What do zoologists and wildlife biologists actually do?

If you love animals and environmental conservation, you may have considered a job in wildlife biology or zoology. But what do wildlife biologists and zoologists actually do? Here is a breakdown of some of the common career paths that wildlife biologists and zoologists take.

1. Rehabilitate sick and injured wildlife

Animals do quite well on their own without human interference. However, sometimes they need a helping hand. Whether it’s rescuing abandoned seal pups or preparing injured monkeys for re-release into their native habitats, there are many opportunities available in wildlife rehabilitation. Wildlife biologists and zoologists are often hired by rehabilitation centres because of their deeper understanding of animal behaviour.

2. Monitor wildlife behaviour at construction sites

The development of wilderness across the world leads to the decrease in useable wildlife habitat. Construction activities are often high-impact, meaning there is a very real chance of wildlife injury and major changes to wildlife behaviour that may impact the success of that species. Issues relating to wildlife and construction activities are amplified when there are many endangered species near the work site. Wildlife biologists and zoologists are often hired to monitor construction activities and observe the animal’s behaviour to ensure that there is minimal disturbance to the animal.

3. Influence wildlife policy and the protections for endangered species

Many wildlife species have a huge number of laws and regulations to protect and conserve that species and their habitat. Wildlife biologists and zoologists often work for government agencies or NGOs to either write, develop, plan, or lobby for/against wildlife policies for the protection of animals. In these positions, a politics background is useful, but the technical understanding of wildlife and their habitats is necessary to craft proper policy that actually makes a difference to animals in the wild.

4. Manage wildlife inventory and enforce permitting for hunting and fishing

In order to maintain wildlife numbers for both subsistence and recreational hunters and fishermen, a wildlife biology or zoologist is needed to calculate wildlife populations, implement sustainable harvest practices, and enforce permitting. These biologists often work with government wildlife management agencies and fish and wildlife bureaus. They need a strong understanding of the wildlife in the area they are representing, and an understanding of the needs of hunters. There are additional opportunities to work to prevent poaching, both in the office through policy changes, and hands-on as a wildlife officer.

5. Design and implement field surveys for wildlife and their habitats

Many wildlife biologists and zoologists work in the field - meaning they are out in nature, observing and tracking animals, and documenting ecological features of wildlife habitat. This information can feed into a permit application for new infrastructure developments or simply catalog the wildlife in the area. This work can involve aerial surveys of caribou in the forest, counting fish populations in a local river, or completing breeding bird surveys to find which birds are present. Information on wildlife populations is essential to properly managing a wild area. Field work can be close to home and only a few hours in duration, or in the far reaches of the world, such as studying seals in the Arctic. These biologists work with universities, conservation organizations, government agencies, and consulting companies.

6. Educate the public about wildlife at a zoo, sanctuary or education centre

It is extremely important for scientists to share their knowledge to the general public to help spread the word on how to help animals and their habitat. Some wildlife biologists and zoologists choose to work at a zoo, education centre, or wildlife sanctuary that’s open to the public. Biologists who have the background training on animal behaviour and conservation techniques, along with the ability to speak easily to the public, often choose to go into an outreach and education position.

7. Take care of captive animals as a zookeeper

Similar to point #6 - many wildlife biologists and zoologists dream of working at a world-famous zoo. The perk of a zookeeper job is that you’re working hands-on with animals and interacting with them in a way that the other positions may not provide. Zookeeper jobs are often highly prized and competitive to land. Zookeepers spend their days caring for their animals, providing enrichment, and suggesting changes to the animal’s habitat to increase the health and happiness of the zoo’s animals.

7. Breaking new ground in academic research on animal behaviour, evolution, and conservation

Wildlife researchers often work with universities and research organizations to develop and implement research programs that further our understanding of wildlife science. Some wildlife biologists contribute to research as a post-graduate student, research assistant, or as the head of a wildlife ecology lab. To advance in this career, many biologists have years of academic training and have completed a doctoral dissertation through an academic institution.

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