Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists: As a zoologist or wildlife biologist, your role is to study animals and their behaviors. You’ll work to understand how animals interact with each other and their environments. Some of your day-to-day duties may include:
- Conducting fieldwork to observe animals in their natural habitats. This could involve activities like tracking animals, recording their sounds, capturing and marking them for identification, and taking biological samples.
- Analyzing data and samples collected in the field. This may include performing tests on biological samples, studying photographs or video footage, or inputting field notes and GPS coordinates into databases.
- Managing wildlife populations and habitats. You may work to control invasive species, curb diseases, ensure sustainable populations of native animals, and protect or restore habitats.
- Educating the public. Zoologists and wildlife biologists often give presentations, write articles, or develop educational programs and materials to raise awareness about animals, conservation, and the environment.
To succeed in this role, you need a strong curiosity about the natural world, patience, physical stamina for fieldwork, and a bachelor’s degree in zoology, wildlife biology, or a related field. Some positions may require a master’s degree or Ph.D.
The job outlook is positive, especially for those with advanced degrees. Zoologists and wildlife biologists get to do important work helping ensure the sustainability of animal species and natural ecosystems. If you care deeply about the welfare of animals and the environment, this could be a very rewarding career path.
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Key Duties: Researching and Observing Animal Behavior
As a zoologist or wildlife biologist, observing animal behavior and researching how animals interact with each other and their environment is a key part of the job.
Fieldwork and Observation
A big chunk of your time will be spent conducting fieldwork and observing animals in their natural habitats. You might observe animals in the wild, take notes on their eating habits, nesting behaviors, or social interactions. Over time, you’ll become an expert in that animal’s normal behaviors and habits.
You may use photography, video recording, and sketching to document animal behavior during field observations. GPS, radio collars and tracking devices can also help monitor animals and their movements. All of these methods provide data to analyze back in the lab.
Research and Analysis
Once observations and data have been collected, the real work begins. You’ll spend time analyzing findings, preparing reports, writing research papers, and documenting conclusions.
Research typically involves:
-Reviewing related studies and reports
-Entering collected data into databases and spreadsheets for analysis
-Identifying patterns and trends in the data that reveal insights into animal behavior, health, habitats, and more.
-Collaborating with other researchers and zoologists
-Staying up-to-date with the latest technologies and methodologies in your field
Whether in the field getting your hands dirty or in the lab crunching numbers, researching and observing animal behavior is a rewarding part of the job for any zoologist or wildlife biologist. While demanding work, the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of animals and make a real impact on conservation efforts makes it worth the effort.
Common Responsibilities: Data Collection and Analysis
As a zoologist or wildlife biologist, an important part of your job is collecting and analyzing data. This helps gain insights into animal behaviors, habitats, and populations.
Fieldwork and Observation
A lot of your time will be spent conducting fieldwork, observing animals in their natural habitats. You’ll travel to places where your study subjects live, watching them closely and recording your findings. Some of the information you’ll gather includes:
- Behavior patterns: When and how animals eat, sleep, mate, migrate, etc.
- Habitat data: Climate conditions, availability of food and shelter, location of predators, etc.
- Population numbers: Counting individuals to monitor growth or decline of species.
All of these details are critical to understanding how animals interact with each other and their environment.
Once you’ve collected enough information, the real work begins. You’ll analyze your data to identify trends, draw conclusions, and determine implications. This involves:
- Organizing and summarizing field notes, photos, video, audio recordings, biological samples, etc.
- Identifying patterns and relationships in the data to gain insights into the animals and ecosystems you’re studying.
- Using statistical software and techniques to detect changes over time. For example, increasing or decreasing population numbers.
- Preparing reports, presentations, and academic papers to share your findings with colleagues, policymakers, and the public.
Your analysis and conclusions help shape wildlife conservation efforts, ensuring that critical habitats and species are protected for generations to come. By informing others about your work, you also spread knowledge and passion for the natural world.
Data collection and analysis – though demanding – are tremendously rewarding. They allow you to solve mysteries about nature and make a real difference in protecting the planet’s biodiversity. Using evidence-based science, zoologists and wildlife biologists have an opportunity to create positive change.
As a zoologist or wildlife biologist, you probably have a lot of questions about what the job actually entails on a daily basis. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about these careers:
What does a typical day look like?
A typical day will vary depending on your specific role and area of focus, but in general, you can expect to:
- Conduct observations and experiments with animals in the field or in captivity. This could include activities like monitoring behaviors, measuring physiological factors, or tracking migration patterns.
- Compile and analyze data from your observations and experiments. You’ll evaluate the results and look for trends or insights that could influence conservation efforts or add to scientific knowledge.
- Communicate your findings by writing reports and scientific papers, and presenting at conferences. You may also be involved in public education and community outreach.
- Travel to field locations which could be remote wilderness areas. Be prepared for physical activity like hiking over rough terrain, as well as camping for extended periods.
- Perform administrative tasks such as budgeting, hiring and supervising staff, applying for grants, and keeping records.
Do I need any special certifications or licenses?
Most zoologist and wildlife biologist positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in biology, zoology, or a related field. Some states require additional licenses or certifications to work with native wildlife. For higher-level research roles, a master’s degree or Ph.D. is typically needed.
What is the job outlook?
Employment of zoologists and wildlife biologists is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations over the next several years. Competition will be strong for higher-paying jobs with federal government agencies. However, job opportunities should be good for candidates with a master’s degree or Ph.D. in a biological science.
What can I do to prepare for this career?
To prepare for a career as a zoologist or wildlife biologist:
- Study biology, zoology, and wildlife management in college. Coursework in areas like ecology, conservation, and statistics will also be helpful.
- Gain practical experience through internships, fieldwork, or volunteer opportunities at zoos, nature preserves, or research centers.
- Build skills that are useful for fieldwork like observing animals in natural settings, operating research equipment, collecting samples or handling wildlife.
- Stay up-to-date with trends in areas like conservation, habitat restoration, and wildlife population management.
- Consider earning certifications in CPR, first aid, boating safety, etc. depending on your area of focus.