-step" landscape of uplifted marine terraces on western San Clemente Island. The lowest terrace, where the road near the shore is visible, has been dated to 120,000 years by U-series analysis of corals (Muhs and others, 2002).

August 29, 2002

PubTalk 8/2002 — Revealing the Hidden World Beneath Monterey Bay

Explore the diverse features on and below the sea floor in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

by Steve Eittreim, Marine Geologist


  • See---
    • Drowned bedrock pinnacles that provide shelter for rockfish
    • Earthquake faults that slice through the sea floor
    • New, highly detailed views of the