An environmental scientist applies a scientific understanding of the natural world to the protection of nature. These members of the scientific community are concerned with balancing human needs with the needs of organisms in the natural environment and the needs of future generations who may be harmed by environmental abuses. To practice in this field, someone usually needs at least a bachelor's degree in environmental science, and graduate degrees are often strongly recommended.
The work that an environmental scientist performs very much depends on where he or she works. Some work as educators, for example, teaching members of the public about environmental issues and promoting environmental education. Educators can work for nature centers, schools, and environmental advocacy programs, working with people of all ages, from young children just being introduced to environmental topics to older adults being taught about new ways to use natural resources.
An environmental scientist can also work as a researcher, conducting studies which are designed to provide insight into the natural environment and the ways in which it is used. Some environmental scientists focus on studying pristine populations so that they can learn about the complex relationships which exist in the natural environment, while others are interested in the intersection between human populations and the environment. For example, an environmental scientist might study the impact of damming on a river, a population of endangered animals, or look at how farming impacts plant biodiversity.
Some environmental scientists work on developing and enforcing policies which protect the natural environment. They can work for government agencies concerned with environmental safety and protection, and for private organizations which advocate for the environment. These environmental scientists may spend a lot of time in the office, developing relationships with organizations, individuals, and governments which are designed to contribute to environmental protection.
Other environmental scientists work as consultants. An environmental scientist may be brought in to consult on any type of project which could have an impact on the environment, ranging from new construction to beach nourishment. Consultants study the proposed project, look at the natural environment, and make recommendations which will help the project go more smoothly.
An environmental scientist can opt to focus on a specific area of interest, such as particular types of ecosystems or unique subfields in environmental science. In some situations, a team of environmental scientists may work together, combining their knowledge and skills to address a complex environmental problem, issue, or concern.