Diverse chemical and biological processes in the oceans and atmosphere, the planet's most global domains, determine the fate and effects of marine contaminants and outbreaks of marine nuisance species. Understanding these problems requires the identification of environmental variables that influence ecological and human effects, the ability to predict spatial and temporal occurrences, and development of integrative interdisciplinary and mechanistic models for predicting their occurrences and severity. These endeavours require collaborative efforts of physical, chemical, biological and biomedical scientists working in interdisciplinary teams. There are numerous examples of interdisciplinary research conducted in marine systems on marine contaminants, including those contaminants released from the Earth's crust by human activities, those that are almost exclusively man-made in origin, and those that are biological contaminants often exacerbated by human activities. While interdisciplinary teams of researchers have greatly advanced the study of marine systems in some of these areas, there are still many barriers to interdisciplinary approaches in marine science, including disciplinary biases and institutional structures. A number of mechanisms are recommended that could support and enhance the ability of researchers to conduct interdisciplinary research in marine science, including the establishment of core facilities that can be used to support different teams of collaborating scientists, establishment of appropriate organizational structures, and promotion of seminars and symposia that emphasize interdisciplinary approaches.