What is a Conservation Scientist?

Do you love the outdoors? Do you want to play an important role in how humans interact with the land around them? You may want to consider a career as a conservation scientist!

A conservation scientist manages the overall land quality of forests, parks, rangelands, and other natural resources. They work with landowners and all levels of government to devise ways to use and improve the land while safeguarding the environment.

What does a Conservation Scientist do?

Conservation scientists supervise forest and conservation workers and technicians, directing their work and evaluating their progress. They give instructions to workers and technicians who typically do the labour necessary for proper forest maintenance.

They also evaluate data on forest and soil quality, assessing damage to trees and forest lands caused by fires and logging activities.

A conservation scientist outdoors measuring tree density.

Conservation scientists are usually involved in the following:
- Monitoring forestry and conservation activities to comply with government regulations
- Establishing plans for managing forest lands and resources
- Supervising activities of other forestry and conservation workers
- Choosing and preparing sites for new trees
- Using controlled burning, bulldozers, or herbicides to clear land
- Negotiating terms and conditions for forest harvesting and land-use contracts
- Directing and participating in forest-fire suppression
- Determining ways to remove timber with minimum environmental damage
- Monitoring forest-cleared lands to ensure they are suitable for future use

Conservation scientists must evaluate the results of a variety of field tests and experiments, all of which require precision and accuracy. They reach conclusions through sound reasoning and judgment. They determine how to improve forest conditions, and they must react appropriately to fires. They must use their expertise and experience to determine whether their findings will have an impact on soil, forest lands, and the spread of fires.

Conservation scientists use a number of tools to perform their jobs. They use clinometers to measure the heights of trees, diameter tapes to measure a tree’s circumference, and increment borers and bark gauges to measure the growth of trees so that timber volumes can be computed and growth rates estimated.

In addition, they often use remote sensing (aerial photographs and other imagery taken from airplanes and satellites) and geographic information systems (GIS) data to map large forest or range areas and to detect widespread trends of forest and land use. They make extensive use of hand-held computers and global positioning systems (GPS) to study these maps.

Two of the most common types of conservation scientists are:

Range Managers
Range managers, also called range conservationists, protect rangelands to maximize their use without damaging the environment.

Rangelands contain many natural resources and cover hundreds of millions of acres. Range managers may inventory soils, plants, and animals; develop resource management plans; help to restore degraded ecosystems; or help manage a ranch.

They also maintain soil stability and vegetation for uses such as wildlife habitats and outdoor recreation. Like foresters, they work to prevent and reduce wildfires and invasive animal species.

Soil and Water Conservationists
Soil and water conservationists give technical help to people who are concerned with the conservation of soil, water, and related natural resources.

For private landowners, they develop programs to make the most productive use of land without damaging it. They also help landowners with issues such as erosion. They help private landowners and governments by advising on water quality, preserving water supplies, preventing groundwater contamination, and conserving water.

Interested in becoming a conservation scientist?

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What is the workplace of a Conservation Scientist like?

Conservation scientists work for all levels of government, or on privately owned lands. Those that work closely with the public educate them about the forest or the proper use of recreational sites.

Conservation scientists that work outdoors work in all types of weather, and occasionally in isolated areas. In isolated locations, conservation scientists often work alone, measuring tree densities, regeneration, or other outdoor activities. This type of work can be physically demanding, as they may need to walk long distances through dense woods and underbrush to carry out their work.

Conservation Scientists are also known as:
Conservation Biologist Environmental and Conservation Scientist Environmental and Conservation Biologist