What Does a Conservation Biologist Do?
In the simplest terms, a conservation biologist is a professional scientist who ‘manages’ nature; however, a more comprehensive answer might state that a conservation biologist is interested in studying the Earth’s biodiversity with a central goal of protecting both plant and animal species, habitats, and ecosystems. The areas of interest within this profession are substantial, and the opportunities to explore your own fascinations are nearly limitless.
As a further explanation of what a conservation biologist does: they are interested in researching and learning about excessive rates of extinction and the erosion of biotic interactions. Essentially they are attempting to prolong and protect the lives of plants and animals that would be otherwise at risk due to an endless number of factors. They are trained to know how to draw from the natural and social sciences while practicing natural resource management in order to conserve various environmental domains. They are responsible for protecting the resources of our planet, like air, water, land, and wildlife, as well as sustaining the many ecological and environmental systems that occur here.
A career in conservation biology requires a motivated individual who isn’t afraid to get “into the weeds” and interact with the world around them. In this article, we’ll cover the many aspects that you may encounter while pursuing a job in this field.
Day-to-Day of a Conservation Biologist
Daily activities of a conservation biologist include things like studying the climate, researching and recording environmental trends, analyzing population, and developing solutions to restore and maintain healthy ecosystems.
As a conservation biologist, you have to learn how to communicate with a variety of other related professionals like government agencies, landowners, and the general public. Your work is often used to educate others on ecological threats and proper land and habitat treatment.
Many groundbreaking journals and publications emerge as a result of the research behind conservation biology—the findings that conservation biologists present can have major impacts on the laws and regulations concerning nature and wildlife. In addition, they can help to educate the general public on what they can do to positively affect the environment.
Without these professionals, it would not be possible to productively protect and maintain our world as we see it today. Moreover, we would not be able to reverse the effects that have already taken place due to pollution, overpopulation, excessive hunting, and general carelessness.
How to Become a Conservation Biologist
If you have the desire to become a conservation biologist, you will have to start by choosing a college and earning a degree. While your specific program may fall under a biology or environmental degree, the courses you’ll be offered will likely be similar no matter where you attend school.
Some of the courses you can expect are:
- Fundamentals of Ecology
- Animal Behavior
- Marine Conservation
- Evolutionary Biology
- Environmental and Resource Policy
Some schools have specific programs in conservation biology, while others have programs like wildlife conservation and wildlife biology. Regardless, any position under the title of wildlife conservation or conservation biology will require you to have a bachelor’s degree.
Wildlife Conservation vs. Conservation Biology
To quickly recap: a conservation biologist researches ecosystems, habitats, and animal life in order to develop potential solutions and advocacy. They represent the people who work in the field in order to identify issues and define key problems through intensive studies and research.
Once these problems are defined, they must be addressed and dealt with through the proper channels; this is where wildlife conservationists take over. These individuals are responsible for taking the findings of conservation biology and presenting them in a way that makes the issues more digestible to the general public and more recognizable to the policy makers. Essentially, they take the developed solutions and put them into practice, thus protecting animal species and their habitats through actions such as creating legislation, establishing and protecting public lands, and endorsing responsible public practices.
While these areas of study seem synonymous, they are in fact two very different professional paths. Whereas conservation biologists are the hands-on researchers and developers of conservation solutions, wildlife conservationists are the driving force behind getting those solutions to be actualized by society as a whole. The term ‘wildlife conservation’ covers a wide umbrella of careers that can be attained through having a degree in wildlife biology. Other careers you can find in this field are:
- Wildlife Biologist
- Land Trust Biologist
- Fish and Wildlife Technician
- Natural Resources Manager
- Non-profit Researcher
- Population Biologist
Conservation Biologist Careers & Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps together biologists, scientists, and foresters in the same category. According to them, in 2017 these professionals were making an average of $60,970 per year, or $29.31 per hour.
Professionals in this field typically possess a bachelor’s degree for an entry-level position. In 2016, there were about 34,600 jobs in this field, and the outlook for jobs between 2016 and 2026 will see an increase of 6%. This means that the job sector expects to see about 2,000 jobs added in that 10-year range. In comparison to other industries, this growth rate is average.
Conservation biologists usually find jobs working for the government, like federal, state, and local agencies, but they can also work on privately owned lands or social advocacy organizations.
There are several job titles that fall under conservation biology. Here are some of the options available to those who end up in this field:
- Research Specialist
- Invasive Weed Mapping Technician
- Marine Resources Specialist
- Conservation Specialist
- Wetland Regulatory Specialist
- Program Coordinator
- Field Assistant
- Field Biologist
- Field Botanist
- Director of Global Forests Program
Hopefully the information above has provided a comprehensive answer to the question: What does a Conservation Biologist do? There are of course many areas of interest within this field, thus creating a multitude of exciting opportunities that await you.
If you are a hands-on type of person that wants to create a positive impact on the world around you, specifically through maintaining the natural systems of our planet and advocating for change in legislation and regulations to protect these systems, then a career as a conservation biologist may suit you.
Looking for next steps? Here are 6 things you didn’t know about Unity College’s Wildlife Conservation Degree. You can also check out our online wildlife conservation degree to discover our course selection and connect with our admissions team.