A program that focuses on the scientific study of the relationships and interactions of small-scale biological systems, such as organisms, to each other, to complex and whole systems, and to the physical and other non-biological aspects of their environments. Includes instruction in biogeochemistry; landscape and/or marine/aquatic dynamics; decomposition; global and regional elemental budgets; biotic and abiotic regulation of nutrient cycles; ecophysiology; ecosystem resilience, disturbance, and succession; community and habitat dynamics; organismal interactions (co-evolution, competition, predation); paleoecology; and evolutionary ecology.

Ecologists focus on understanding the relationship between natural environments and the creatures that inhabit them.

Ecologists work to understand the history of a particular environment and restore it to a state where it can flourish. This can involve predator management, implementing measures to control the spread of invasive species, or reintroducing displaced species to their ancestral home. Sometimes they will study an area's relationship to its plants and animals over a long stretch of time; understanding the role different organisms play in their respective biomes can lead to a more integrated future.

Even though they primarily focus on plants and animals, all factors within an environment must be considered, including humanity's impact on the natural order; the rapid growth, spread, and development of our society has had consequences we are still trying to understand. Regional development, chemical pollution, and the harvesting of natural resources are all ecological considerations, and many ecologists work in investigative or advisory roles within these contexts.

Work in ecology may include...

  • Studying ecosystems, biomes, and regions
  • Identifying change and threat factors
  • Collecting and analyzing data
  • Developing predictive models to forecast changes to an environment
  • Designing strategies for integrated development
  • Obtaining permits, funding, or official allies

Ecologists work in all kinds of environments, but many are found in nature centers, national and state parks, field stations, and wildlife preserves. Some work in government roles at the state or federal level, while others act as consultants for organizations that work with natural resources. Ecologists in university labs may conduct research, and they are increasingly employed by nonprofits and private companies in various industries. Some do policy work or plan land remediations, and many find work as educators.

A career in ecology usually begins with studying natural science at the undergraduate level. Associate's or Bachelor's degree programs can provide structure to students looking to learn lab etiquette and gain an understanding of the sciences. This path often involves coursework in biology, soil science, zoology, botany, and environmental law. Master's degree programs in ecology or environmental science can be a great option for those who want to do field research or program management, and they tend to provide more opportunities for field work than undergraduate programs. Those with an interest in conducting research or teaching at the university level tend to pursue PhDs, while others who want to advocate for better environmental policies may end up in law school.

Our world is always changing, and ecologists work tirelessly to keep its many biomes diverse, functional, and able to adapt. If you're invested in the continuation of the natural world, consider a career in ecology.

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