As expected in a land of lakes, not oceans, many Swiss scientists have been curious about the geology 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 were involved in aquatic sciences. Since 1882 and for almost a century 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, it was funded in 1972 the first interdisciplinary 'Commission for Oceanography and Limnology' of today's Swiss National Academy of Sciences. The mid-1970's were marked by a shift of scientific interest and an extraordinary developed of ocean sciences: from the study of single marine organisms to the ocean's role in the Earth's system. As a result there was an increasing involvement of Swiss geologists, biologists and chemists in international science programs.
Since 1985 the commission published the now discontinued COL-Bulletin and organized regularly 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.