Conservation Biology is an applied science concerned with maintaining the Earth's biodiversity. Conservation Biologists have two general goals. First, they work to conserve endangered species by manipulating their environment to improve chances for their survival. Secondly, they conserve as much of natural ecosystems as they can; this area includes restoration ecology.
There are several answers to the question, "why is Conservation Biology important?" One of the most often quoted is that many, many of our pharmaceuticals come from natural systems. Many drugs were just discovered in the past century in remote tropical areas. We also depend on the discovery of new, resistant plants for food. Many endangered or threatened animals have important cultural and spiritual meanings for people. Perhaps most importantly, we have no idea, relatively speaking, how things like ecosystems, evolution and species recovery work. With each species lost, we lose a piece of this puzzle - a puzzle which may someday be very important to survival on a "shrinking planet."
The Academic Requirements
Students will study biology, ecology and biogeography in depth. They will learn about why we have such a diversity of species, and why biodiversity is important. Various methods and solutions in Conservation Biology will be discussed. Students can expect courses in economics, development, and the natural and social sciences.
The Conservation Biology movement grew in the 1980's, as scientists and others became increasingly concerned by massive species extinctions. Students will learn about how humans and forces of nature both act to stress species and sometimes cause endangerment. Environmental ethics will also be an important component of a degree program.
Here are some courses that we've seen:
- Techniques in Wildlife Conservation Biology
- Fundamentals of Ecology
- Animal Behavior
- Marine Conservation
- Vertebrate Zoology
- Ecosystem Management
- Population and Community Ecology
- Evolutionary Biology
- Environmental and Resource Policy
There are many different directions a career in Conservation Biology can take. Like other jobs in Biology, a Ph.D. is need to conduct independent research or to work in academics, and Master's and Bachelor's degrees will allow you to work within a research team.
If you are in research, there is a high probability that you will spend at least part of your time outdoors, conducting field research. You will also work with your team to prepare reports, make policy recommendations, and present findings. Some Conservation Biologists work directly with plants and animals; for example, reintroducing captive species into native habitats, or tending to the needs of an endangered species of fungus to help ensure its survival. Other Biologists are less hands-on with their work. They may recommend policy to government agencies, or be advocates for conservation.
As with other fields, a Conservation Biology graduate with supplementary experience may have an easier time finding a job. Good complementary fields include geography, natural resource management, genetics, or restoration ecology.
Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Conservation Biology:
- Research Specialist (University of Arizona)
- Invasive Weed Mapping Technician (Utah State University)
- Environmental Scientists / Marine Resources Specialist (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
- Restoration Ecologist (Peterson Environmental Consulting)
- Senior Wetland Regulatory Specialist (Peterson Environmental Consulting)
- Conservation Specialist (Bat Conservation International)
- Field Botanist (Harvard University)
- Field Biologist / GIS Specialist (Hudsonia Ltd.)
- The Nature Conservancy (Director of Conservation Programs)
- Field Assistant (Prairie Ecosystems Research Group)
- Program Coordinator (World Wildlife Fund)
- Deputy Director, Global Forests Program (World Wildlife Fund)
- Project Coordinator (World Wildlife Fund)
- American Museum of Natural History, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation
- Arizona State University, Conservation Biology Program
- Bureau of Labor Statistics for Biological Scientists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics for Conservation Scientists and Foresters
- Holsinger, Kent. "What is Conservation Biology?" 2003
- Smithsonian Institute for Conservation Biology
- Society for Conservation Biology
- SCB Jobs
- University of Connecticut, B.S. / M.S. in Conservation Biology
- University of Hawaii, Manoa, Ecology, Evolution & Conservation Biology
- University of Rhode Island, Wildlife & Conservation Biology Program
- University of Wisconsin, Madison, Conservation Biology & Sustainable Development Program
- World Wildlife Fund