A program that focuses on the scientific study of the ecology and behavior of microbes, plants, and animals inhabiting inland fresh waters such as lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, estuaries, and wetlands. Includes instruction in geology and hydrology; aquatic ecosystems; microbiology; mycology; botany; ichthyology; mammalogy; population biology and biodiversity; studies of specific species, phyla, and habitats; and applications to fields such as natural resources conservation, fisheries science, and biotechnology.

Limnologists study organisms that dwell in inland bodies of water.

There are many kinds of water in the world; limnologists focus on ones surrounded by land, such as rivers, wetlands, and reservoirs. They are also concerned with groundwater, weather patterns, and drainage. Limnology in practice can mean monitoring chemical changes in a lake over a long stretch of time or mapping fish migrations through connecting streams. The work varies greatly; aquatic biologists work with not only the water itself, but any plants, animals, and microorganisms that live in it, as well as surrounding soils and sediments.

Inland waters are unique in the ways they interact with the atmosphere and the land around them. In addition to this, running waters differ from still waters in many ways, including their routes and their susceptibility to external threats. Consequently, aquatic biologists must take into account all kinds of factors; pollutants, erosion, water shortages, and factors that threaten the inhabitants of a given lake or stream. They may use modeling techniques to project future developments in the ecosystem or focus on the ecological history of a particular area.

Work in aquatic biology may include...

  • Writing reports on freshwater inland ecosystems
  • Collecting water, plant, or other samples for testing
  • Observing the behaviors of aquatic organisms
  • Testing organic materials and specimens
  • Evaluating the health of aquatic ecosystems

State and federal agencies employ aquatic biologists, particularly for roles involving wildlife management, agriculture, and fisheries. Opportunities in biotechnology and industry are increasingly available, and many limnologists work in the private sector conducting research for companies. Some work as educators or run programs in water management. Of course, many can be found in university settings, where they may record and publish their findings.

Studying to become a limnologist requires undergraduate coursework in biology and ecology, with a particular focus on water. Geography, chemistry, and microbiology are also helpful subjects for students in pursuit of a Bachelor's degree. More advanced jobs in the field typically require a Master's degree, especially those in regional planning and water management. A doctorate is required in order to conduct advanced research or teach.

Aquatic environments are important, and understanding them can lead to many developments. If you want to keep water running the way it's meant to, consider a career in aquatic biology.

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