What does a conservation biologist do?

Would you make a good conservation biologist? Take our career test and find your match with over 800 careers.

Take the free career test Learn more about the career test

What is a Conservation Biologist?

A conservation biologist specializes in studying and preserving the Earth's biodiversity and natural resources. Their primary focus is on understanding the various factors that affect the health and stability of ecosystems, and developing strategies to mitigate threats and promote conservation. Conservation biologists work in a wide range of environments, including forests, oceans, grasslands, and urban areas, with the aim of maintaining ecological balance and protecting vulnerable species.

Conservation biologists employ a multidisciplinary approach, drawing on principles and techniques from fields such as ecology, genetics, wildlife biology, and environmental science. They conduct research to assess the status and distribution of species, investigate the impacts of human activities on ecosystems, and monitor changes over time. Conservation biologists also play a crucial role in designing and implementing conservation plans, which may involve habitat restoration, species reintroduction, establishment of protected areas, and public education campaigns. By collaborating with governments, organizations, and local communities, conservation biologists strive to strike a balance between human development and the preservation of natural habitats, ultimately aiming to sustain biodiversity for future generations.

What does a Conservation Biologist do?

A conservation biologist taking a sample from a marsh.

Conservation biologists play a crucial role in designing and implementing conservation plans, which may involve habitat restoration, species reintroduction, establishment of protected areas, and public education campaigns. By collaborating with governments, organizations, and local communities, conservation biologists strive to strike a balance between human development and the preservation of natural habitats, ultimately aiming to sustain biodiversity for future generations.

Duties and Responsibilities
Here are some of the key tasks conservation biologists undertake:

  • Research and Monitoring: Conservation biologists conduct field research to gather data on various aspects of ecosystems, including species populations, habitat quality, and ecosystem dynamics. They use scientific methods and technologies to monitor biodiversity, assess threats, and identify patterns and changes over time.
  • Species Conservation: One of the primary responsibilities of conservation biologists is to focus on the conservation of endangered and threatened species. They study the behavior, ecology, and genetics of these species to understand their specific needs and develop strategies for their protection. This may involve habitat restoration, captive breeding and reintroduction programs, and managing threats such as poaching, habitat loss, and invasive species.
  • Habitat Management and Restoration: Conservation biologists work on the conservation and restoration of habitats critical for maintaining biodiversity. They assess the health and integrity of ecosystems, identify factors contributing to habitat degradation, and develop plans for their restoration. This may involve activities like reforestation, wetland creation, and management of protected areas.
  • Policy and Advocacy: Conservation biologists often engage in policy and advocacy work to influence decision-making processes and promote conservation measures. They provide scientific expertise and recommendations to governments, non-profit organizations, and communities, contributing to the development of effective conservation policies and legislation. They may also raise public awareness through education campaigns and outreach programs.
  • Collaboration and Networking: Collaboration is a vital aspect of conservation biology. Conservation biologists work closely with a wide range of stakeholders, including government agencies, NGOs, local communities, and other scientists. They collaborate on research projects, share information and resources, and develop partnerships to achieve common conservation goals.
  • Environmental Impact Assessment: Conservation biologists contribute to the assessment of environmental impacts of development projects. They evaluate potential ecological consequences and propose mitigation measures to minimize negative effects on biodiversity. They may also advise on sustainable practices and alternative solutions to achieve a balance between development and conservation.
  • Education and Outreach: Conservation biologists play an essential role in educating the public about the importance of biodiversity and conservation. They develop educational materials, conduct workshops, and give public presentations to raise awareness and promote sustainable practices. They also work with local communities, providing guidance on sustainable resource management and encouraging community participation in conservation efforts.

Types of Conservation Biologists
Conservation biology is a diverse field, and within it, there are various types of conservation biologists specializing in different areas. Here are some of the main types of conservation biologists and their specific roles:

  • Wildlife Biologists: Wildlife biologists focus on the study and conservation of individual species and their habitats. They conduct research on population dynamics, behavior, and ecology of wildlife species, and develop conservation strategies to protect and manage their populations. Wildlife biologists often work with endangered or threatened species and may be involved in activities such as monitoring populations, implementing conservation plans, and studying the impacts of human activities on wildlife.
  • Marine Biologists: Marine biologists specialize in the conservation of marine ecosystems and species. They study the biodiversity of oceans, coastal areas, and marine life, and work to protect and restore marine habitats. Marine biologists may be involved in assessing the impacts of pollution, climate change, and overfishing on marine ecosystems, as well as developing marine protected areas and sustainable fishing practices.
  • Plant Conservationists: Plant conservationists focus on the preservation of plant species and ecosystems. They study plant biodiversity, assess threats to plant populations, and develop strategies for their conservation. Plant conservationists may work on projects such as habitat restoration, seed banking, and monitoring rare or endangered plant species. They also contribute to the conservation of important plant habitats like forests, wetlands, and grasslands.
  • Landscape Ecologists: Landscape ecologists study the relationship between different ecosystems and the broader landscape. They analyze how habitat fragmentation, land use changes, and other landscape-level factors impact biodiversity. Landscape ecologists use techniques such as GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to map and model ecosystems, identify corridors for wildlife movement, and design conservation plans that consider the larger landscape context.
  • Restoration Ecologists: Restoration ecologists focus on restoring degraded ecosystems and habitats. They assess the ecological health of damaged or altered environments, develop restoration plans, and implement measures to rehabilitate these areas. Restoration ecologists may work on projects such as reforestation, wetland restoration, and reintroduction of native species, with the goal of enhancing ecosystem functionality and biodiversity.
  • Conservation Geneticists: Conservation geneticists apply genetic techniques to the conservation of species and populations. They study the genetic diversity, population structure, and evolutionary processes of species to inform conservation strategies. Conservation geneticists may analyze DNA samples, develop genetic management plans for captive breeding programs, and assess the genetic impacts of habitat fragmentation or climate change on populations.
  • Conservation Educators: Conservation educators focus on raising awareness and promoting environmental stewardship among the public. They develop educational programs and materials to educate individuals, communities, and schools about the importance of biodiversity, sustainable practices, and conservation efforts. Conservation educators may conduct workshops, give presentations, and organize community engagement activities to foster a sense of responsibility and inspire action for conservation.

Conservation biologists have distinct personalities. Think you might match up? Take the free career test to find out if conservation biologist is one of your top career matches. Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of a Conservation Biologist like?

The workplace of a conservation biologist can vary depending on the specific focus of their work and the nature of their projects. Conservation biologists often spend a significant amount of time working outdoors, conducting field research and monitoring activities. They may find themselves in diverse environments such as forests, wetlands, deserts, mountains, or coastal areas, depending on the ecosystems they are studying or protecting.

Fieldwork typically involves tasks like collecting data on species populations, surveying habitats, setting up monitoring equipment, and studying wildlife behavior. Conservation biologists may spend extended periods in remote locations, sometimes camping or staying in field research stations to conduct their studies. They must be comfortable working in different weather conditions and physically demanding environments.

In addition to fieldwork, conservation biologists also spend time in laboratories or research facilities. They analyze collected data, conduct experiments, and utilize specialized equipment and technology for genetic analysis, ecological modeling, or other research purposes. They may collaborate with other scientists, sharing their findings and expertise to advance knowledge and conservation efforts.

Conservation biologists also work in office settings, where they conduct data analysis, write reports and scientific papers, and develop conservation plans. They utilize computer software for data management, statistical analysis, and mapping. In the office, they may also communicate with colleagues, stakeholders, and funding agencies, coordinating projects, seeking support, and providing updates on their research or conservation initiatives.

Furthermore, conservation biologists often engage in collaborative work environments, partnering with government agencies, non-profit organizations, and local communities. They attend meetings, workshops, and conferences to exchange knowledge, discuss conservation strategies, and build networks. They may also participate in public outreach and educational activities, such as giving presentations, organizing community events, or leading guided nature walks to raise awareness about biodiversity conservation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Conservation Scientist vs Conservation Biologist

The terms "conservation scientist" and "conservation biologist" are often used interchangeably, and there is significant overlap in their work and areas of expertise. However, there can be some subtle distinctions in how these terms are used.

Conservation scientist typically refers to a professional who applies scientific principles and methodologies to the field of conservation. They may have expertise in various disciplines, including ecology, biology, environmental science, social science, economics, or policy. Conservation scientists often take a multidisciplinary approach, considering ecological, social, economic, and political factors in their work. They may be involved in research, policy development, community engagement, and management practices to address conservation challenges.

On the other hand, conservation biologist specifically refers to a professional who has specialized knowledge and training in the biological aspects of conservation. They focus on studying and understanding the biology and ecology of species and ecosystems, with the aim of preserving biodiversity. Conservation biologists often conduct research, monitor populations, assess threats, develop conservation strategies, and work on species-specific or habitat-specific conservation initiatives.

In essence, conservation scientists have a broader scope, incorporating multiple disciplines and considering various factors in conservation efforts. Conservation biologists, while sharing the same goals, have a more specific focus on the biological aspects of conservation, with a deep understanding of species, ecosystems, and ecological processes.

It's important to note that the specific usage of these terms may vary, and in practice, professionals in the field may use both terms interchangeably depending on their background, expertise, and the context of their work.

Continue reading


Related Degrees

Continue reading