The basic function of a conservation technician is to preserve the environment and everything in it. To do this, a conservation technician takes a multifaceted work approach. He observes, gathers and reports data and engages in physical activities that improve a region. Although conservation technicians are supervised by workers such as conservation scientists, they perform the majority of their work with a high level of independence.
Much of the work a conservation technician does is hands-on work completed outdoors. The technician may survey land, install water gauges, take measurements of structures, mark trees, take water and soil samples, remove or plant vegetation and check wildlife. Collecting seeds and inspecting plants and trees is routine. Patrolling an assigned area and keeping it clean also is a standard duty. The goal of outdoor work usually is to prevent or reduce damage to the region.
Some of what a conservation technician does requires the technician to keep good records. For instance, the conservation technician notes exactly when and where he patrols. He writes down descriptions of a general area or items found, which is useful for investigations and making maps. The conservation technician also records data such as activity he observes in his assigned area, as the activity in the area impacts soil, water, air, vegetation and wildlife. Technology usually is a valuable resource, with computers and mobile devices allowing for the quick input, preservation, manipulation and transfer of data.
Although conservation technicians generally work under conservation scientists or similar workers, they can be managers in their own right. They often oversee the operations of or train forest and other environmental workers such as tree-planting or fire crews. This is practical because even though those on the crews have their own level of expertise, conservation technicians are extremely familiar with given geographical locations and what those locations contain. Conservation technicians also can lead educational classes that provide information on conservation or environmental regulations.
The fact that conservation technicians are able to interact physically with the environment on a regular basis means they are in a key position to conduct research and do experiments. For example, they may do a study of the fish population in a stream over a period of months or years in order to detect changes to the water ecosystem. Conservation technicians who do this type of work may publish their findings in professional journals and other publications. The results also provide evidence with which the conservation technicians can lobby for new legislation or business policy changes.
In order to work as a conservation technician, a person usually needs a minimum of an associate's degree. Courses in conservation are basic, but other classes such as botany, zoology, biology, chemistry and math are all useful. Due to the need for record-keeping, conservation technicians also should take classes in computers and technology. Research methodology, speech and communication classes aid conservation technicians in presenting information and findings, and observation and analysis skills are critical.