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Ecology as a Career : Introduction

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Living beings and non living beings together form the environmental ecosystem. Ecology is a branch of science which deals with the study of the environment and the mutual relationship between its inhabitants. It is defined as the scientific study of interactions of organisms with one another within the physical and chemical environment. Someone who studies nature, and the organisms within nature is known as Ecologists. Ecologists are sometimes called environmental scientists, as their knowledge of the science is put to use in protecting the natural environment.

Ecologists often have to study and explain how human actions affect other living beings and their environment. They study the close ties between the environment and all living creatures including plants, animals & humans. They are the ones who bring together the study of all natural systems- earth, air, water, plants and animals.

Ecologists can be found in varied jobs in most sectors of the economy. They explore a wide variety of fields like agriculture, forestry, nature conservation, pollution control, regional development and environmental education to name a few. Most ecologists are scientists with backgrounds in chemistry, environmental science, botany, zoology, forestry, geology, biology, climatology, statistics and, in many cases, economics. There are different sub specialties under this branch, for example there are marine ecologists who study aquatic ecosystems, then there are forest ecologists who studies the forest environment and its impact- while some specialize in studying plant life others specialize in animal life.

The primary duty of ecologists is to investigate the species within ecosystems and gather scientific and behavioral information. An ecologist ensures that available natural resources are being used efficiently and responsibly. Ecologists spend most of their time doing research, analyzing data and preparing reports. These scientists work mainly with research and higher education institutions, private research laboratories, and governmental agencies. Many careers in ecology require both education and field experience to be successful. Moreover a love for outdoors, an innate interest in nature and observation is essential, to be in this field.


Someone who wants to become an ecologist should have a strong science background, especially in subjects such as botany, biology, zoology and forestry. Majority of the Ecologist positions require at least a bachelors degree in science, and it is often beneficial to have a master's degree. A Ph.D is necessary for those who wish to teach in colleges and universities and often for those who conduct research.

Depending on the area of specialization, an Ecologist may have an educational background in subjects as diverse as economics, climatology, mathematical modeling, geology, forestry, oceanography, meteorology, environmental science etc. It is also important to have good computer and math skills.

Personal skills

Main attribute required is love of nature and conservation. Other skill requirements include: 

Job prospects & Career options

With the number of ecological disasters escalating every year there is an increasing need for ecologists. Ecologists can work as researcher/ecology scientist, natural resources manager, wildlife manager, environmental consultant, restoration ecologist etc. Ecologists work for many federal, state and local governments as well as in a number of capacities in private industry. Employers of ecologists mainly include Research organizations such as CSIR, universities, Agricultural Research Institutes, agriculture departments, department of environmental affairs, forestry department, departments of Nature Conservation, national parks, museums and many more. Private organisations, with a special interest in nature conservation may also employ ecologists. Conservation bodies employ ecologists to manage nature reserves, ranging from ancient woodlands to gravel pits.

The main job of an ecologist is to perform research, and many prepare field studies based on concerns about the environment. In national parks, Ecologists play the role of guides to visitors and study about various species, their interaction with environment. Ecologists employed in museums focus on the historical aspects of the environment and environmental change. Ecologists hold research positions within government or academic institutes. Some work for organizations as program coordinators and environmental analysts. Ecologists also work with private consulting firms that examine environmental issues or as advisers to landowners, industries and water companies.

The work of an ecologist involve managing natural resources and studying the environmental effects of pollutants, population size and climate change. The job also involves writing detail reports of their studies on environment conservation projects or the impact evolution is having on the ecosystem. Ecologist work both in the field and in the laboratory, collecting data from the natural environment and analyzing it through statistical and methodological analysis. Many ecology students choose a specialty according to their interests and career goals.

Some specializations are

Urban Ecologist- Urban ecology is a recent field of study compared to ecology as a whole. Urban ecologist study ecosystems that include humans living in cities and urbanizing landscapes. To be more specific, they study the relation of living organisms with each other and their surroundings in the context of the proposed urban environment.

Forest Ecologist-Studying and classifying the different species of plants, animals and insects in the forest is one of their major tasks. They will also study the impact of humans and global warming on the forest soil and climate.

Marine Ecologist-this branch of ecology deals with aquatic life and the impact it has on the environment that we live in. Marine ecologists will study the aquatic life forms like fish, plants, etc and study the impact on their environment. They will also work in zoos, and aquariums to help preserve and protect marine life forms.

Restoration Ecologist- They work in areas where there has been ecological damage like deforestation and try to revive the environment by planting trees and at times removing non native weeds. Restoration ecologists will work on projects dealing with reviving the environment with introducing measures like re-vegetation.

Wildlife Ecologist- Wildlife ecologist study animals, especially animal populations, and seeks to identify ways in which those populations can be helped. The main objective of an ecologist working in this setting is to promote healthy animal conservation.

Environmental Biologist- Environmental biologists study a specific environment and the organisms and wildlife that inhabit it. An environmental biologist aids in the protection and survival of wildlife within the ecosystem, ensuring against endangerment and assessing the impact of human activity on the environment.


Like most jobs, the ecologist salary depends on the location, education and experience of the individual. Ecologist earn more while working in independent research and university positions. They also have other benefits like pension plans, health benefits and paid leaves.

Starting salary for an ecologist in India with a masters degree can be approximately Rs. 8,000- 12,000/-. In UK Starting salaries vary considerably from about £13,000 to £20,000 depending on the employer and your own skills and experience.


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