What Does an Aquatic Biologist Do?

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  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
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An aquatic biologist studies freshwater life in rivers, lakes, wetlands, and similar bodies of inland water. This work in the environmental sciences can take place both in the lab and in the field, depending on the employer and the nature of the projects a biologist works on. A college degree is required and many facilities prefer applicants with graduate degrees in aquatic biology. Careers in this field are open in the government, nonprofit, private, and educational sectors.

One aspect of the work of an aquatic biologist can involve resource management. Some scientists focus on maintaining waterways for sports, shipping, and environmental health. They regularly inspect the sites they supervise, take water samples for sampling, and evaluate conditions to determine if any changes need to be made. Their responsibilities can range from environmental cleanup to remove pollutants to planting to restore native species in a wetland.

Other aquatic biologist careers involve pure research. They can study plant and animal life in a variety of settings to learn more about interconnected ecosystems. Some may study the impacts of human activity on aquatic environments. Others can work on topics like rehabilitation and habitat restoration, protecting endangered species, and identifying different kinds of ecosystems.


In the field, aquatic biologists can take samples of water, plants, and animals. Many take pictures and some use scientific equipment to take measurements and record data about the environments they study. Some may have permanent equipment installations to monitor passing wildlife, continuously sample rainfall, air pressure, and other characteristics. These help track the progress of experiments and observations. Lab work can be wet and dirty, as biologists must usually perform their duties despite adverse weather conditions.

Lab environments allow an aquatic biologist to work with microscopes, gas chromatographs, and other equipment to take measurements and explore samples. This requires a knowledge of the systems and protocols used in a lab. They can use the information they collect to track populations, monitor changes in the ecosystem, and establish baseline measurements. These measurements can be useful for activities like monitoring the impact of a habitat restoration program.

Government representatives may work on topics like conservation, balancing competing needs for natural resources, and protecting national heritage. Employees at nonprofit agencies tend to work for environmental groups with an interest in freshwater habitats. At private companies, an aquatic biologist may work on topics ranging from controlling algae in ponds at golf courses to more effectively controlling freshwater pollution.


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Post 4

@titans62 - I am not an expert on the subject, but since this sounds like it is pretty similar to other science related fields, I would say take every biology and chemistry class that you can fit in while you are in high school. Having good math skill would probably be a plus, as well.

In my experience, one of the other things people overlook in science is having good writing skills. Although a lot of the writing will be more formal than high school English reports, having a good writing background will help you along.

Some of the other fields you might want to look into could be hydrology, restoration ecology, or even marine biology. Good luck!

Post 3

Right now, I am in high school and am taking the environmental science class, and I love it. We do a lot of different things like analyze water samples from local streams, study trees, and look at different soils. I think my favorite part, though, is definitely the water stuff. I am actually thinking it might be something I would like to study later. I have always liked looking at microscopic stuff, too, so it sounds like this might be a good fit.

If I decide I want to study aquatic biology, what types of classes should I be taking while I am in high school to be more competitive in college? I have taken a biology and chemistry class. I don't know what else I might possibly need later on down the road. Also, are there any other fields that are related to aquatic biology that are interesting?

Post 2

@cardsfan27 - When I was in college, I didn't study aquatic biology specifically, but I did get a degree in environmental science, so I have a little bit of experience with this.

For the most part, they study the classes you mentioned as well as things like watershed management and different types of ecology. The interesting thing about wetlands is that they are affected by all of the other habitats around them. If there is pollution coming in from a farm 10 miles away, you have to understand how that ecosystem works, too, so that you can try to correct the problem.

As far as colleges go, I think most places have some type of environmental science curriculum now, since it is a growing field. I don't know about aquatic biology specifically, though. You might have to look at bigger schools for that. The programs at community colleges would still be good preparation, though.

Post 1

I always thought it would be pretty interesting to be a biologist of some sort, but I was never really very good at science.

If you go to college to be an aquatic biologist, what types of classes would you have to take? Obviously, there would be a bunch of different biology classes and probably chemistry and stuff. I am just wondering if there might be some things that an average person might not be thinking about when they hear about aquatic biology.

Also, do most colleges have programs that teach these types of things, or do people usually have to go to larger or more specialized schools to get a degree in aquatic biology?

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