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Ecologists study the plants and animals in a particular location, and
the way they relate to one another and their surroundings (known as
biodiversity). The main aim of an ecologist's work is to balance the
needs of the environment against the pressure to develop land.
Ecologists normally specialise in a particular type of habitat, for
example marine or coastal areas, or study a specific animal or plant
species. Depending on the particular job, an ecologist's tasks could
- collecting and recording data on plants and
- researching the impact on the environment of human
- activity such as intensive agriculture
- organising school and community education programmes
- managing wildlife conservation areas, woodland and meadows
How to become an ecologist
A degree or postgraduate qualification is required in a subject such as
ecology, botany, zoology, biology, environmental science or
geography. The British Ecological Society website has information on
courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level.
Ecology courses include fieldwork and work experience options. However, additional work experience, for example, volunteering for a conservation charity could be beneficial. Volunteering opportunities can be found through the Environment Council, Naturenet and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers - see websites below.
Skills and knowledge required
- a methodical approach to work
- the ability to gather and interpret data
- a knowledge of environmental policies and legislation
- an objective outlook and good negotiating skills
- good presentation and report writing skills
- project management skills
- good IT skills
Starting salaries can be between £20,000 and £24,000 a year, rising to around £25,000 to £35,000, with experience. Consultant ecologists can earn around £40,000 a year.
Ecologists working in an office or lab usually work around 40 hours a
week from Monday to Friday. Those conducting research or field work,
work longer irregular hours and may work anywhere in the UK and
possibly overseas for weeks at a time.
www.the-environment-council.org.uk The environment council – volunteers
www2.btcv.org.uk British Trust for Conservation Volunteers