Zoologists study animals, along with their evolutionary traits, behaviors, and environments.
Animals do all sorts of things; they have developed all kinds of strange behaviors, environmental adaptations, and anatomical wonders that we are just beginning to understand. Zoologists (that's zo-ologists, in case you need to say it out loud) work to discover more about animals, how they function, and how we can coexist with them.
Within their discipline, animal biologists are typically divided into those who study vertebrates, a category encompassing all organisms with spines, and those who study invertebrates, who may have exoskeletons or possess no bones at all. Most specialize further, focusing their work on a particular type of animal; ichthyologists study fish, ornithologists study birds, herpetologists study reptiles...there are as many types of zoologist as there are categories for animals, and each tends to focus on a particular trait that animal displays. Because of this, the day to day work of a zoologist is dependent on the focus of their studies. An animal biologist who studies the mating cycles of tropical birds will have a very different experience of the job than one who studies the migration of large mammals, due to the environment field work occurs in and the diverse observation and monitoring methods used.
Work in zoology may include...
- Studying the characteristics of animals
- Observing and monitoring animal behaviors
- Collecting and analyzing data
- Developing programs that benefit animal life
- Educating the public about animals
Many zoologists work in zoos, animal sanctuaries, and other facilities that house live specimens such as aquariums, farms, or animal rehabilitation centers. Others can be found in university research environments, where they may do lab work or teach. Some zoologists spend most of their time out in the field, studying animal populations and understanding their environments. There are also employment opportunities for zoologists in pharmaceutical development, animal advocacy, and with various state organizations. Some zoologists document their studies, working with photographers, journalists, or filmmakers to produce work that
The first step for aspiring zoologists is obtaining a Bachelor's degree, preferably in biology with a focus on animals. Most undergraduate biology tracks contain coursework in cell biology, chemistry, statistics, and botany, and it's recommended that students take classes in animal anatomy and physiology, as well as subjects like ecology or environmental science. Plenty of jobs are happy to hire candidates with a Bachelor's degree, though more advanced roles and research typically require graduate study. Master's and PhD programs in zoology allow students to specialize in a particular area of the discipline, and completing them can open many doors.
We have so much to learn from the animal kingdom; their world is complex and filled with fascinating secrets. If you want to learn what they do and how they got there, consider a career in zoology.
For more information, please follow the links below:
- The Zoological Association of America is dedicated to responsible wildlife management, conservation, and education.
- The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute supports and produces some of the most exciting contemporary zoological research, among other pursuits.
- The Animal Behavior Society is a professional organization dedicated to promoting and advancing the scientific study of animal behavior.
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