A conservationist is a person that dedicates his or her career to the preservation and awareness of nature and natural resources. There are many different jobs that a conservationist can perform, from writing books and articles about nature to heading a political action group dedicated to environmental law reform. There have been many important conservationists throughout history who have urged respect and careful management of the Earth's resources and tried to inform the public about threats to the natural world.
A conservationist's jobs may require them to work directly with the natural world. People who work directly in natural research are sometimes also called naturalists. They may study ecosystems looking for signs of damage by human activity, such as loss of habitat due to logging or upstream pollution. This is often funded through grants by public organizations, private foundations, or government programs.
Some may increase the world's knowledge about animals, plants, and ecosystems by spending months or even years studying a particular subject in the field. Jane Goodall is one of the best known conservationists of the 20th and 21st centuries; though she has spent much of her life arguing for environmental protection laws, she is perhaps best known for her long study of the chimpanzee populations of the Gombe Stream National Park. Many experts cite Ms. Goodall's contributions as extremely influential on human understanding of our nearest ape relative, the chimpanzee.
Many conservationists find their work not in the field but in the halls of policy and justice. Much conservation-based work involves getting governments to pass and enforce laws that create protected habitats, fight and punish pollution, and encourage the development of sustainable technology in all fields. A politically active conservationist has an uphill battle; many environmental issues are painted as anti-business, or associated with fringe groups that occasionally commit crimes, such as arson and vandalism, in the pursuit of environmental ideas. Activists who work in the field have a difficult task of convincing people and governments that protecting the natural world is worth the cost.
A great many conservationists try to help the natural world by getting other people passionate about the subject. Nature photographers, such as Ansel Adams, writers such as John Macphee, and even celebrities such as David Attenborough, Jeff Corwin, and Robert Redford have all dedicated their efforts to instilling a love and appreciation for the natural world in the general population. By teaching people to love the natural world, and educating them about potential threats, this type of conservationist often hopes to stir social change at a grassroots level.