As expected in a land of lakes but not oceans, many Swiss scientists have been curious about the science of lakes. Already in 1705, Louis Ferdinand Comte de Marsili described Lake Urner as a “piccolo mare” (from Italian “small sea” ) with all attributes of a bigger brother such as the Mediterranean Sea. F.-A. Forel in 1885 first described in detail several ongoing biological and geological processes in Lake Geneva coining the discipline of Limnology. Thus, since early times Swiss scientists from different disciplines have been involved in aquatic sciences. Since 1882, the access to marine stations for Swiss scientists and students was granted by the formation of the “Federal commission for the Zoological Station” in Naples, Italy, and the “Biological Station” in Roscoff, France, by the Federal Department of the Interior.
Following the suggestion of A. Portmann, an illustrious biologist from Basel, the first interdisciplinary 'Commission for Oceanography and Limnology' of today's Swiss National Academy of Sciences was founded in 1972. The mid-1970's were marked by a shift of scientific interest and an extraordinary development of ocean sciences: from the study of single marine organisms to the ocean's role in the Earth's system. As a result there has been an increasing involvement of Swiss researchers in international science programs.
From 1985 the commission published the COL-Bulletin and organized regular COL Symposia. Today, the main activity of the commission is to promote the fields of limnology and oceanography among students and researchers based in Swiss institutions.