What is a Naturalist?

Cassie L. Damewood

A naturalist is a person who educates the public about fauna and flora and attempts to increase their appreciation of the wonders in their natural environment. He normally enlightens them through a variety of techniques, including tours of parks and forest areas, demonstrations in nature centers and museums, photographs, videos and lectures. He may be employed by a public or private park, a visitor center or campgrounds. Some naturalists are independent contractors who market their services to schools and libraries in need of an educator on environmental subjects.

Fauna may refer to the wildlife of a certain environment.
Fauna may refer to the wildlife of a certain environment.

To make the educational programs captivating to both children and adults, a naturalist commonly incorporates many different techniques into his presentations. He usually shares fascinating scientific and historical facts as he leads groups along paths in parks and recreational areas. If he is inside, he typically has photos and videos of animals, fish reptiles in their natural habitats along with displays of plants that his audience can closely examine. In camping environments, a naturalist commonly shares his knowledge of outdoor living skills and points out edible and inedible plants and trees.

A naturalist should have a background in public speaking.
A naturalist should have a background in public speaking.

When he is not involved in increasing public awareness through these educational avenues, a naturalist often writes articles on ecological topics for Web sites, newspapers and magazines. He is frequently involved in local campaigns sponsored by parks and recreational departments focused on increasing public awareness of nature and the environment. If he works in the private sector, he is customarily asked to assist in fundraising efforts for local conservation groups. His expertise is frequently required in writing grant applications and press releases.

Naturalists may have an educational degree in plant biology or forestry.
Naturalists may have an educational degree in plant biology or forestry.

In addition to public relations and education, a naturalist frequently conducts surveys of parks and forests to assess the condition of flora and fauna. He normally reports his findings to professionals who monitor plant and animal species for disease, population fluctuations and other factors that may significantly affect their sustenance. A naturalist normally takes pictures to illustrate certain conditions and concerns.

Aspiring naturalists are normally required to have a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, biology or forestry. Four-year degrees in wildlife management, anthropology or education are often acceptable to prospective employers. In some cases, an employer may consider applicants who have a solid combination of park experience and related college education. Internships and volunteer efforts in environmentally related fields are normally helpful to applicants. A background in public speaking or public event planning is generally considered a plus for a naturalist candidate.

Naturalists create educational programs for both children and adults.
Naturalists create educational programs for both children and adults.

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Discussion Comments


@Agni3 - Becoming a naturalist is more than a job; it is a work of love. Certainly, there are many professions where the pay is better and there is air conditioning all summer long; but the fact is that those of us who love nature usually aren’t too concerned about either of those things.

There are many reasons to go into this particular profession, but it is not a glamorous job in the least. It can often be combined with something equally nature related, such as forestry.

People who have a love of the wild and a love of teaching others about it will be quite interested to pursue this kind of position, I think. However, in all honesty, I don't know if even the presidency is recession proof anymore.


I am at a point in my life where I’m not exactly old and I’m not exactly young. I’ve been hit hard by the economy, but I am still in a place where I can start over.

I chose the career (secondary education) that I did partly because I always thought that there would be a need for high school teachers, and plus I love to teach.

However, these tough times with all of the state and federal budget cuts that are abounding have left me without a job because I was just before reaching tenure when the cuts came. All of us who taught electives and did not have tenure, and all of those able to take retirement were let go of.

My other love is nature, and I think being a naturalist would work well with my love of teaching. However, I am honestly worried about how recession proof that kind of job is.

Does anyone have any pointers for me?

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