A program that focuses on the scientific study of the genetic, developmental, functional, and morphological patterns and processes, and theoretical principles; and the emergence and mutation of organisms over time. Includes instruction in molecular and morphological systematics; genetics and development; evolutionary transformation; paleobiology and paleontology; morphogenesis; mutation; locomotor, biomechanical and craniodental form and function; evolutionary theory; and systematic biology.
Evolutionary biologists work to understand how organisms achieve genetic diversity over time.
Time has changed us as a species; generally speaking, most living things have been subject to adaptations, mutations, and other changes since they first emerged. Evolutionary biology is all about understanding the origin
and progress of all kinds of organisms, including physical traits, behaviors, and susceptibility to various environmental threats or illnesses. Often evolutionary biologists will focus on certain types of plants, animals, insects, bacteria, viruses; they may study organisms at a certain developmental stage or observe many generations of the same genetic line. Some work on a large scale dealing with the formation of whole ecosystems, while others may exclusively study microorganisms.
Not all evolutionary biologists work in labs. Some spend their days in the field, studying a particular species; others work with historians or archaeologists to understand organisms of the past through fossilized remains; some even work with computer simulations to determine future evolutionary developments. Their work can be applied to fields as diverse as medical research, agriculture, and ethics - in fact, even an evolutionary biologist's most theoretical work can end up answering crucial questions on subjects across the board.
Work in evolutionary biology may include...
- Recording and analyzing data
- Conducting field research
- Studying or modeling evolutionary processes
- Analyzing genome data
- Mapping genetic connections over time
For the most part, evolutionary biologists work in university labs, for government agencies, or with independent research organizations. They are sometimes found in classrooms, natural history museums, zoos and aquariums, or plant nurseries, where they may use their knowledge to educate visitors. They occasionally consult with biotechnology companies or agricultural developers, and make frequent appearances in genetics labs. Many evolutionary biologists feel that is their duty to help the public understand the principles of evolution, and some will publish writings on the subject or advocate for more scientifically sound school curricula.
In order to become an evolutionary biologist, you need a solid grasp of genetics and a comprehensive understanding of the natural sciences. A Bachelor's degree in biology with coursework in statistics and chemistry is a good place to start, and taking courses in topics like behavioral psychology, botany, ecology, and natural history can provide a lot of helpful context. It's possible to find work in evolutionary biology upon graduating from a four-year program, but those who are interested in conducting research often elect to pursue graduate study. Master's and Doctoral programs in evolutionary biology allow students to explore the field, refine their focus, and work alongside professionals, which can be a game-changing opportunity for evolution enthusiasts. Some find that they can apply their knowledge in medical or veterinary programs and pursue that path.
Our world is incredibly diverse, with all kinds of living organisms. If you want to know how it got that way and where it's going, consider a career in evolutionary biology.
For more information, please follow the links below:
- The Society for the Study of Evolution promotes the study of organic evolution in all its aspects, acting as a common meeting ground for all scientists concerned with organic evolution.
- The Human Behavior and Evolution Society promotes the exchange of ideas and research findings using evolutionary theory, including studies of animal behavior, to better understand human nature.
- BEACON | An NSF Center for the Study of Evolution in Action is an academic research hub that brings together biologists, computer scientists, and engineers to study evolution as it happens and apply this knowledge to solving real-world problems.