Our understanding of aquatic ecosystems, especially the marine environment, is poorer than that of most terrestrial systems. Human activity has had a major detrimental impact on these environments. Several National Zoo scientists are studying species in aquatic ecosystems.
The focus of these studies involves research on the ecology (behavioral and nutritional), reproduction, health, and husbandry of marine vertebrate species with a particular emphasis on conservation. This work is part of a broader Smithsonian Marine Science Network that has four main research emphases: ecology, systematics, evolutionary biology, and geology.
The marine research and conservation programs of Zoo scientists and curators involve both field and laboratory studies. The staff are also actively involved in helping to develop national and international policy regarding marine conservation.