An Ecologist is a specialist who surveys ecosystems, assesses the abundance and distribution of organisms and studies the interactions and relationships between plants and animals within the natural world. Ecologists work in many areas and study a variety of topics so this career path presents a lot of potential pathways and specialisations.
In day to day work you may; conduct field surveys, carry out field tests, classify organisms, carry out environmental impact assessments, analyse data, compile reports, issue recommendations, write articles for publication, research certain topics, work on habitat management, liaise with and advise others, teach in schools, contribute to policy and legislation changes.
Key Skills Required:
- Strong observation skills
- IT skills
- Effective communication skills
- Excellent written communication, report writing and presentation skills
- Maths skills
- Ability to collect and interpret data
- Ability to identify different species
- Confidence in survey techniques
- Understanding of environmental policies
Key Points to Know:
- A driving license is usually necessary as you will often drive to project sites.
- The hours you work and how hands-on you are will depend on the specific project and your position. Survey work can be physically demanding.
- Participating in work experience will help you to develop essential survey skills
To be an Ecologist you will need to:
A degree in an environmental or biological science subject is usually required, popular choice often include; ecology, conservation biology, biology (specialising in ecology), environmental biology, marine biology, botany, applied life sciences, zoology and geography. It is generally recommended that you go on to study a related postgraduate degree too as the industry is very competitive and this may help you secure a job.
Field based work experience such as volunteering as a research assistant will help to give you a competitive edge while also helping you to build up your contacts within the industry.
A membership to professional bodies such as The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environment Management (CIEEM) and the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) may also help you to develop contacts, keep up to date and find job opportunities and courses etc.
Estimated average salary: £18,500 – £30,000 annually.
As an Ecologist, you can anticipate employment in a variety of roles including:
- Government and Statutory Bodies such as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Environment Agency (EA)
- Nature Conservation Agencies such as Natural England and Natural Resources Wales
- Research Institutes
- Scientific Bodies such as Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and The Marine Biological Association (MBA)
- Environmental Consultants
- Industrial Companies
- Conservation NGOs
- Media and Public Relations
Being an Ecologist presents a lot of opportunity, there are many specialties to choose from and the work is extremely varied. Competition is fierce in this sector so experience and networking will enhance your employment prospects. Generally, there is potential for promotion in larger organisations and senior positions tend to be less hands-on and more office based working more on policy and management. Once you have enough experience you may decide to be a freelance consultant or set up your own consultancy firm. There are also lots of overseas volunteer opportunities for ecologists.