A program that focuses on the application of the biological sciences to the specific problems of biodiversity, species preservation, ecological sustainability, and habitat fragmentation in the face of advancing human social, economic, and industrial pressures. Includes instruction in ecology, environmental science, biological systems, extinction theory, human-animal and human-plant interaction, ecosystem science and management, wetland conservation, field biology, forest and wildlife biology, and natural history.

Conservation biologists work to protect the earth's diversity and natural resources.

Much of human progress has come at the expense of the earth's other life forms; as resources are over-harvested and more species face extinction, the balance of the natural world tips into crisis. Conservation biologists are primarily concerned with preserving biodiversity and ensuring the protection of natural resources. They work to understand and mitigate the consequences of humanity's actions by conducting research and promoting sustainable practices.

Conservation biologists may focus on wildlife, plant life, water, land, or air, observing the effects of climate change and industrial pollution on the lives of different organisms. Their work is not unbiased, as they have a clear goal: restoring the health and functionality of ecosystems and eliminating the factors that threaten them. Practices like mining, fracking, deforestation, introducing invasive species, and harvesting natural resources while failing to replenish them all contribute to the destabilization of delicate ecosystems worldwide. Those who work in conservation hope to build a future where the richness of the natural world is not sacrificed in the pursuit of short-term human desires.

Work in conservation biology may include...

  • Understanding the distribution of various life forms
  • Studying factors that lead to threat or extinction
  • Collecting data, samples, or specimens
  • Developing or recommending sustainable industry practices
  • Maintaining the health of existing ecosystems

Many conservation biologists work for the state, especially in forestry or fisheries, and they are frequently employed by national parks, nature centers, environmental nonprofits, and universities. Researchers often perform extensive field work; even those who work primarily in a lab, office, or classroom will make regular forays to conservation sites. It's increasingly common for conservation biologists to be brought on as consultants to government officials, policymakers, industry leaders, and agricultural farmers; in these roles, they help to develop and implement environmentally friendly solutions.

Educational requirements vary across the field of conservation biology, but most roles require a Bachelor's degree with a preferred focus in the sciences. Completing coursework in biology, wildlife ecology, and botany can help, though some consider conservation to be a philosophical discipline and appreciate coursework in the humanities.

Those who study a particular type of ecosystem, such as marine conservation, often find they can either jump right into the field or obtain a graduate degree in their specific discipline. Master's and Doctoral programs allow research-oriented students to explore the particulars of an ecosystem in depth, which allows them to develop valuable expertise.

As more people begin to recognize the need for environmental action, conservation biologists must respond. If you're passionate about saving the natural world, this could be the career for you.

For more information, please follow the links below:

  • The Society for Conservation Biology is an organization dedicated to facilitating, promoting, and advancing the scientific study and conservation of biological diversity.
  • The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.
  • The Nature Conservancy is a global environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature can thrive by conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends.
  • The Center for Biodiversity & Conservation is an initiative by the American Museum of Natural History, contributing its extensive scientific and educational resources to the conservation of the great variety of life and our planet’s biodiversity.
  • Society for Conservation GIS is a volunteer organization using geospatial technology for conservation of biodiversity, natural environments, and cultural heritage.
  • The National Audubon Society protects birds and their habitats throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation.