The world is in a real pickle right now because of harmful human behaviour. There is hope that we can pull the world back from the brink, but we need the help of promising young energy and environment specialists to do so. This week we will look at what it takes to be an ecologist and how this role is vital to the healthy functioning of our planet.
For those who have never come across an ecologist, their job is to study the relationship between living things and their environment. In doing so, the ecologist develops ways to improve conservation and to allow humans and animals to live in harmony with their natural surroundings.
Basics of the Job
Imagine there is an animal that is in danger of going extinct. This could be due to over-hunting (which is a common danger for fish), the introduction of a competitive species, or changes in its environment that have made it harder for the animal to survive. You will first identify what the problem is and then work on ways to eliminate it and restore the population of this animal.
In order to identify the problem you will need to spend time in the field studying the animals and understanding how it interacts with its environment. You will use microchips implanted into the animals to gather data about them, including whether they are gaining or losing weight, which is indicative of food supply. You will also monitor the level of reproduction and develop a conservation programme to encourage repopulation.
You will spend weeks or even months in the field collecting data and the fruits of your labour will be watching the animal flourish in its environment. You will have prevented a species from going extinct and maintained the status quo in terms of the biodiversity of that particular eco-system.
The job duties of an ecologist vary greatly on a day to day basis. There will be days where you are exclusively out in the field, whether this be a river, jungle, forest or otherwise. Whilst there you will gather data on the animals, including measurements, eating habits, habitat, and behaviour. You will also analyse the surrounding environment and identify threats to the animals.
Back in the lab you will use mathematical models to analyse your data and to create systems that will minimise disturbances and restore the population. You will then need to write up your findings in reports, which will be distributed among government bodies, industry executives, NGOs, and other scientists. You may also be asked to present your findings at conferences so others can learn from your work.
Where You Will Work
Ecologists can find work all over the world and in a variety of different environments. As mentioned, a significant amount of work undertaken by ecologists is done out in the field. Therefore, you may find work in more rural places where field work can be more easily carried out. There will also be periods of time in your work schedule where you will be predominantly confined to the lab or office. Your office time will be mainly spent writing up results and communicating with interested parties.
Who to Work For
Given the state of the world at the moment, ecologists are needed more now than ever before. Budding ecologists have a range of employment opportunities, including environmental and engineering firms, conservation authorities, national parks, zoological centres, NGOs, government departs, and research institutes. If you are more interested in the academic side of ecology, then a position as a lecturer or researcher in a university is also a possibility.