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What is a Conservation Biologist?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
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  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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Conservation biology is a focused sub-discipline of biology that studies ecosystems on Earth in order to help protect plant and animal species from endangerment and extinction. As evidence of massive extinctions became abundant in the late 20th century, some scientists decided to focus their research on finding accurate data about extinctions and using this knowledge to repopulate or save vital species. In addition to aiding the fight to save species from extinctions, some conservation biologists are also intent on ensuring that the Earth remains a viable habitat for humanity by continuing necessary biodiversity.

A conservation biologist generally has a scientific background in ecology, biology, zoology, or natural history. Although some universities offer biology programs with an emphasis on conservation studies, the designation of “conservation biologist” is not usually a title gained by taking a set course of study. Often, the term refers to a scientist interested in taking data and study results and applying them to modern efforts for conservation. A conservation biologist may also choose to pursue studies in both conservation and environmental science, to better prepare him or herself for the professional world.

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There are several basic areas in which a scientist can aid conservation efforts. In surveying, scientific teams count and estimate population numbers, using visual data and even mathematical formulas to get an accurate idea of species numbers. Behavioral biologists study the patterns of behavior common to a species, including predator-prey relationships and the dependence of a species on its environment. By gathering behavioral and population data for several years or decades, scientists can see how a species changes over time. This data is essential in determining the health of a population, as well as providing clues as to what factors are impacting its continued existence on the planet.

Many conservation biologists are actively involved with political and scientific groups that aim to aid world leaders in making environmental policy. By participating in studies and experiments, scientists can find vital data that links endangerment and extinction to certain human-controlled activity, such as deforestation, land and sea pollution, and unregulated poaching. A conservation biologist may also publish material that educates both citizens and political leaders about the effects of human activity on other species, and the importance of biodiversity to human life.

The goal of many conservation scientists is to ensure the safe future of a healthy planet rife with biodiversity. Although critics dismiss the field as an over-emotional ground for activists, many argue that maintaining the health of the Earth’s plant and animal life also allows for the continued existence of humans. By studying the diversity and interaction of species ranging from honey bees to blue whales, a conservation biologist may well be protecting the future of the planet.

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